The case of Cryzewski v Fabro focused primarily on determining a 20-month year old child’s parenting schedule. In this endeavor, Justice Shore followed an increasing line of judicial decisions that have employed the AFCC Parenting Guidelines, prepared by the Ontario Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, to assess the most appropriate parenting plans for children post-separation. Since it’s introduction in 2020, this guide has been cited in approximately 15 judicial decisions, potentially indicating a new shift in judicial decision-making for parenting schedules.
The Applicant Father and Respondent Mother had never married, nor had they ever lived together. However, they had a child together, ‘B’, that at the time of the proceedings, was approximately 20-months old.
Both the Applicant Father and the Respondent Mother were both found to be loving and caring parents that wanted to maximize their time with their son. The Applicant Father’s position was that the parties should have equal parenting time with B on a week on/week off schedule. The Applicant Father had arranged his work schedule around B so that he could spend one week caring for him full-time, and the other spending longer hours at work.
The Respondent Mother argued that such an arrangement was not in B’s best interests given his age, stating that he should not be away from his primary caregiver for more than two or three days at a time.
In determining the most appropriate parenting schedule for B, Justice Shore cited the best interests of the child under sections 24(1) to 24(7) of the Children’s Law Reform Act. In this analysis, the primary consideration is the child’s physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being. Justice Shore further considered the maximum contact principle, where each parent should have as much contact with the child in accordance with the child’s best interests. However, this does not mean that each parent gets equal parenting time.
Justice Shore proceeded to cite the AFCC Parenting Guidelines, as used by the two recent decisions of McBennett v. Davis 2021 ONSC 3610 and H. V. A., 2022 ONSC 1560. In the former case, Justice Chappel cited the AFCCO-O Guide as a useful summary of basic social science knowledge explaining the effects of parental separation on children, and providing guidance to help improve cooperation between separated parents to meet the needs of their children. In H. v. A., Justice Kraft also commended the AFCC-O Parenting Guidelines as providing great assistance in determining parenting schedules, representing a general professional consensus in Ontario about current child development research following separation.
In applying the Guidelines to the case at bar, Justice Shore held that a week-on/week-off schedule was not in accordance with B’s best interests given his age and stage of development. For toddlers, the AFCC-O Parenting Guidelines recommends that the child may have equal time with both parents if the child has an easy temperament and the parties had shared caretaking arrangements in the past. However, the child should not be separated from either parent for more than two or three nights at a time.
Following this guidance, Justice Shore held that B should not be away from his primary caregiver, the Respondent Mother, for more than two to three nights at a time. The week-on/week-off schedule would result in B being separated for too long from both parents, just to have an equal time-sharing arrangement. As such, Justice Shore agreed with the Respondent Mother that such a parenting schedule was premature. Perhaps in time, when B became older and more developed, the scheduled could progress to a week-on/week-off arrangement.
Justice Shore’s reasoning reflects a progressive trend of courts leaning on the AFCC-O Parenting Guidelines to craft a parenting schedule in line with a child’s best interests. Becoming familiar with said Guidelines could prove useful in predicting how courts will determine such parenting schedules in the future.