In a recent Newfoundland decision, called Sexton v. Tipping, the court made what is arguably a sensible and realistic observation about children’s adaptability to change, especially at a young age, and how that can bolster a court’s decision-making on factors relating to custody and primary care.
In that case, the court wrote:
It is a reality of the times in which we live that many couples with children come together through partnership or marriage, separate or divorce after a period of time and then move on with their lives. … The crux of these scenarios is change – for the parents and for the children.
Change is a constant in all our lives. As a general principle, children are adaptable in their lives. They change communities. They change schools. They change friends. Many change families, not because of their actions but because of the actions of their parents. That has happened in this matter.
On the facts of that case, the court took comfort from that reality as part of its rationale for allowing a change to the custody arrangement. In light of the child’s best interests, he was placed in the joint custody of both parents but would have primary residence with his mother, who was allowed to relocate to Arizona with the boy.
Arguably, for any child, the move to an entirely new country is quite a drastic change. Yet the court seems to be saying that divorce, separation and changes to family dynamics are so commonplace in “the times in which we live” that the seriousness of its impact on children may have been diluted, especially for the younger ones.
Should the reality of widespread divorce and broken families in our society diminish the court’s focus on the “best interests of the child,” which legislatively-mandated to be the paramount criterion in child custody and access matters?
What are your thoughts?
For the full text of the decision, see: Sexton v. Tipping