Ontario Superior Court orders child's return from Alberta in custody dispute

The parents had no right to unilaterally impose major changes in the child's life: court

Ontario Superior Court orders child's return from Alberta in custody dispute

In a recent decision, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that a four-year-old child must be returned to Ontario from Alberta, resolving a contentious jurisdictional dispute between the child's parents.

In Ruhil v. Ruhil, 2024 ONSC 2828, the father sought the return of his daughter who had been taken to Alberta by the mother without his knowledge. The parties were married in Mauritius in 2014. The mother moved to Canada in 2016, where the couple settled in Mississauga. Their daughter was born in 2020.

In January 2022, with the father’s consent, the mother travelled to Mauritius with the child, intending to return in mid-February. However, they did not return, prompting the father to initiate Hague Convention proceedings.

In November 2022, the mother agreed to return the child to Canada within six months. However, she relocated to Edmonton, Alberta, without informing the father, who believed the child was still in Mauritius. Since November 2022, the child had not seen her father in person, although the mother offered unlimited video time.

The court previously determined that Ontario had jurisdiction over the case and directed both parties to attend a dispute resolution officer (DRO) conference. The mother’s attempt to stay the Ontario jurisdiction decision in Alberta was dismissed.

The Supreme Court found that neither parent had the right to unilaterally impose major changes in the child's life without a formal agreement or court order. The mother’s actions, including not returning from Mauritius and relocating to Alberta without informing the father, constituted extreme self-help remedies. The court emphasized that such actions could not be rewarded, especially when they potentially jeopardized the child's best interests.

The court noted that the mother’s submissions regarding the child’s safety were contradictory. While she claimed the father would harm them, she also suggested unsupervised visits and offered to cover travel expenses. The court found her submissions lacked credibility and noted that her financial situation, including reliance on social benefits, did not align with her offer to pay for flights.

The court concluded that returning to Ontario was in the child’s best interests. The child had been denied consistent in-person parenting time with her father for over half her life. The court also noted that the mother’s actions raised concerns about her attempting to avoid the legal process.

Ultimately, the court granted the father parenting time and temporary decision-making responsibility for the child’s education and medical care. The court ordered the mother to transfer the child to the father’s care or face potential enforcement actions in Alberta.

Recent articles & video

Survey report highlights challenges and solutions for family violence cases in Nova Scotia courts

Suncor's David Kramer speaks about big deals, the energy transition and career advice

Lawyers must be increasingly aware of technological, geopolitical trends: software founder Sean West

Who made it to the 2024 list of top pro bono law firms?

Tracy Davis appointed as Assistant Chief Justice of the Alberta Court of Justice

Charles Randall Smith re-appointed as chairperson of RCMP External Review Committee

Most Read Articles

BC Supreme Court rejects husband’s claim against wife’s counsel over family home sale proceeds

Crown attorneys share responsibility for Canada’s dysfunctional justice system

Lawyer salaries may vary more in wake of competition law changes: recruiter report

'We need to have the competence to question:' LegalTech panel on genAI fakes in the legal system