This case centers on a dispute about where the party’s child should attend school. The father wanted his child to attend public school whereas the mother wanted her child to attend a private faith-based school.
The main issue the court had to deal with in this case was the dispute between the parties concerning whether there would be a difference in the quality of education at a public school versus that at a private school.
The party’s counsel agreed that if parents are unable to agree on which school their child should attend, and the court is called upon to make the decision, the best interests of the child prevail.
The court reflected on case law which provided general principles to assist the decision-making in making a decision of this nature in the child’s best interests, including:
- A consideration of the child’s unique needs, circumstances, aptitudes and attributes;
- Focusing on the interests of the child rather than those of the parents, or their rights;
- Whether a school placement or educational program will promote and maintain a child’s cultural and linguistic heritage;
- Assessing any impact on the stability of the child, which may include examining whether there is any prospect of one of the parties moving in the near future;
- A consideration of any problems with the proposed schools; and
- A consideration of the resources that each school offers in relation to a child’s needs, rather than on proximity of either school to the residence of one parent or the other, or the convenience that the child’s attendance at the nearest school would entail.
Each party framed the major benefit of attending their preferred school by connecting it to the lifestyle they would want for their child. The father focused on the prospect of the child making friends at public school from the same community in which the child lived whereas the mother focused on the child making friends with other children who are more likely to have been exposed to a faith-based lifestyle.
The court expressed their view that for a child as young as in the case at hand, while comprised of many components, their educational experience will most likely be driven by the friendships he forms at school and teachers to whom he is exposed. The court then noted that with the exception of student body size, both schools being advocated by each parent would likely present their child with positive experiences in respect of both of these components.
The court was not convinced by the party’s arguments pertaining to which extracurricular sporting activities were available at either school as it was noted that children have the option of participating in extracurricular activities year-round which are not tied to their school.
With respect to the cost difference between public and private schooling, the court reflected on case law which stated that in order to determine whether the costs of a private school were excessive or proper section 7 child support expenses, the court must consider whether private schooling is necessary, or whether the child had any particular needs which could only be met at a private school. If there is no compelling reason for the child to attend a private school, a public school should be the default location for a child to receive their education.
As the mother’s preference for her child to attend private school was based primarily on faith-based desires for her child, the court found there was not a sufficiently compelling reason to make an order for the child to attend private school instead of the public school preferred by the father. There was no evidence to support that the private school would better meet the needs of the party’s child in comparison to a public school, apart from the mother’s argument about her child receiving a faith-based education. However, the court noted that even if the child were to attend public school, the mother would still be able to provide him with moral and spiritual guidance. As such, the court concluded that it was in the child’s best interests to be registered in public school.