Parents who share parenting time with their children post-divorce or separation have a duty to involve one another before deciding to relocate to a new location, whether they plan to move with the children or not. In 2020, the federal Divorce Act was amended to set out specific procedures for parents to follow in the event of a mobility request. When a person who shares access to their children with another parent decides to move, it is very important to adhere to the requirements. Failure to do so could see a person making a long-distance move, potentially accepting a new job or making other significant commitments, only to find they have a legal obligation to return to their former place of residence, or potentially find their access to their children dramatically impacted. This was illustrated in a recent case from the Alberta Court of Appeal.

Mobility Requirements Under Canada’s Divorce Act

Under federal legislation, parents who share parenting time and wish to relocate with their children must follow specific timing and procedural requirements well in advance of making a physical move.

Notice Requirements

A person who shares access to their children is required to provide advance notice to the other parent concerning any potential move, even if they plan to stay in the same geographical area. Any move could potentially have an impact on the child while they are in the parent’s care. For example, a move to an unsafe neighbourhood, or one inaccessible by public transportation could dramatically impact the child’s wellbeing or ability to access their parent.

Notice must be provided in writing to the other parent at least sixty days before the planned move, and it must include the following information:

  • The date of the planned move
  • The new address and contact information
  • Any potential changes to the existing parenting arrangement needed to accommodate the change in location (for example, alternative pick up/drop off locations, or transportation arrangements)

Parents can obtain a Notice of Relocation form here.

Objecting to a Proposed Relocation

The parent who receives the Notice of Relocation has an opportunity to object to the plan, however, they must do so within thirty days of receiving the notice. The parent can do so by providing written notice to the other parent in the form of an Objection to Notice of Relocation form, or by applying to court. If the parent provides a written objection, the parties can attempt to find a resolution on their own or through the use of alternative dispute resolution methods. Alternatively, the parent proposing to relocate may bring an application in court once they receive the written objection. If there is no objection within the thirty days, the parent is free to move forward with their plan to relocate.

The legislation encourages parents to make attempts to resolve mobility disputes on their own, however, if either parent files a court application, this will place the decision in the hands of the court.

Mother Relocates and Obtains an Emergency Protection Order

In the recent decision called YZVM v. DTT, the Alberta Court of Appeal heard a mother’s appeal from a decision ordering her to return to Hythe, Alberta, after she made a unilateral decision to move with her children to Grande Prairie, approximately sixty kilometres away.

The parents had been married for approximately ten years and shared two young children. The family had always lived in Hythe, and they had several extended family members who also lived in the area. In February 2021, the mother left the family home in Hythe with the children and relocated to a women’s shelter in Grande Prairie. She obtained an emergency protection order soon after, however, it was terminated approximately two months later. The father obtained a parenting order granting the mother day-to-day care over the children, with the father having unsupervised access to the children one day per week, and every other weekend.

Father Applies for an Order requesting the Mother Return with the Children

The father then applied for an order for the mother to return to Hythe with the children and for the eldest child to be registered in school in Hythe, stating that their extended family connections were all in Hythe. The mother objected, stating that she could facilitate the father’s access from Grande Prairie. She argued the children had already made connections in their new place of residence, and that there were more recreational activities available there.

Mother Ordered to Return Children to Original Place of Residence After Moving 60 Km Away

The judge granted the father’s application, ordering the mother to return with the children to reside in Hythe and to register the oldest child in school there. While the Court acknowledged that the moves would be disruptive to the children, the mother had decided to relocate without informing the father. The longer the children were permitted to remain in Grand Prairie, the greater the disruption would be. The mother appealed the decision, stating that the judge had erred in ordering that she also return to living in Hythe, and argued that the judge had not properly considered the best interests of the children in making the order that they return to living in Hythe.

The Court of Appeal amended the original order to state that only the children had to return to living in Hythe, however, the Court dismissed the rest of the appeal, stating that the father simply sought to reverse the mother’s unilateral decision and resume the status quo, which was reasonable given that the mother had decided to relocate the children without notice to the father or a court order.

Calgary Family & Divorce Lawyers Protecting Parental and Child Relocation and Mobility Rights

The Calgary family lawyers at Mincher Koeman have extensive experience serving parents on both sides of the mobility issue. We will always strive to find an amicable and swift resolution outside of the courtroom, but when that is not possible, we will work to present a persuasive and thorough case in court. We are passionate and dedicated advocates with experience in all levels of the Alberta court system, and we work tirelessly on behalf of our clients. If you are facing a mobility issue, please contact our office to make an appointment to discuss your matter with one of our lawyers today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or by contacting us online.

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