NL court restores equal parenting between mother and grandmother

Re-hearing would expend time and financial, emotional, other costs, ruling says

NL court restores equal parenting between mother and grandmother

The Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador held that there was no natural progression toward a mother having sole custody of her son in a case where the grandmother cared for the child in her home since his infancy.

M.E.G. v. S.P., 2022 NLCA 50 involved a parenting dispute between a mother and a paternal grandmother over a boy born in 2014. Since he was an infant, the grandmother cared for him in her home alongside the child’s father. At that time, the mother was not present and was not able to parent.

When the father died in 2015, the grandmother became the child’s sole caregiver. From 2015 to 2020, interim orders of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador were in force, confirming the grandmother as his primary caregiver.

Several years later, the mother returned to where her son was residing and started living in a nearby community. She gradually reintegrated into a parenting role with the grandmother’s cooperation and assistance. She had supervised then eventually unsupervised visits, as well as overnight access.

The grandmother and mother later agreed on an equal parenting arrangement implemented for around a year. The agreement provided that the boy would live half the time with his grandmother in her home and would reside the other half the time with his mother, who shared a home with her new partner and two children from that partner’s previous relationship.

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador ordered that, after a transition period, the child should live full-time with his mother, who would have sole parenting rights. On the other hand, the grandmother should have access for one weekend per month at a minimum. The grandmother appealed.

NL Court of Appeal allows appeal

The Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador set aside the provisions of the judge’s order stating that the boy would reside exclusively with his mother and would have at least one weekend of access per month with his grandmother.

The appellate court found errors in the judge’s best interests of the child analysis, including in the references to a natural progression toward the mother having sole custody of her son, considering the context of this case.

The judge’s order drastically reduced the grandmother’s contact with the boy. The appellate court found it unclear how the decision was trying to attain a stable environment and maintain contact with both parents.

The appellate court said that the judge also made material misapprehensions impacting the core of the grandmother’s statements, which consistently claimed that it was in the child’s best interests for the equal parenting arrangement to continue.

The court ruled that it was in the child’s best interests to reinstate equal, shared parenting with joint decision-making on all major decisions. This time, the arrangement should be week to week, instead of three days like the original agreement, since the boy was now older and had an established school routine. The order’s other provisions would stay the same.

The fact that the child was subject to a parenting arrangement for some time after the court order pending appeal was relevant and important but not determinative of whether the same arrangement should be maintained after the appeal, the appellate court noted.

The appellate court said that sending back the matter for a re-hearing would expend time and financial, emotional, and other costs that would be prohibitive and that would fail to serve the best interests of the child or the parties. The court added that the evidentiary record was robust, reflective of the parties’ positions, and sufficient for making a parenting order.

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