Interim Child Custody: Coe v Tope, 2014 ONSC 4002
This case addresses the issue of interim custody.
The parties in this matter began cohabiting in 2000 and were married on September 5, 2004. The parties separated on July 19, 2013. There are two children of the marriage, aged five and three. On June 5, 2014, the Mother commenced an Application and subsequently brought a motion for custody and child support. The Court Ordered, on June 20, 2014, that the parties be granted shared custody. The Mother then commenced a Motion, thereafter, seeking sole custody with overnight access to the Father.
The Court commenced its analysis by summarizing the case, including the fact that this matter had been before the courts three times within a single week (paragraph 8). The Court notes that both parties urge the court to “maintain the status quo, but they have diametrically opposed views of what that entails” (paragraph 15).
The Court found that the allegations raised by the parties are all relevant, “or at least have the potential of being relevant… But none of the allegations rise to the level of compelling the court to conclude that these children currently need to be protected from either parent” (paragraph 20). The Court found that “Both parents fear losing their children” (paragraph 23), and, as such, have been “needlessly confrontational” and provided “hurtful affidavit materials” (paragraph 21). As such, the Court stated:
Section 24 of the Children’s Law Reform Act and section 16 of the Divorce Act set out the considerations the court must address in determining issues of custody, access and parenting. Those considerations are child-focussed, not disgruntled-parent-focussed.
The Court found that prior to the July 19, 2013 separation under the same roof and “prior to the June 26, 2014 departure from the matrimonial home”, the parenting arrangement was “effectively shared parenting” (paragraph 26). As such, the Court found that an “equal time sharing arrangement will provide a balanced structure, and minimize disruption or diminution of parent-child relationships” (paragraph 30).
The Court was of the opinion that the Mother and Father have the ability to “make a temporary equal time sharing arrangement work well for the children if they want to” (paragraph 33). The Court’s tone in its decision was to provide both parties with a “sobering warning” (paragraph 38). It was not to offend the parties, but to speak to what the parties’ true intentions should be in the matter. The Court urged the parties to be mindful and to “stop acting like you hate your ex more than you love your children” (paragraph 42).
The Court then ordered that the parties shall “share equal time and equal residency of the children” (paragraph 48).
This decision emphasizes the fact that even though parties separate, and such separation may cause animosity between the parties, such parties will have to continue to co-exist thereafter as they must continue to co-parent their children.