This was an application made by the father for a shared parenting arrangement. An interim order was made in March 2011, which granted joint custody and guardianship. The father was granted parenting time on alternate weekends and one overnight visit per week. The mother opposed the application to vary the interim order arguing that the father had failed to exercise his existing parenting rights in a reasonable manner and could not provide the child with an environment which would meet her needs in a shared parenting arrangement. An expert report suggested each parent was capable of a 50/50 parenting arrangement. It also concluded that a 50/50 parenting arrangement did offer certain benefits but was potentially inappropriate in situations of continuing conflict between the parents
The application was allowed. Mr. Justice C.M. Jones found that the principle of maximum contact between the child and parent was an important consideration in assessing the child’s best interests. Subsequent to the interim order, the child was one year older, the father was in a new relationship and the mother found it increasingly difficult to shield the daughter from conflict between the parents. These events constituted a material change in circumstances. Therefore, a 50/50 parenting arrangement was an appropriate response to the changes that had occurred and would occur in the future.
What this means practically, is that an expert report can persuade the court to impose a 50/50 shared parenting regime despite ongoing conflict between the parents involved.