What is the test for restricting consideration of a custodial parent’s reason for moving?

British Columbia, Canada

The following excerpt is from B.M.G. v S.J.S., 2018 BCSC 967 (CanLII):

Paragraph 49(7)(e) of Gordon v. Goertz restricting consideration of “the custodial parent’s reason for moving, only in the exceptional case where it is relevant to that parent’s ability to meet the needs of the child” [emphasis added] has proven to be challenging in its application.

In a variation application, there has been a pre-existing determination that one parent is best suited to satisfy the needs of the children (i.e., the custodial parent). In that circumstance, it is understandable that the “fresh inquiry” into the children’s best interests must be “based on the findings of the judge who made the previous order and evidence of the new circumstances” (Gordon v. Goertz at para. 49(3)). It follows that while there is no legal presumption in favour of the views of the custodial parent, his or her decision to live and work where he or she chooses is entitled to respect, barring an improper motive for the move or any other evidence that may reflect adversely on his or her parenting ability, because that custodial parent has previously been found to be the parent who is best able to provide for the children’s needs.

However, in the context of an initial custody and relocation application there has been no previous determination that one or the other parent is best able to meet the needs of the children. Accordingly, the modification of the test in Gordon v. Goertz, in my view, needs to include a modification of para. 49(7)(e). In an initial application, it seems to me that the reasons for a parent’s proposed move are relevant to the issue of whether the proposed move will meet the needs of the children or affect (positively or negatively) on that parent’s ability to meet the children’s needs. As the children’s best interests is the “only issue” in the blended analysis, all relevant circumstances that relate to the children’s needs and each parent’s ability to satisfy those needs must be considered.

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