When it comes to matters related to separation or divorce for parents, parenting time can be one of the most difficult to resolve. This can be true when the parents live in the same city. However, when one parent looks to move to a different city, province, or country, a whole new series of disagreements can arise. Such a situation was recently presented to the Court of Appeal of Alberta, where the father of two children said the trial judge did not properly apply the best interests of the children in issuing an order allowing the mother to move from Alberta to British Columbia. He was looking for the court to reverse its order and require the children to remain in Alberta.
The parents were married in 2011 and separated in 2020. Since then they maintained a 50/50 nesting parenting arrangement that saw the children remain in the home while the parents would rotate in and out. The father works in Fort McMurray and has a “seven days off-seven days on” work schedule. When he is away, the mother has parenting time with the children. When the father was off work, he would return and live in the home with the children while the mother would stay somewhere else.
While the father has full-time employment, the mother’s work was only seasonal in nature. She sought to move to Victoria, British Columbia where she said she would be able to find full-time work. She also wanted to take the children with her, and this would obviously impact how the parents manage their parenting time. The father opposed this proposal and the matter went to court.
The parties have two children, the oldest of whom has Down Syndrome as well as chronic respiratory issues. Both parties admitted that the mother is primarily responsible for his healthcare.
Neither parent has any family in Alberta. The father’s family lives in Quebec, while the mother is estranged from her immediate family. However, she told the court she had some connections in Alberta, including some extended family and friends.
The trial judge stated that the fundamental question the court must as in mobility cases, and in fact most cases involving children, is what is in the best interests of the child.
The father told the court he could move to Calgary and find full-time work there if the children were to stay in Alberta since he would no longer be able to travel for work.
The trial judge expressed some concern about the lack of details contained in the mother’s proposal. However, the court also recognized the amount of work the mother puts into caring for the older child’s health needs.
The trial judge found that it would be in the children’s best interests to relocate to Victoria if the mother decided to move there.
The father appealed on a number of grounds, most notable that the trial judge did not properly address the best interests of the children.
The court looked at what the issue was and determined that the trial judge had indeed understood and applied the applicable law to the assessment of the situation. The court agreed with the trial judge that the mother demonstrated she would be able to manage the transition and provide enough support for the children.
The court expressed some sympathy for the father, stating the case was not clear cut and there were many conflicting pieces of evidence to weigh. However, the court was satisfied with the trial judge’s path to a conclusion and upheld the decision.
Mincher Koeman’s team of family law lawyers has extensive experience serving parents on both sides of the mobility issue. 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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