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Family Matters: Lerners’ Weekly Family Caselaw Review: Do your in-laws have access rights to your child?

3 minute read

Every week, the Courts in Ontario and across Canada deliver judicial decisions that shape the area and practise of family law. The Lerners Family Law Group presents one of the most interesting decisions from the week of September 14:

In-law relationships are delicate and (unfortunately) inherently prone to conflict. In the worst of situations, it can be very tempting to boycott a spouse’s family member when they overstep your boundaries and challenge your parental authority.

However, depending on your situation, it may be possible for a Court to grant your in-laws access to your child.

In Taylor v. Boon, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted access to a paternal Aunt by way of virtual or telephone visits after her niece’s Mother decided that her niece could no longer spend time with her.

After the Father’s death, the child spent significant time with the Father’s mother and sister (the Grandmother and Aunt), who provided child care for four years. The Mother got along well with the Grandmother and Aunt, until the Mother and Aunt engaged in litigation over the Father’s estate. The Mother gradually decreased the Grandmother and Aunt’s visits with the child, eventually ending them all together.

Although the Mother allowed the Grandmother four virtual or telephone visits with the child per month, she opposed the Aunt’s participation.

Under s. 21(1) of the Children’s Law Reform Act, a parent or any other person (including a grandparent) may apply to a court for custody or access of a child. In this case, the Court decided that it was in the best interests of the child that the Aunt participate in the virtual or telephone visits with the child. The child had a long-standing, positive relationship with the Grandmother and Aunt. Ending access would cause the child to forget the connection with her Aunt, imperiling the relationship.

Take away: Generally, the Court will give significant deference to parents unless the decision to terminate access to extended family is arbitrary. This rule of thumb is relaxed where the family of a deceased parent is seeking access. Whether a Court will grant access to in-laws is decided on a case-by-case basis and will vary based on the facts.

About the Lerners Family Law Group

At a time when much is at stake, there is no substitute for having the experienced and skilled advocates from Lerners at your side. You need compassion and understanding, but you also need someone to protect your interests. Our Family Law Group tailors its approach and strategy to your goals to achieve the best possible outcome. Our team, located in Toronto and Southwestern Ontario, has the experience to handle matters both straightforward and complicated, without ever over-lawyering or contributing to unnecessary conflict. With a successful track record that includes some of Canada’s most complex family law cases, we are focused on getting you results and helping you move forward. Contact us to see how we can help.

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Émilie-Anne Puckering

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