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Toronto Child Parenting and Contact Changes

Calgary Alberta Child Parenting Status Quo is a principle Courts often apply in cases involving separated parents who disagree over what parenting arrangement should be moving forward. Judges have assessed what the impact of Calgary Alberta Child Parenting Status Quo should be and reached different conclusions on how much weight should be given to the “status quo” of parenting arrangements. Peter Graburn provides this excellent blog on the topic.

Calgary Alberta Child Parenting Status Quo Lawyers 1 877 602 9900

In recent articles, we have discussed some of the more basic principles of family law, including mobility, “best interests of the child” and that Court Orders are to be followed, etc. One of these basic principles is regarding the “status quo” in parenting arrangements, specifically that Courts tend to maintain the current parenting arrangement (ie. the “status quo”) at least until a final hearing of the parenting matter.  In 2004, MacLean Law Founder Lorne MacLean wrote (see: “The Presumption for Status Quo: Is it Time to Let it Go?) on a British Columbia Supreme Court case where the Justice stated (see: OTH v. SLH, 2003 BCSC 1399 at para. 28):

“It cannot, as Mrs. H. suggests, be the case that simply because the status quo has pertained for, say, a year and a half, that it must ipso facto serve the child’s best interests. That is, in my view, extremely faulty reasoning… It is for the court on an application to upset the status quo to determine where the child’s best interests lie. This is, I believe, one of the bedrock principles of family law.”

So, is there actually a presumption that the Courts will maintain the current parenting arrangement (the “status quo”) until a final hearing?  Does the presumption of Calgary Alberta Child Parenting Status Quo exist in Alberta?

Calgary Alberta Child Parenting Status Quo 
New Divorce Act Child Best Interests lawyer Peter Graburn

Parenting “Status Quo” 1 877 602 9900

Status quo” is a Latin term meaning “the existing state of affairs; the way things (currently) are”.  In family law, specifically regarding parenting arrangements, the parenting “status quo” refers to the current parenting arrangement regarding the primary residence of the child(ren) and the amount of parenting time the non-custodial parent enjoys with the child(ren).  The presumption of the Court maintaining the parenting “status quo” (at least until a final hearing where both parents can personally testify regarding the parenting arrangement) is based on the benefits of preserving the children’s routine and schedules and not making any significant changes in the living arrangements of the child(ren) (as long as that current situation is working well and there are no clear reasons for changing that arrangement).  Generally, the argument in favour of maintaining the parenting “status quo” is that it is in the children’s best interests to maintain stability and predictability in parenting arrangements. Psychology Today discusses the impact.

Presumption of Status Quo in Alberta Cases

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So, what is the status of the presumption of maintaining the parenting “status quo” in Alberta Courts? Generally, Alberta Courts have held that interim parenting orders should maintain the “status quo”, stating (see: LDM v. WFT 2018 ABCA 106 at para. 7):

“Interim orders, particularly those characterized as “interim without prejudice orders”, should focus on maintaining the status quo pending a proper hearing.”

However, as early as 2009, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench stated regarding maintaining the “status quo” (see: DSW v. DLW, 2009 ABQB 279 at para. 16):

“Status quo is not a parenting principle; it is only one factor to consider in determining what is in a child’s best interests…”

and regarding presumptions, generally (see: Botticelli v Botticelli 2009 ABQB 556 at para. 3):

“… there are no presumptions in parenting disputes; the only standard is what is in the best interests of the child.”

More recently (see:  PDB v. AJB 2020 ABQB 298) Justice M.J. Lema of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, after reviewing the previous Alberta (and other provincial) case law, outlined the following principles concerning maintaining the “status quo” in interim parenting Orders (at para. 18):

I draw the following from these cases:

1.      the overarching factor is the best interests of the child or children involved;

2.      the status quo parenting is a factor in gauging the “best interests” interim parenting arrangement;

3.      that includes both the pre- and post-separation status quo;

4.      as between those two, the pre-separation status quo will usually be more significant (typically representing a longer period of parenting and the “baseline” for the family);

5.      a parent’s agreement, after separation, to a particular interim arrangement, should not be treated as a waiver of the right to seek a different (longer-term) arrangement;

6.      the significance of the post-separation status quo may be particularly diminished where:

  •    it is short-lived;
  •    it resulted from one parent’s (i.e. unilateral) decision (e.g. moving with the child or children); or
  •    it was affected by one parent’s inability, or reduced ability, to parent in the aftermath of the separation (e.g. arranging suitable accommodation and adjusting work schedules);

7.      on the other hand, the longer the post-separation status quo, and particularly where it extends beyond the “immediate adjustments” stage, the more significance that status quo may acquire… ;

8.      on that aspect, a party may provide an explanation for apparent delay in applying for a parenting order i.e. other than simply agreement, or acquiescence, to a new status quo; and

9.      the status quo parenting (in either period) may be difficult, if not impossible, to determine in a chambers setting e.g. because of conflicting evidence. In such case, it minimizes or even disappears as a factor.

So, does a presumption of maintaining the parenting “status quo” until Trial exist in Alberta? – no.  While the parenting “status quo” is clearly one factor that must be taken into account in determining an interim (ie. pre-Trial) parenting arrangement, it is ultimately the “best interests of the child” test that will prevail in these circumstances.

Calgary Alberta Child Parenting Status Quo

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As the Courts have repeatedly emphasized, there are no presumptions in parenting matters as “presumptions are inappropriate in custody cases and detract from the individual justice to which every child is entitled” (see: Hejzlar vs. Mitchell-Hejzlar 2011 BCCA 230 at para. 26).

As Lorne MacLean QC stated (some 16 years ago) – the presumption of maintaining the parenting “status quo” – maybe it’s time to let it go.

We hope this blog on Calgary Alberta Child Parenting Status Quo has been helpful. Schedule a consultation to meet with Peter Graburn and his Calgary team.