“Verandah Parenting”: Was New Father Ready to Graduate to Visits In-Home?
The unmarried parents ended their relationship in May of 2021, when the mother was pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter in September. Within two months of the birth, the father had formally applied to the court for parenting time with their infant daughter. However, he didn’t actually get to meet his child until she was 7 months old, due partly to the mother’s delay in facilitating a paternity test.
Still, the father did get to finally meet her, and soon after was ordered to pay child support and some arrears. On a temporary basis, he was also granted supervised parenting time for one hour on Saturdays, one hour on Sundays, and half-hour during three weekday mornings.
On each of these occasions, this supervised parenting time was to be exercised on the verandah of the mother’s home.
After several months, the father returned to court to ask that his parenting time be expanded even further, on a gradual basis. For now, he was asking for one full hour on each of the weekdays, and 3 hours per day on the weekends. He also wanted it to take place at his own home, rather than on the mother’s verandah.
The court summarized the father’s argument this way:
The father argues that the [current] parenting order was always a stop-gap measure and it is evident that the present “verandah parenting” arrangement cannot continue as it places the child in the middle of the parent’s conflict. Moreover, he argues that the present arrangement is not appropriate or conducive to the child developing any meaningful relationship with him. The father urges the court to expand his parenting time and permit him to parent the child at home.
After considering a host of factors, the court granted the father’s request.
The court first noted that under Ontario legislation, there was a principle that a child should have as much time with each parent as is consistent with the child’s best interests. With that in mind, the court disagreed with the mother’s position that it was “too much, too soon”, and dismantled each of her specific objections.
For one thing, it was true the father had anger management issues in the past, but he had recently taken a course to address these. He was also over a full year sober, and was continuing with addiction counselling. And while it was true that the child was only 8 months old and still breastfeeding, this could be accommodated. In the court’s view, the simple need to breastfeed – both “legally and factually” – should not serve as a bar to expanding the father’s time with this daughter.
In fact, the slightly greater access by the father to the infant child would foster the bond between them. As the court observed:
I find that it is in the best interests of the child that parenting with her father be expanded as, even at this young age, she should have the opportunity to attach to her father in a meaningful way while still being mindful of her physical needs to be breastfed by the mother. I find that this can be accomplished by a modest increase in the father’s parenting time. He is not, at this point, asking for full days or overnight parenting.
Importantly, the court dismissed the mother’s concerns that the father lacked the ability to parent the child on his own, writing:
While it is true that the father does not have experience parenting the child on his own, given the relatively short parenting intervals that the father is asking for, I find that it would be in the child’s best interests that the father have the opportunity to feed, play, soothe, bathe and put the child to sleep as needed. These are fundamental parental activities and all new parents start out with little experience. The father has taken a parenting course and will have spent more than 10 parenting sessions with the child. It is not clear what more the father can do at this stage to demonstrate that he is ready to parent the child. The mother’s position is self-serving. She is using the status quo against the father’s parenting request, but does not appear willing to change the status quo.
Finally, in the court’s view the father’s proposal was reasonable: He could better care for the child’s needs at his own home, with its amenities – rather than on the mother’s verandah.