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Can Putting Your Work Before Your Kids Cost You Access Rights? Yes!

Can Putting Your Work Before Your Kids Cost You Access Rights? Yes!

If your job responsibilities routinely prevent you from exercising your access rights on a regular basis, can a court make it even harder for you to see your kids?

Absolutely.

That’s what happened in an Ontario case called Stimpson v. Stimpson. There, the couple’s 3-year-old daughter had lived with the mother in Ottawa since their separation in 2014. The father’s access time was scheduled for alternating weekends and mid-week periods. However, his work duties with the Canadian military apparently prevented him from exercising his access rights fully, since he had an erratic work schedule and had recently been sent on several short military deployments. Also, except for work-related reasons he was not allowed to travel more than 90 minutes from Ottawa without a special exemption, although this was not a true impediment to exercising access since the mother’s home was only 18 minutes away.

In any case, all of this meant that in a 1.5-year period the father had taken advantage of only 50 percent of the access time allotted for him to see his daughter.

Meanwhile the mother applied to the court to be allowed to move with the daughter to Toronto to be with her new fiancé. The mother had few social ties in Ottawa and was lonely, and due to a lack of available caregivers had to juggle childcare obligations with her work commitments. In contrast, her family and close friends-with-kids all lived in Toronto, and she had an offer for a good, higher-paying job already lined up there.

In assessing the mother’s request, court confirmed that maximum contact with both parents was the theoretical ideal. However, in this case that was to be balanced with other best-interest factors: namely, that the child would benefit greatly from continuing to live with the mother as her primary caregiver, and from the overall improved financial and family situation that the relocation would provide. Since the child also had a very strong bond with the mother, it was in her best interests that the mother-daughter relationship should be fostered. Finally, the timing for a move was also right, since she was just about to enter kindergarten.

Very tellingly, the court also honed in on the fact that the father had missed or cancelled his scheduled access about half the time. This told the court quite clearly that he prioritized his work duties over seeing his daughter.
Over the father’s objections, and even though it meant that his time with the daughter would drop sharply, the court granted the mother’s legitimate request, and allowed her to move to Toronto with the young girl.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Stimpson v. Stimpson, [2016] O.J. No. 4283, 2016 ONSC 5066

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 RussellAlexander.com