NB Court of Appeal prioritizes parent-child relationship over half-siblings in custody case

Each criterion of analysis of best interests of the child need not be separately discussed

NB Court of Appeal prioritizes parent-child relationship over half-siblings in custody case

The New Brunswick Court of Appeal has affirmed a judge’s decision to put more emphasis on the parent-child relationship than on the child’s relationship with his half-siblings.

In L.P. v. B.M., 2022 NBCA 19, the parties lived together starting in 2014. Their son was born in 2016, but they separated in 2017. In 2019, the appellant mother filed an application asking for sole custody and proposing an access and visitation schedule. The mother asked for an order seeking the following:

  • Child support under ss. 3 and 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines, SOR/97-175
  • Securing such support through an irrevocable designation of the child as beneficiary of the respondent father’s life insurance policy
  • Annual financial disclosure
  • Continued health and dental coverage for the child.

In 2020, the parents, with the help of legal counsel, signed an interim court order agreeing to share custody of their son. At a case management conference in January 2021, a judge decided to maintain the consent order until the hearing. In August 2021, the judge granted shared parenting and decision-making authority to the parents.

On appeal, the mother argued that the judge:

  • Issued insufficient reasons
  • Failed to address the criteria for the best interests of the child
  • Did not consider the potential impact of domestic violence
  • Alternatively, failed to consider the child’s relationship with his half-siblings, who were 24, 22, and 15 years old.

The New Brunswick Court of Appeal dismissed the mother’s appeal. First, regarding the judge’s best interests of the child analysis, the appellate court acknowledged that the reasons were brief. However, the judge need not separately discuss each criterion for the analysis, as long as he considered the evidence, was aware of the disputed issues, and gave reasons that showed a discernible path to his conclusion, the appellate court said.

The judge knew about the case and its facts since he signed the interim order and benefited from a record with extensive affidavit evidence and considerable viva voce evidence, the appellate court noted.

The appellate court accepted that the judge should have addressed the mother’s allegations of domestic violence and should have explained why he thought that they would not impact the father-son relationship, but no evidence supported the mother’s argument that these allegations would have affected the result, the appellate court explained.

Regarding the child’s relationship with his half-siblings, the judge recognized it and mentioned that the mother wanted her son to spend time with them on the weekends. The judge made no error when he chose to place more emphasis on the parent-child relationship than on the child’s relationship with his half-siblings, the appellate court held. The judge, applying the maximum contact principle, found it more important for each parent to spend as much time as possible with their son.

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