As a general statement, the Court will award both parents joint legal decision making authority in most cases, as the Court will assume that both parents are fit and proper parents and able to care for the children.
In order to convince a Court that a client should have sole legal decision making authority, specific and detailed evidence will need to be presented in a credible and persuasive manner.
By law, the Court must consider the following issues:
1. The agreement or lack of an agreement by the parents regarding joint legal decision-making.
2. Whether a parent’s lack of an agreement is unreasonable or is influenced by an issue not related to the child’s best interests.
3. The past, present and future abilities of the parents to cooperate in decision-making about the child to the extent required by the order of joint legal decision-making.
4. Whether the joint legal decision-making arrangement is logistically possible.
The Court will also strongly consider evidence of 1) domestic violence between the parties, 2) Child abuse by either parent, 3) drug offences by either parent, 4) significant and excessive alcohol abuse by a parent, 5) sexual offences and abuse towards children, and 6) violent crimes such as murder.
Factors such as prior convictions for sexual or physical abuse towards the children will strongly persuade a judge to award the other parent sole legal decision making. Issues such as alcohol consumption and domestic violence are more difficult cases, as the Court must determine where to draw the line. Alcohol consumption is legal, and evidence of consuming alcohol alone does not prove a parent to be unfit. Similarly, a single act of domestic violence during a difficult divorce process may be seen as different than a series or pattern of domestic violence throughout a marriage.