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BACKGROUND

The Applicant father, V.K.G. and the Respondent mother, I.G. met and married in Nigeria in 2013 and moved to Canada in 2016. They had two children together, namely, I.I.G. and M.A.G. The parties’ first separation took place in 2018 when the mother suspected that the father sexually assaulted I.I.G. During a dispute about the abuse, the father struck the mother twice and, as a result, was charged and incarcerated. Once the father was released from his incarceration, the parties attempted to reconcile but were unsuccessful. Their final separation was in 2019 and the father moved back to Nigeria for the foreseeable future. At trial, the mother took the position that due to the alleged family violence and because of the potential risk of abduction, the father’s parenting time should be supervised.

ISSUE

  1. What parenting time arrangements for the father are in the best interests of the two children, and should the father’s parenting time be supervised?

ANALYSIS

General Principles of Supervised Parenting Time

Justice Chappel’s analysis of the mother’s request for supervised parenting time included a composition of general principles from leading cases on the matter, including Jennings v Garrett 2004 ONSC and H v A 2022 ONSC. These principles make it clear that the imposition of supervision on a parent’s time with a child materially affects parenting and the quality of that time. Compelling reasons and evidence to support the need for supervision is necessary. To determine whether supervised parenting time is in a child’ s best interest, the Court must consider society’s developing awareness of social issues that impact the safety and overall wellbeing of children. The Court should also consider relevant factors when assessing risk of harm to the child such as: history of family violence, anger management difficulties, substance abuse, and flight risk concerns. Supervised parenting time is often appropriate as a time-limited measure as opposed to a long-term solution; however, indefinite supervision may be appropriate if there is evidence that the reasons for the order are unlikely to be addressed.

Application to the Case at Hand

In considering the impact of family violence, the father’s physical assault of the mother in 2018 was serious and caused the mother to fear for her safety and that of the children. The Court deemed this to be an isolated incident as there was no evidence that the father had ever been violent toward anyone (including the mother and the children) prior to this incident. He expressed remorse and has worked with professionals since.

With respect to the sexual assault accusations, the Court found that the father cooperated with the Family and Children’s Services of Niagara (FACS) and the police to address the mother’s concerns. He followed recommendations to prevent the occurrence of further family violence by completing the Partner Assault Response program, an anger management course, and marriage counselling. Justice Chappel noted that the father gained strategies to avoid the use of physical aggression and emphasized that there was no evidence of any other violence committed by the father outside of the singular incident.

The Court found that the mother’s behaviour regarding the father’s relationship with the children was psychologically abusive, coercive, and controlling. This behaviour negatively impacted the family dynamic. The mother participated in some of the services recommended by FACS, however, there is no evidence that that the mother followed through with the recommendation to obtain education regarding how to distinguish between normal and concerning sexual exploratory behaviour of children. The mother acknowledged that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations of sexual assault against the father and that her concerns had been triggered by her own experiences of sexual abuse.

CONCLUSION

The Court dismissed the mother’s request that the father’s parenting time be supervised due to the finding that the children would be safe in the father’s care. Justice Chappel concluded that since the father would support the children remaining in the mother’s primary care in Canada and would not attempt to abduct/withhold the children, it was in the child’s best interests that their time with their father take place in a setting where it would not be interrupted by a supervisor.