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CUSTODY AND ACCESS - Considerations - Best interests of child - Conduct of parents - Parental alienation - Practice and procedure - Orders - Enforcement of orders - Appeals

Monday, December 04, 2017 @ 12:41 PM  

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Appeal by the mother from two post-trial judgment parenting orders. The parties had five children presently between the ages of eight and 16. The mother, now age 53, was a physician. The father, now age 56, was a former banker and property developer who was unemployed. Their litigation was fractious and included allegations of inappropriate parenting and parental alienation. In June 2015, a trial judgment resulted in creation of an extensive equal parenting regime, and provided directions for family reunification. The trial judgment also established child and spousal support. The order made provision for review and reconsideration. The trial judge seized himself of the case. In June 2016, the trial judge confirmed that he remained seized of the matter and made a further order which released the parties from the reunification program, but required appointment of a parenting coordinator with specific directives from the reunification program continuing in place. The June 2016 order declined to adjust support. In May 2017, the trial judge dismissed competing applications alleging contempt and, on his own motion, varied aspects of the parenting and support regime. The mother appealed.  

HELD: Appeal allowed in part. The Family Law Act did not did not contemplate the parenting details directed by the trial judge. The judge erred in principle by taking the detail of parenting upon himself to an inappropriate degree, and by failing to establish who had the initial parental responsibility on the disputed matters. The trial judge failed to fully consider the children's best interests by erroneously diverting to correcting the parties' behaviour, in particular, that of the mother. The result was a parenting regime that was unduly restrictive in respect of the rotation of residences and the restriction of the children's activities. There was insufficient evidence and discussion of how continuation of the regime would benefit or adversely impact the children. The Court of Appeal's prior interim order changing the residency schedule and restriction on children's activities, and lifting the prohibitions on parental and child contacts were affirmed. The appointment of a parenting coordinator was referred to the Superior Court for determination. Otherwise, the mother's declaration that the trial judge's conduct and statement raised a reasonable apprehension of bias was rejected. The Court declined to review the trial judge's determination that he remained seized of the matter.

N.R.G. v. G.R.G., [2017] B.C.J. No. 2350, British Columbia Court of Appeal, M.E. Saunders, R. Goepel and L. Fenlon JJ.A., November 23, 2017. Digest No. TLD-December42017002