Maintaining the status quo on an interim basis pursuant to Grover v Grover, 2023 ONSC 3607
In the realm of family law, interim parenting disputes (i.e. prior to trial or a final settlement) are a hot topic. This blog post examines a case in which an Applicant sought an interim order for equal parenting time with the child of the marriage.
The parties in question have one child and continue to reside in the matrimonial home although separated.
The parties had an informal parenting arrangement. According to this arrangement, the father would have parenting time on approximately three days of the week, while the mother would care for the child at other times. The father claims the schedule was imposed on him. The father also alleges that the mother intentionally overscheduled the child's activities to minimize his time with her. The father requested a 50/50 parenting schedule.
Conflicting claims were presented in the affidavit evidence, with the father alleging alienation activity on the part of the mother, while she contends that he was not an equal parent during the marriage due to long working hours. The mother also claims that the child is experiencing stress due to the separation and the father's increased involvement in her life.
Is a court to change the status quo on a temporary basis before trial?
Interim motions, by their nature, are challenging to resolve when conflicting evidence is presented through untested affidavit evidence. The court must consider the strategic dynamics litigants may be engaging in as well as the long-term implications while prioritizing fairness to both the parties and, most importantly, the children involved.
Interim Parenting Orders and the Status Quo
The court emphasizes the need for stability and the child's understanding that both parents will continue to be a part of her life. Instead of making a credibility finding at this early stage, the court emphasizes the importance of prioritizing the child's interests. The court refers to the principle that the status quo should generally be maintained in the absence of compelling reasons to change it in the best interests of the child:
The status quo will be maintained on an interim parenting motion in the absence of compelling reasons indicative of the necessity of a change to meet the best interests of the child.
In this case, the status quo demonstrated that both parents were involved in the child’s life and that there was no compelling reason to change it on a temporary basis.
The court did mention that when one party unilaterally creates a status quo and the other party does not agree or did not acquiesce, then this status quo will likely not be given the same weight.
The court's emphasis on maintaining the status quo, promoting cooperation, and prioritizing the child's best interests serves as a reminder of the difficulty with changing the status quo on an interim basis.