Application denied. Considering the history of the family, the grandparents of child are granted daily care. The child’s mother has restricted parenting time. The father is allowed no contact unless via a safe visitation facility.
This action involved the guardianship and parenting of a child. The grandparents of the child obtained court orders for guardianship. The parents were granted a Parenting Order in 2016, giving them daily care of their child, all decision-making powers, and gave the mother parenting time with the child at the discretion of the grandparents. The mother, however, applied under s 34(2) of the Family Law Act [“Act”], to vary the 2016 Parenting Order, asking that the child be transitioned to her day to day care.
The issues before this Court was whether it had the jurisdiction to make a variation order of the 2016 Parenting Order. If so, what allocation of parenting time, guardianship powers, entitlements, and responsibilities were in the best interests of this child. S 34(3) of the Act determines that the Court can only make a variation order if there has been a material change in the needs or circumstances of a child since the making of a Parenting Order. Additionally, the Court can only consider the best interests of a child as set out in s 18 of the Act, as determined by reference to any change in a child’s needs or circumstances. An existing custody order may be varied on an interim basis in emergent circumstances, but it should not be lightly disturbed as stability and certainty are primary considerations for a child’s best interests (Carey v Hanlon, 2007 ABCA 391).
S 18(2)(b) provides a non-exhaustive list of the needs and circumstances of a child that the Court must consider. Accordingly, for s 34(3) of the Act, a change in the needs or circumstances of a child has occurred if there has been a material change in any of the needs or circumstances listed in s 18(2)(b). The Court determined that there was a material change in the needs or circumstances of the child in this matter concerning the ability and willingness of the mother to care and meet the needs of the child. There was, however, a pending criminal proceeding regarding an allegation of sexual assault against the father, which is a circumstance affecting the safety and well-being of the child, which was afforded greater weight.