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Family Law

. Vanleer v. Young

In Vanleer v. Young (Ont CA, 2020) the Court of Appeal pleads with the Ontario legislature to address problems the courts are having with family law appeals:
[54] For these reasons, the appeal is dismissed. I would make no order as to costs of the appeal or the attendance before the Divisional Court. I would, however, add my voice to so many others of this court in imploring the legislature to clarify family law appeal routes: see Mattina v. Mattina, 2018 ONCA 867, Marchildon v. Beitz, 2012 ONCA 668, 23 R.F.L. (7th) 316; Priest v. Reilly, 2018 ONCA 389, Christodoulou v. Christodoulou, 2010 ONCA 93, 75 R.F.L. (6th) 93.
. Children's Aid Society of Toronto v. J.G.

In Children's Aid Society of Toronto v. J.G. (Ont CA, 2020) the Court of Appeal extensively reviewed changes to children's aid society law brought about by the passage of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA), replacing the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) [paras 15-66].

. Office of the Children’s Lawyer v. Balev

In Office of the Children’s Lawyer v. Balev (SCC, 2018) the Supreme Court of Canada canvasses the nature and function of the Hague Convention [the 'Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction']:
A. The Hague Convention

[22] The Hague Convention was concluded on October 25, 1980. With more than 90 contracting parties, it ranks as one of the most important and successful family law instruments completed under the auspices of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. Canada has been a party from the beginning. The Hague Convention is implemented by legislation in every province and territory.

[23] The harms the Hague Convention seeks to remedy are evident. International child abductions have serious consequences for the children abducted and the parents left behind. The children are removed from their home environments and often from contact with the other parents. They may be transplanted into a culture with which they have no prior ties, with different social structures, school systems, and sometimes languages. Dueling custody battles waged in different countries may follow, delaying resolution of custody issues. None of this is good for children or parents.

[24] The Hague Convention is aimed at enforcing custody rights and securing the prompt return of wrongfully removed or retained children to their country of habitual residence: see Article 1; Thomson v. Thomson, 1994 CanLII 26 (SCC), [1994] 3 S.C.R. 551, at pp. 579-81. The return order is not a custody determination: Article 19. It is simply an order designed to restore the status quo which existed before the wrongful removal or retention, and to deprive the “wrongful” parent of any advantage that might otherwise be gained by the abduction. Its purpose is to return the child to the jurisdiction which is most appropriate for the determination of custody and access.

[25] Prompt return serves three related purposes. First, it protects against the harmful effects of wrongful removal or retention: see R. Schuz, The Hague Child Abduction Convention: A Critical Analysis (2013), at p. 96; E. Gallagher, “A House Is Not (Necessarily) a Home: A Discussion of the Common Law Approach to Habitual Residence” (2015), 47 N.Y.U.J. Int’l L. & Pol. 463, at p. 465; Thomson, at p. 559; Re B. (A Minor) (Abduction), [1994] 2 F.L.R. 249 (E.W.C.A.), at p. 260.

[26] Second, it deters parents from abducting the child in the hope that they will be able to establish links in a new country that might ultimately award them custody: see E. Pérez-Vera, “Explanatory Report”, in Acts and Documents of the Fourteenth Session (1980), t. III, Child Abduction (1981),[2] at p. 429; see also W. (V.) v. S. (D.), 1996 CanLII 192 (SCC), [1996] 2 S.C.R. 108, at para. 36; Gallagher, at p. 465; A. M. Greene, “Seen and Not Heard?: Children’s Objections Under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction” (2005), 13 U. Miami Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 105, at pp. 111-12.

[27] Finally, prompt return is aimed at speedy adjudication of the merits of a custody or access dispute in the forum of a child’s habitual residence, eliminating disputes about the proper forum for resolution of custody and access issues: see Schuz, at p. 96; Gallagher, at p. 465.

[28] The heart of the Hague Convention’s prompt return mechanism is Article 3, which provides that the removal or retention of a child is wrongful (a) where it is in breach of custody rights under the law of the state in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention and (b) where those rights were actually being exercised or would have been exercised but for the wrongful removal or retention. Crucially for the purposes of this appeal, the concept of habitual residence is not defined in the treaty.

[29] If the requirements of Article 3 are established, Article 12 requires the judge in the requested state to order “the return of the child forthwith” unless certain exceptions apply. These exceptions can be summarized as follows:
(1) The parent seeking return was not exercising custody or consented to the removal or retention (Article 13(a));

(2) There is grave risk that return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or place the child in an intolerable situation (Article 13(b));

(3) The child of sufficient age and maturity objects to being returned (Article 13(2));

(4) The return of the child would not be permitted by fundamental human rights and fundamental freedoms of the requested state (Article 20); and,

(5) The application was brought one year or more from the date of wrongful removal or retention, and the judge determines the child is settled in the new environment (Article 12).
[30] Only one requirement of Article 3 is challenged in this case — whether the children were habitually resident in Germany at the time of the wrongful retention. And only the third exception remains relevant — the children’s alleged objection to being returned to Germany.

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