Hearing judge properly considered child's best interests, needs, circumstances
A judge’s decision that considered the benefits for a child of meaningful relationships with both parents was entitled to deference, the Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled.
In Larose v. Dorie, 2022 ABCA 98, the parties had a short-lived common-law relationship in Edmonton with a child born in 2015. The mother, who had primary parenting of the child, moved to Red Deer, Alta., where she worked as a licensed practical nurse.
The father moved to Lacombe, Alta., and worked in Ponoka, Alta. When the child was less than three months old, the father brought an application addressing parenting time and child support. Court orders granted him parenting time.
In 2021, the mother was laid off and has been mostly unemployed since. After her efforts to find another job failed, she notified the father about her intention to relocate with the child to Ontario. They moved to a small community in Ontario, then transferred to an even smaller community.
A hearing judge dismissed the mother’s applications for the relocation of the child to Ontario, for sole decision-making, and for the ability to travel to the U.S. and obtain the child’s passport without the father’s consent.
If the mother would stay in Ontario, the father should have primary care of the child and the mother should receive generous parenting time, but if she decided to return to Alberta, she should retain primary care and the father should have scheduled parenting time, the hearing judge said.
The mother appealed, arguing that the hearing judge wrongly considered factors other than the effect of the child’s separation from the mother and her older child, as well as the effect of the child’s separation from the father.
The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the mother’s appeal. The hearing judge did not commit any palpable and overriding errors in her balancing and weighing of the relevant factors, did not misapprehend evidence, and did not fail to consider facts affecting the end result, the appellate court ruled.
According to the appellate court, the hearing judge clearly analyzed both parties’ evidence; considered the child’s best interests, needs, and circumstances; and ensured the greatest possible protection of the child’s physical, psychological, and emotional safety. These factors favoured having the child stay with the father in Alberta, said the court.
The appellate court noted that the hearing judge focused on the child’s care history; the nature, strength, and stability of the child’s relationship with both parents; and each parent’s ability and willingness to communicate and co-operate on issues impacting the child.