Nobody enters marriage planning for separation, and when it arrives it is tough on everyone, especially the children. After separation, the same money that paid for one house, now needs to pay for two houses. This causes financial stress and increases tension between the separated spouses. This issue was the subject of a decision released last week by the Ontario Court of Justice. This blog post reviews that decision and provides some practical advice on how to get overnight access with your children.
How to Prepare for Separation in Ontario
This couple were married in 2006 and separated in 2017. They had two children, a girl born in 2007 and a boy born in 2011. When the couple separated, the father moved into a one bedroom basement apartment. This unit had a living room, bathroom and kitchen. The father initiated proceedings on this issue to address overnight access with the children.
There is limited information contained in the decision as it was only for an interim order. The father was unemployed at the time of the application and was collecting government assistance. This only increased the financial stress experienced by the family.
While it is easy to say, preparation for separation requires planning. If there are two reasonable adults looking out for the best interests of the children, the planning can be easy. Effectively, the only planning is how the finite resources within the family will pay for two residences.
Teenage Children and Overnight Access
The father applied for overnight access for his 13 year old daughter and 10 year old son. A teenage girl, young boy and father spending nights in a one-bedroom apartment can cause some logistical issues. The Judge noted such an issue and said: the daughter “is now going through puberty. It would be inappropriate for her to share a bedroom with her brother as proposed by the father in his access submissions”.
There is no doubt that the father would have preferred to move into a three bedroom apartment. Unfortunately, while unemployed and going through a divorce, this likely wasn’t a possibility. It is sad that finances play such an intricate part in the planning for overnight access, but that can’t be avoided.
As children grow older, they have different needs. Toddlers can easily share a room, while teenagers can’t. Teenagers need some opportunity for privacy, which can’t be afforded with three people in a one-bedroom basement apartment.
How to Get Overnight Access With Your Children
This decision is very helpful in understanding some practical considerations when you are seeking overnight access. As a reminder, a Judge is only concerned with the best interests of the children. This means that you may want overnight access, but may not get it. Here are a few considerations to get overnight access with your children in Ontario.
First, consider the needs of the children. Does your teenage daughter want to sleep in a room with her younger brother? You know your children better than anyone, so be honest with yourself in answering this question. While you may want overnight access, unfortunately it is not about the parents. Sometimes the looking out for the children’s interests before yours is the right choice.
Second, have a plan. This is my advice for every separation, but it is essential when seeking overnight access. Your plan needs to include what your long term access goals are. If you are seeking shared parenting, or access that includes weeks at a time, you need a good plan. Your plan needs to be able to convince a Judge that it is in the best interests of the children.
Third, consider your finances when you separate. If there are two reasonable parents acting in the best interests of the children, this is easy. Reasonable people may see that they simply can no longer afford the matrimonial home and opt for two smaller places. Reasonable people can resolve their issues without the need of a Judge. And more importantly, reasonable people can save money that will be spent on sleeping arrangements and not on lawyers arguing over sleeping arrangements.
Considering Separation in Ottawa?
If you are in the Toronto or Ottawa areas and considering separation, contact Hearty Law for a consultation. Either fill out the contact form here, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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