What Happens When Shared Decision Making Leads To An Impasse?

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While it goes without saying that if parents are planning to divorce or separate, it’s likely because something in their lives has made it impossible to stay together. But it’s important to remember that even when parents disagree over what is best for their child (or children), if they have shared decision-making responsibilities, they need to make efforts to find agreement or a compromise on issues where they don’t agree. If parents fail to agree, particularly if one parent is making it difficult to come to an agreement, the courts may impose orders to enforce one parent’s wishes. This was the situation in a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Parents can’t agree on what their child’s needs are

The court started off its decision by stating that while the parents have shared parenting in place, they have continued to disagree about a very important medical issue with their son. The son has either a hearing problem, a speech problem, or both. However, the father believes the issue is primarily hearing-related while the mother believes his issues are primarily speech-related. They have not been able to work together to get to the bottom of the issue, have been selective about which experts to deal with, and will not talk directly with one another about it. Instead, they communicate only through their lawyers.

Which school should the child attend?

The mother’s evidence included a report from a speech pathologist who speculated their child has a “speech disorder.” The pathologist recommended that the child attend a school called Templemead which has a program designed for children with speech disorders. The idea would be for the child to attend school at Templemead for one year before returning to his current school.

The mother said she reached out to the father to ask for his consent to send the child to Templemead for one year. He delayed in a response, which she took to mean he was considering it, though he ultimately said he didn’t think it was appropriate to send their son there.

The court reviewed the father’s objections to the school and came to the conclusion that “while some aspects of the father’s uncertainty about Templemead may be understandable, on balance I am unable to conclude that his adamant opposition is either logical or child-focused.”

The court noted that the father took the child to another specialist without first checking with the mother. The court said the father misunderstood the nature of this second specialist’s “second opinion,” which ultimately offered no conclusion outside of stating that the child “may” have a hearing problem. The court stated the father was needlessly trying to turn the matter into an “either/or debate”

The court found that it was “foolish and unproductive” to try to rank the child’s problems and that he clearly has a complex issue that needs to be resolved.

The court ruled that the child attend the program Templemead School for his first grade and that the father needs to ensure that the child attends the school during his scheduled parenting time.

For questions that only a family law lawyer can answer, contact Howie Johnson Barristers & Solicitors at 519.973.1500 or contact us onlineHowie Johnson Barristers & Solicitors has been a fixture of the family law community of Windsor and Essex County for over 25 years, and so understandably, many prospective clients come to the firm through referrals from current or past clients, and also through referrals from lawyers, accountants, medical professionals and marriage counsellors.

 

 

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