The start of the school year can be a challenging time for anyone, but for divorced or separated parents, even everyday responsibilities can take on extra complications. Take for example a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that looked at which parent was financially responsible for getting their two children to school.

A short move with significant implications

The parents were married on October 11, 2013, separating in July, 2015. They have two children, who were 12 and 14-years-old at the time of the trial. They executed a Separation Agreement on July 8, 2015.

The Separation Agreement called for the parents to share custody of the kids with a week-on week-off parenting schedule. However, they children lived primarily with the mother from July 2015 to July 2017. The home the mother lived in was in one school district, which the children attended school in. The father lived in a different school district.

In August 2017 the mother informed the father that she would be selling the home she lived in and moving into her new partner’s house. The only catch was that the new house was outside of the children’s school district. As a result, the children would have to attend new schools, or the parents would have to request a cross boundary school transfer from the school board.

The father made the application on November 29, 2017, seeking an order preventing the children from moving to a new school. An interim motion was heard on July 10, 2018 in order to resolve the matter before the school year. The judge for the interim order found it was in the best interest of the children to remain at their old school, ordering the parents to apply for a transfer. The judge also directed that any issues resulting from the transfer would be dealt with at the originally scheduled trial.

The cross boundary transfer request was accepted in August 2018, and the children returned to their normal school. This did leave another problem to solve, though. The children used to be eligible for a school board-funded bus to school. When they stayed at their father’s house, he would drive them to school and they would take the bus to their mother’s house at the end of the day, where their father would pick them up. With both parents now living outside of the school district’s boundaries.

The father files a Notice of Motion

The father filed a Notice of Motion seeking an order for the mother to pay all the costs of transporting the children to and from school. The costs were not insignificant. The father claimed the children had to travel via a private transport company at a cost of $110 per day.

It was the father’s position that the mother acted unilaterally by moving the children without his consent. Though the father used to drive the children to school, he changed his position, saying he was often late, with work making it difficult to get them to school on time. He also argued that the mother has a higher annual income than him, with hers being $125,000 and his being $50,000.

The mother argued that each parent should be responsible for transporting their children and the costs associated with it. She said the father had shown no evidence why his work schedule (he worked part time) did not allow him to drive the children.

The mother also disagreed with the mode of transportation insisted on by the father. Less expensive options were available, such as a public bus at the cost of $89.75 per child per month, or a tax, which would only be $22.48 each way.

The mother put forward that the only transportation responsibilities that changed were hers, stating the father could very well continue his previous practice. She asked that she be allowed to pay for the children to take a taxi home from school, at a monthly cost $225.

Finally, the mother argued that the Separation Agreement provides for the parents to share any special and extraordinary costs. In the event that the court would not allow her to transport the children as she saw fit, she asked that the costs be shared equally.

The judge did not find the mother solely responsible for moving, something she was free to do under the Separation Agreement. The judge found that the father was able to benefit from the mother having a home in the school district, but the removal of that benefit does not impose a duty for the mother to assume all costs. The judge also found nothing to persuade them that the father was unable to continue to drive the kids to school.

The judge ordered each parent be responsible for the cost of transporting the children to school while in their care. Interestingly enough, the judge did not rule on what an appropriate method of transportation would be.

Borden Family Law has been helping clients with their family law needs for over 17 years. We understand how difficult a separation or divorce can be on our clients and their children. We work hard to provide an efficient, effective resolution to your family law problem at an affordable price. Please call us at 905-597-6090 or reach us online to talk today. Please remember to ask about our bundled services and flat fees.