When parents separate or get divorced, it’s natural that they may eventually want to start a new life with another partner. When this occurs, there may be a chance that the parent wants to move to another city to be with their partner. While the desire to do this is easy to understand, the involvement of children in the situation means that it’s not easy to simply pick up and move. This was recently demonstrated in a decision issued by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
The issue arrived before the court when the father applied for an order prohibiting the mother from moving with their two children from Ottawa to Cobourg, a distance which requires about a three-hour drive.
The parents were married in 2009 and separated in 2013, having had two children together. The mother has the bulk of parenting time with the children, while the father has access every other weekend and each Wednesday evening.
About three years ago, the mother met her new partner. He lives in Hamilton, which is about six hours away from Ottawa. He also has a child from another relationship, and as their relationship grew, they planned to get married. This meant that one of them would have to move. Rather than either of them relocating to Ottawa or Hamilton, they proposed a move to Coburg, which represents the half-way point between the two cities. The court noted that this is the only reason Coburg was chosen, and that neither parent has any roots, family, or friends in the city.
The father’s opposition to this plan comes from the difficulties it would present in regards to the father’s parenting time with children. It would mean six hours of driving on weekends and the elimination of Wednesday evening parenting time.
The court explained that the law with respect to a proposed relocation with children comes from a 1996 Supreme Court of Canada decision. That decision explains that a decision about a move must be made in the totality of the circumstances, providing a list of factors that should be considered:
(a) the existing custody arrangement and relationship between the child and the custodial parent;
(b) the existing access arrangement and the relationship between the child and the access parent;
(c) the desirability of maximizing contact between the child and both parents;
(d) the views of the child;
(e) the custodial parent’s reason for moving, only in the exceptional case where it is relevant to that parent’s ability to meet the needs of the child;
(f) disruption to the child of a change in custody; and
(g) disruption to the child consequent on removal from family, schools, and the community he or she has come to know
In this case the court relied on Voice for the Children report which showed that the children were generally supportive of the move, but more from a desire to see their mother be happy than an actual desire to move. In fact, the court stated that there wasn’t really any thought put into what a move to Cobourg would look like. The mother had not identified which school the children would attend, and there were no plans about where they would live. Instead, the court said the children understood it as a “sort of imaginary good-life.”
The court agreed that the move would also make it difficult for the father to maintain a meaningful relationship with the children.
The court ultimately found that a move to Cobourg would be too disruptive for the children and ordered that they maintain residence in Ottawa.