Proulx v. Viau: Interim Mobility and Unilateral Changes to the Status Quo

In this case, the parties had joint custody of the child. The parties attempted a reconciliation that lasted 11 months, but this attempt was unsuccessful. Once the parties separated again, the father remained in Sudbury and the mother moved with the child to Barrie, with consent of the father. Despite the distance between the parties, the father enjoyed substantial access with the child. Suddenly, without notice to the father, the mother moved with the child to Whitby. The father opposed this secret move. The mother said that she moved to Whitby without notice to the father because she believed the father was abusing the child. The court found these allegations of abuse to be unfounded.

Justice Renaud decided that the child should reside with the father in Sudbury based on the status quo established when the parties attempted to reconcile. The judge noted the heart-wrenching impact of interim mobility decisions and stressed the importance of focussing on the best interests of the child. Justice Renaud also rejected the mother’s argument that a new status quo was created in Whitby because the mother’s unilateral decision to relocate did not take the child’s right to access with the father into account.

In short, this case confirms that where both parties spend time with the child, parents will not be rewarded for unilaterally trying to create a new status quo.

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