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Parenting Coordinators Are Still a Good Idea … But the Court Declines to Force It

 

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Parenting Coordinators Are Still a Good Idea … But the Court Declines to Force It

A few weeks ago, I talked about Parenting Coordinators, and their increasingly important role in Ontario family law. Couples in dispute on certain minor issues relating to parenting time, access schedules, the management of a child’s health care, religious and educational instruction, and general communication between parents, can be referred by a court to a Parenting Coordinator who can assist with the resolution.

However, the recent Ontario case called Varcoe v. Varcoe shows that courts can only go so far in forcing or even encouraging parents to avail themselves of this valuable dispute-resolution resource.

In that case, the parents had been to court to try to determine their various issues relating to custody of and access to their children. However, they went back to court because resulting court order neglected to address one of the items that the mother requested – specifically that the father should be forced to sign a Parenting Coordination Agreement submitted by the proposed Coordinator. The use of a Coordinator was one of the items the parents had agreed to in their Minutes of Settlement; however in making its subsequent order based on those Minutes, the court had incorrectly assumed the issue was abandoned.

The mother indicated that she had already provided the necessary “paperwork” to the proposed Parenting Coordinator as required, but the father had not done so. She therefore asked the court to order the father to do so within five days.

The court declined to order the father to submit his paperwork and sign. The court explained that the material the mother had filed with the court was deficient; most notably she had neglected to file the Parenting Coordination Agreement itself and did not state how long the father had been in default of his negotiated obligation to sign it. There was also nothing to suggest that there was some immediate crisis concerning the children that mandated the intervention by the chosen parenting coordinator.

Instead, the court pointed out that if the father was refusing to sign the Parenting Coordination Agreement then this amounted to a straightforward breach of a prior court order, for which the mother had other established procedural remedies at her disposal, including bring a motion to strike the father’s pleadings entirely. The court would not force the father’s hand in this case.

For the full-text of the decision, see:

Varcoe v. Varcoe, 2014 ONSC 328 (CanLII) http://canlii.ca/t/g2qpw

See also related decision:

Varcoe v. Varcoe, 2014 ONSC 1162 (CanLII) http://canlii.ca/t/g3rnl

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at www.RussellAlexander.com.