Relocations are becoming more common following divorces and separations; especially in the Pandemic environment as many employers have transitioned to remote working. The issue of one parent wanting to move with a child following a separation is difficult and stressful for all involved. Parents sometimes have jobs, relationships, or other commitments in a different city, and may want to move permanently with their children. The Alberta Court of Appeal has recently provided an overview of the law on relocation.
In Ekeberg v Swan, 2020 ABCA52, the Order allowing the Mother to relocate to Manitoba with the children was appealed by the Father. The Mother was the primary caregiver of the young child, and the Father had lived in a different city for short periods of time following separation; however, the Father had relocated to Edmonton to live in the same city as the Mother and child. The appeal was dismissed and the Mother was allowed to move to Manitoba.
The Court of Appeal emphasized the best interests of the child, while highlighting the need to create appropriate parenting plans in cases of relocation. The Court of Appeal also considered the historical parenting arrangement between the parents. The Court stated at para 18:
“…This Court has repeatedly either expressly or implicitly recognized that stability, peace and reliability for a child are crucial at a young age. That factor supports the view that is desirable to maintain the caregiving role of a primary caregiving parent who has been performing that function consistently with the child’s best interests.”
The Mother’s evidence included that she had established employment in Manitoba, had family residing in Manitoba, and advised that she would be flexible with the Father’s parenting time. While important, these factors do not override the best interests of the child. The Court of Appeal held that the Justice hearing a case must examine all relevant factors in determining if it is in the child’s best interest to relocate with the moving parent. Relocation cases are therefore a child-centered analysis.
The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Court of King’s Bench to allow the Mother to move to Manitoba with the Child, and ordered generous parenting time to the Father during the non-school months.