If Custody Switches Every Day, Where Should Kid Attend School?
The parents had joint custody of their 5-year old son, which arrangement featured each of them having equal time with the boy, as well as equal input into decision-making on health, education, religion and extra-curricular activities. They had agreed to a rotating schedule that had the boy’s residence alternate every single day, with weekends alternating on a set schedule.
The problem was that this schedule made it impossible for the boy to attend school in any one place. The parents lived relatively far from each other; the father wanted the boy to attend a school near his home in Richmond Hill; the mother wanted him to attend school near her residence in Toronto. Although by court order any disagreements were to be resolved with the assistance of a parenting coordinator, the parents had not been able to reach an agreement on this issue.
Recognizing that the choice should be governed by whatever was in the boy’s best interests, the parents asked the court to impose a solution. In doing so, the court considered the test set out in another case called Askalan v. Taleb, which provided a useful guideline for whenever this issue was to be considered. Among other things, that task primarily involves:
1) Assessing any impact on the child’s stability;
2) Examining how many years the child has attended his or her current school;
3) Considering whether there is any prospect of one of the parents moving in the near future;
4) Considering where the child was born and raised;
5) Assessing whether a move will mean new child care providers or other unsettling features;
6) Examining the decisions that were made by the parents prior to the separation or at the time of separation with respect to schooling; and
7) Considering any problems there may be with the present school.
The court also added that the choice is not to be guided by the proximity of the school to either parent, or whether it is convenient for the child to attend the nearest school. Rather, the decision has to be made on the merits, with consideration of the child’s needs as well. Finally, the court added:
Of paramount consideration is the school that will give the child the best competitive advantage, or provide the greatest confidence and motivation, or that will facilitate the child’s relationship with others, including his parents and classmates, or best promote his all-around development.
The court evaluated these factors in detail and found overall that although both schools had their advantages and disadvantages, attending the Richmond Hill school proposed by the father would eliminate the need for the boy to wake up two hours earlier each day. This choice was more consistent with the boy’s best interests.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Hamid v. Hamid, 2016 ONSC 5013 (CanLII)
Askalan v. Taleb, 2012 ONSC 4746 (CanLII)
Wilson v. Wilson, 2015 ONSC 479 (CanLII)
Schloegl v. McCroary, 2012 BCSC 1606 (CanLII)