In a case called Newman v. Nicholson, the parents of a 14-year old boy had been subject to a court order, granting them each joint custody. The boy lived in the primary care of his mother since he was 2 years old.
Over that period, the mother had done most of the workaround attending to the boy’s needs: For example, she facilitated his involvement in highly-competitive Triple-A level hockey, as well as high-performance athletic programs, hockey camps and high school sports.
In contrast, the father had been comparatively unreliable in meeting the boy’s needs, and sometimes had trouble getting him to school or sports functions on time. This was compounded by the fact that his driver’s license had been suspended by the Family Responsibility Office for non-payment of child support. His income had also dropped for unrelated reasons, and the mother claimed he had increased his consumption of alcohol. She also had concerns that the boy spent too much time playing video games while in the father’s care.
The mother applied for sole custody (but with generous access to the father), on the basis that there had been a significant change since the order had been made. She pointed out that while she had taken charge of attending to all the boy’s needs, the father had not even honoured his financial obligations as a parent. More troubling was the fact that the father deliberately ignored her emails and was unresponsive in his communication with her about the boy’s various existing health issues, some of which required monitoring.
The father wanted the joint custody to remain as-is.
After considering the boy’s best interests, the court concluded that the existing situation was indeed ripe for change, primarily due to the nature of communication between the parents, which the court called “abrasive and contemptuous.” That, coupled with the father’s historic inability to get the boy school and sports on-time, was justification for removing the father’s entitlement to joint custody and reducing his access time. Although both parents had a strong bond with the boy, and both wanted a role in parenting him, the mother had played the lead role with respect to his schooling, medical needs, activities registration and scheduling. The court added that at this point in his life, the boy needed consistency and routine.
However, the father was to continue to play a meaningful role in the boy’s life. In particular, the court found that the boy’s time with his father was “an opportunity for [him] to play video games and allow him some ‘downtime’”.
The court accordingly imposed a schedule for reduced access, which would be increased once the father got his license back.
For the full text of the decision, see: