Grandparents Battle It Out for Custody – Should Kids Stay Put Until After Appeal?
The mother of two children had died in 2013. About a year later when the father was no longer able to care for them, he handed the children over to his step-parents (who are nonetheless the children’s paternal grandparents by law).
However the maternal grandparents, who lived in British Columbia, also expressed an interest in caring for the children. In fact, the maternal grandmother moved temporarily to Ontario in order to maintain as close a relationship with the children as possible, and cared for them on a regular basis, in keeping with several temporary court orders that had been made.
Eventually, the two sets of grandparents ended up in a custody battle for the children. After a three-day hearing, the court granted custody to the maternal grandparents, and gave the paternal grandparents holiday and extended summer access.
The paternal grandparents decided to appeal that Order. But since there was only a short period of time between when the Order was released and when the children were to be flown to B.C. to join the maternal grandparents, they asked the court for a stay of proceedings (meaning a suspension of the court Order), until they could launch an appeal and have it heard.
The court considered that application, and pointed out that there was a well-established legal test for granting a stay. Among other things it involved considering whether the children would suffer irreparable harm if the stay was not granted; on the flip-side involved considering whether granting or denying the stay would foster the children’s best interests.
Looking at those specific aspects of the test, the court observed that to leave the children in the care of the paternal grandparents would be less disruptive than moving them to B.C. pending the appeal hearing. The court put it this way:
If a stay is not ordered the children will relocate to British Columbia within days. In the event the [paternal grandparents] are then successful in their appeal, the children would be relocated once again to Ontario. No one has suggested that this would be in their best interests. Indeed I would think this might be potentially quite harmful to them.
In reaching this conclusion, the court considered several other factors, including the stable home life the children were currently enjoying with the paternal grandparents, the close and loving relationship they had with them, and the significant turmoil that the children had already had in their young lives. The court also noted that this was not a situation where they had been removed from the parental grandparents’ care because they were unable to take care of them.
Ultimately the court said:
There is little harm that could come to the children from remaining in the care of the [paternal grandparents] pending completion of the appeal.
However, the court cautioned that the appeal was to be heard expeditiously, and both sets of grandparents were to share the chare of the children until the appeal was fully resolved.
For the full text of the decision, see: