Manitoba Court orders shared parenting plan in high-conflict case involving family violence

The decision comes after the mother refused to move the children back to Winnipeg as recommended

Manitoba Court orders shared parenting plan in high-conflict case involving family violence

The Manitoba Court of King's Bench resolved a high-conflict parenting dispute involving two young boys exposed to family violence by mandating a shared parenting plan following the mother's refusal to move the children back to Winnipeg.

The issue in M.I.M. v. B.S.D., 2024 MBKB 80 involves a family conflict exacerbated by the mother’s unilateral relocation of the children an hour from the father’s home. Both parents accused each other of domestic violence during and after their relationship, with both providing evidence of physical and verbal altercations. The father presented a narrative of the mother’s violent behaviour, supported by digital evidence, while the mother claimed that the father had been physically and verbally abusive.

The family evaluator, Elaine Garrett, concluded that the best interests of the children would be met by a shared parenting schedule, provided the parents lived closer to each other. Garrett’s assessment found that the current arrangement, involving lengthy travel, was not optimal for the children. She recommended that the mother move closer to Winnipeg to facilitate the shared parenting schedule. Alternatively, if the mother refuses, the children should live primarily with the father.

During the trial, both parents testified extensively about their troubled relationship and their respective parenting abilities. The father emphasized his desire for a stable, conflict-free environment for the children, while the mother highlighted the positive impact of the relocation on the children's social lives.

The Court of King’s Bench noted the need to minimize the children's exposure to ongoing parental conflict. The judge highlighted that both parents exhibited coercive and controlling behaviour, with the mother particularly noted for her threats and attempts to manipulate the father. The court also acknowledged the father's efforts to avoid conflict and the stepmother’s role in maintaining a peaceful environment.

The court recognized the children's Indigenous heritage, as they have Metis heritage on their mother's side and Nigerian heritage on their father's side. The parents were encouraged to incorporate the children's cultural backgrounds into their upbringing.

In terms of decision-making, the court granted the father final decision-making authority on major issues if the parents could not agree. The court ordered both parents to attend counselling and parenting programs to address family violence and improve their co-parenting skills. Ultimately, the court’s decision prioritized the best interests of the children.

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