The parties are the parents of a child named Karter, aged 4. The parties never resided together. After
Karter’s birth, the mother and father agreed to share time with him in accordance with the father’s work schedule. However, commencing on July 1, 2019, at the request of the Children’s Aid Society of Algoma, Karter began residing primarily with the father due to the mother’s mental health issues and substance abuse. Since then, the mother had not shown that she was seeing Karter on any structured or consistent basis.
Despite the inconsistent parenting time with his mother, Karter still had a loving and extensive support network of family on both his paternal and maternal sides. Specifically, Karter’s maternal great- grandparents were previously granted interim contact with Karter for six days for every three-week period.
The sole issue for determination at trial was that of parenting time for the mother. The father argued that the mother should be granted parenting time from the contact time already provided to the maternal great-grandparents. The mother’s position was that her mother, the maternal grandmother, be provided specific contact time with Karter from the maternal great-grandparents contact time.
In spite of the various parties seeking contact or parenting time with Karter, the relationships between them have had their fair share of disagreements. Although the maternal great-grandparents were granted an interim contact order, they and the father would often disagree on parenting decisions for Karter. Although the mother was requesting more contact time for the maternal grandmother and
Karter, she and her mother’s relationship had been quite strained in the past. Hostility would also arise between the paternal and maternal sides of the family.
Despite the internal feuds amongst support providers, it seemed clear that all sides were prioritizing Karter and his best interests. The father acknowledged that, despite his disagreements with the maternal great-grandparents, he still trusted their judgment and was agreeable to letting them decide what time should be provided to the mother. The father further supports Karter’s relationship with his mother, in spite of her mental health and addiction difficulties. The mother and maternal grandmother also displayed an awareness of the mother’s limitations as a parent and acknowledged that the father was an “amazing father” for Karter.
In making her determination, Justice Mendes cited sections 24 and 28 of the Children’s Law Reform Act
in assessing Karter’s best interests and identifying her authority to order parenting and contact time. Justice Mendes commended the resounding support for Karter from all members of the family, despite their internal quarrels with each other. The court specifically commended the father for ensuring Karter maintains his connections to both sides of the family.
Justice Mendes noted however, that the interim contact order for the maternal great-grandparents should never have been granted. The maternal great-grandparents were never parties to the proceeding, nor did they ever provide any parenting Affidavits in support of such a contact order. Regardless, the maternal great-grandparents have now had consistent time with Karter for the past three years. As such, Justice Mendes held that the maternal great-grandparents were now contact holders and are thus entitled to notice regarding any proposed change to their time with Karter.
Justice Mendes was not prepared to order any parenting time for the mother from the maternal great- grandparents contact time, nor was she prepared to order contact time for the maternal grandmother. The court was left with the impression that the mother came and visited Karter with the maternal great- grandparents whenever she pleased, with little structure or consistency. Justice Mendes noted however, that the current parenting arrangement was complicated by the maternal great-grandmother’s declining health, and the limited time that the maternal great-grandparents had remaining with Karter.
Despite the mother’s inconsistency with her parenting time, her Honor was still impressed with the mother and maternal grandmother’s acknowledgment of their limitations. The maternal grandmother presented herself as someone able to appropriately evaluate the mother’s capabilities to parent Karter, recognizing her substance abuse issues in the past.
Given the advancing age of the maternal great-grandparents, and the varying requests for parenting and contact time with Karter by the mother and maternal grandmother, Justice Mendes ordered that the parties attend an Alternative Dispute Resolution process to specifically address the mother’s parenting time with Karter. The current interim contact schedule for the maternal great-grandparents of six days out of every three-week period was to continue, with them having discretion to determine when the mother and maternal grandmother may look after Karter.
The complexity and varying familial dynamics represented in this case can often be seen in a great number of families. Family cases are rarely black and white, with one parent being the hero and the other a villain. Familial relationships are often much more complex and can often cause disagreements and hostility, especially when children are at the center of such disputes. However, the court will
commend the parties if they see that the child’s best interests are being prioritized in spite of any internal strife. Although parenting time was not yet granted to the mother in this case, the court stated that her acknowledgment of her own limitations provided them with confidence for the child’s care moving forward.