Honey Boo Boo and Mama June: Custody and Access

TMZ has reported that Sugar Bear is upset with Mama June as she allowed Mark McDaniel, her Mama June's previous partner and convicted child molester, to spend time with their child, Honey Boo Boo, following the parties' separation. The question now from a legal perspective is whether Sugar Bear can take any legal action to ensure the safety of the child and prevent Honey Boo Boo's exposure to Mark McDaniel.

In Ontario, the issues of custody and access are addressed within the Divorce Act, for spouses seeking divorce, and the Children's Law Reform Act, for cohabitees and spouses not seeking divorce. Further, the guiding principle for Ontario courts is the best interests of the children. A court will emphasize in cases such as this, that a child is not chattel in which his/her parents have a proprietary interest, but rather a human being to whom the parents owe serious obligations.

Section 16(9) of the Divorce Act provides that a court shall not take into consideration past conduct unless that conduct affects the ability of that individual to act as a parent for the child. Further, according to section 16(10) of the Divorce Act, in making an order regarding custody or access, the court "shall give effect to the principle that a child of the marriage should have as much contact with each spouse as is consistent with the best interest s of the child".

In this case, a court may consider that Mama June has chosen to allow Honey Boo Boo to spend time with Mark McDaniel. Although it is past conduct, a court may choose to interpret such evidence through the lens of what is in the best interests of the child, and, as such, consider whether it is in the best interests of Honey Boo Boo to be in the care of Mama June on the basis of a sole custody or shared custody arrangement if she is exposed to Mr. McDaniel on a regular basis. In addition, a court may consider the potential instance of Honey Boo Boo being left in the care of Mr. McDaniel when Mama June is not present.

In the event that this matter proceeds to court and sole custody is awarded to Sugar Bear, the issue of access would also be addressed by the court. If the court has sincere concerns regarding the safety of the child while in the care of Mama June, due to the presence of Mark McDaniel, conditions to access may also be ordered by the court to ensure the safety of Honey Boo Boo. Further, the Children's Aid Society (CAS) could choose to become involved in this case if they believed Honey Boo Boo was in need of protection.

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