Summary

39123

Sylvia H.C.C. Richardson v. Mark Edward Richardson

(Ontario) (Civil) (By Leave)

Keywords

Family law - Custody, Judgments and orders - Family law - Custody - Judgments and orders - Reasons - Trial judge making custody order contrary to terms of minutes of settlement signed by parties during course of trial - In family law proceedings involving parenting issues, when is it appropriate for courts to reject parties’ reasonable settlement agreements, and what are the standards for rejecting such settlements? - When, if ever, is it appropriate for a trial judge to continue to sit on a trial after being privy to the parties’ settlement positions?

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Summary

Case summaries are prepared by the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada (Law Branch). Please note that summaries are not provided to the Judges of the Court. They are placed on the Court file and website for information purposes only.

The parties were married in 2003 and divorced in 2015. They have both since remarried. Their daughter was born in 2005 and they had a son in 2011. They all resided in the Niagara region until 2017. In 2015, the parties participated in an assessment pursuant to s. 30 of the Children’s Law Reform Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.12. Ms. Richardson was seeking to have the children move with her to Ottawa, where she planned to relocate. The assessor recommended that the children stay in the Niagara region and that the parties have joint custody. The parties accepted this recommendation and settled the matter pursuant to a consent order in 2016. At the time both parties had residences in the Niagara region and Ms. Richardson was dividing her time between the Niagara region and the Ottawa area, where she had a home with her new spouse.

In July 2017, Ms. Richardson sold her Niagara residence and moved to Ottawa. She brought a motion to change the consent order on the basis that it would be in the children’s best interests to reside primarily with her in Ottawa. The parties could not settle the matter and it proceeded to trial. On the third day of the trial, counsel for the parties presented a proposed settlement to the trial judge that provided that the children would move from their home in the Niagara region to Ottawa to live primarily with their mother. The trial judge did not accept the terms of the minutes of settlement and stated that he wanted to hear all of the evidence. The trial proceeded. The trial judge concluded that the children would not relocate to Ottawa. This decision was upheld by a majority of the Court of Appeal.