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Two parents, two different cities, and shared custody. How long should the stay last at both places? Difficult decisions that require organization and which differ from one situation to another.

< p>Shared custody: children forced to travel thousands of kilometers

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Shared custody is sometimes a headache for parents who live in the same city. The distance represents an additional challenge. (Archive photo)

  • Gabriel Poirier (View profile)Gabriel Poirier

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The Court of Appeal of Quebec accepts, in a recent decision, that separated parents share custody of their young daughter, even if more than 650 kilometers separate them. This is what now forces little Stella (fictitious first name), born in 2021, to travel more than 1000 kilometers almost every month.

Twice a month, little Stella is taken back to her mother. The child was 2 years old when a judgment decided how his parents, who live in two different regions, should share custody.

A formula for sharing parental time whereby the child will stay two weeks out of five with his father, although imperfect, appears preferable in this case, in that it reconciles both the interests of the child and the child. child to a stable relationship with his mother and his maternal family environment, indicates the decision of the Court of Appeal published on December 1, 2023.

The History does not reveal in which regions of Quebec Stella's parents live, but lawyers from Abitibi-Témiscamingue confirm that this is not a unique situation.

Radio-Canada reports a similar case in the region, where two adults meet every week in the La Vérendrye wildlife reserve so that the child can spend time with the other parent.

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Road conditions can make meetings between parents difficult. (File photo)

In Val-d’Or, children in the same situation as Stella are rare, but not to the point of being absent from Me Sylvie Gourd’s radar. The lawyer who works primarily in family law handles between three and five similar cases per year.

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It's not commonplace, but we have it regularly. Often, parents separate when one of them comes from another region. During a separation, the parent can decide to return to their native region to be surrounded by their family network, she explains.

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Request required, lawyer Sylvie Gourd deals exclusively with cases in the family area and in the matrimonial area since January 2023.

These arrangements, made on a case-by-case basis, are usually short-lived and eventually fall apart when the child starts school. This is when the Superior Court grants sole custody to one of the parents – unless one of them agrees to move near the other.

The goal is to allow the child to maintain as much as possible the bond of attachment and the interpersonal relationship with each of his parents and to spend as much time with them as possible before starting school.

A quote from Me Sylvie Gourd

In Rouyn-Noranda, Me Michel-Étienne Parayre believes that many parents share custody of their children under 5 years old between the different towns in the region. He describes cases of shared custody between cities like Rouyn-Noranda and Val-d'Or or even La Sarre and Amos as relatively common.

When they are under 5 years old, it may happen that a child attends two daycares. It’s still special and it’s not frequent either, explains Me Parayre.

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Lawyer Michel-Étienne Parayre believes that many children must shuttle between separated parents living in cities different from the region.

Parents can also agree to keep their child for a full year before handing him over to the other, continues Me Parayre. It can be done when both parents agree, but I have never seen the court order such a decision in any of my cases.

Like Sylvie Gourd, lawyer Michel-Étienne Parayre recalls that arrangements are often found for parents who do not have custody of their children during the school year. For example, they can get most of the leave and have more time in the summer to try to get closer to the shared custody model, adds Me Parayre.

In the case of little Stella, her mother requested sole custody while her father requested shared custody every two weeks. Called to rule, the Superior Court instead ordered the young girl to change homes – and regions – every week.

The Court of Appeal then modified this decision, finding that it was unreasonable to order such a frequency.

With respect, in this case- here, requiring the 2-year-old child to travel 7 hours by car each week to cover the distance of some 650 kilometers is not reasonable having regard to the child's interests assessed in light of the relevant factors and all of the evidence in the file, concludes the appeal judgment.

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