Sole Child Custody

Courts have been increasingly willing to order joint custody of children (rather than sole custody) to create a power balance between the parties where both parties are competent and caring parents.  As such, the case law is replete with examples where parents are told they need to work together in the best interests of the children.  

In Mastrangelo v. Di Cristofaro, Justice Audet of the Ontario Superior Court found the opposite, stating

[78]           It is quite clear to me that these parents have not, and will not, be able to co-parent jointly. Each parent has cared for the children in their own individual silos, both before and after their separation, often without consulting the other parent before making decisions and often without any form of consultation or communication with the other parent.

[79]           I am of the view that granting these parents joint custodial rights will only increase and perpetuate the conflict between them, a conflict that the children have often been exposed to, and will leave the children in a state of indecision and turmoil.  The parties’ conflict resolution skills during their marriage was quite poor, and the evidence before me confirms that they have not improved since.  There is simply no evidence upon which I could hope that a reasonable measure of communication and cooperation between them will be achievable in the future.

[80]           Based on all the evidence before me, I find that it is in the children’s best interests that final decision-making authority be granted to the mother.  She has been primarily responsible for making decisions about the children’s academic and health needs before and after the parties’ separation, and she has shown an ability to be respectful and flexible in her approach to parenting, putting the children’s best interests above her own feelings of resentment and anger towards the father.  Given the father’s confrontational and uncompromising ways, his lack of commitment to the children’s academic success, and his demonstrated inability to put aside his anger and resentment towards the mother in the children’s best interests, I am unable to trust him with sole custodial authority.

[81]           This said, I have some concerns that giving the mother final decision-making authority in all areas of the children’s care may result in the father being completely marginalized as a parent.  The father has been solely responsible for the children’s dental care before the parties’ separation, and I have no evidence to show that he has not fulfilled that role well.  Further, the father has been the most closely involved parent in relation to the children’s hockey and baseball, and I am of the view that he should continue to be the lead decision-maker in relation to the children’s involvement in these two sports, or in any other team sports that the children wish to engage in in the future in replacement for hockey or baseball.

[82]           For those reasons, I conclude that the mother should be given sole and final decision-making authority over all areas of the children’s care, including but not limited to their schooling (including the choice of their school and the language in which they are to be educated), their religious upbringing and their overall health, with the exception of the following areas for which the father will retain final decision-making authority:

−        the children’s dental care;

−        the children’s involvement in hockey and baseball.

[83]           This is the type of parenting situation which requires a detailed multidirectional parenting order to avoid future conflict as much as it is reasonably possible. The parties had already consented to a number of provisions that they wish to have added to any parenting order that I make, and I have incorporated those in my final order which is attached as Schedule “A” to this decision.

Multidirectional parenting involves one parent making certain decisions and the other parent making other decisions.  This way there is a clear decision making regime that minimizes conflict in higher conflict cases, yet allowing both parents to stay involved in certain decisions for the children.

There is no “one sized fits all” solution for every case.  

It is important to have a strong team of family lawyers to assist you in your family law dispute.

Every case is different.  To put your best foot forward, we recommend you receive timely legal advice.

If you have questions about your rights and obligations relating to child custody or access contact Windsor family law lawyers Mary Fox, Tanya McNevin or Thomas MacKay today by calling 519-259-1820.   We serve clients in Windsor, Tecumseh, Lasalle, Essex, Leamington, Kingsville, Belle River and Lakeshore, and throughout southern Ontario.

We take the time to understand each client’s objectives and wishes, provide honest and sensible advice, and work together with the client to develop and implement a custom strategy to achieve their goals.  

At each step in the process we focus on the client’s goals and push for resolution of their dispute.

We offer personalized creative solutions and utilize all of the tools and professionals needed to settle your dispute in the most timely and cost effective manner.  Our extensive expertise in resolving disputes through negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and litigation is known throughout southwestern Ontario.  We represent clients throughout the litigation process, including through the trial and appeal.

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