Toronto Family Lawyer: Can a Child Withdraw from Court-Issued Custody Privileges?

The notion of ‘divorcing your parents’ sounds like the plot of a 90s kids movie (and it actually was, if any of our readership remembers the 1994 film North).In fact, there is an actual legal motion that allows a child to file to separate themselves from their parents. Which might beg the question: does such an order clash with child custody laws, which grants a parent, by order of the court, rights to handle key aspects of the child’s life? Rights that are intended to help them ensure the child’s care and development? Our family lawyer in Toronto looks at a case study to find out.

But first, a quick glossary of key terms:

Children’s Law Reform Act (CLRA)

The ‘Children’s Law Reform Act’ (or CLRA) is the law enacted for the protection of children during a divorce. It is the primary piece of legislation that dictates issues regarding to care and custody of dependents during a separation or divorce.

Declaration of Withdraw from Parental Control

A Declaration of Withdraw from Parental Control is filed by a child of at least 16 years old, who has reason to relieve their parents of both parental rights and obligations. Such filings are quite rare, as most children of that age are not in a position to find living arrangements and employment on their own.

As a side note, such a declaration is not always filed for the right reasons.If it is filed out of perceived necessity due to a difficult home situation, it can do more harm than good, putting the child on the street instead of granting them the social support and foster care they need.

Case Study: G. v G.

Please note: Full names are withdrawn due to the respondent being a minor.

In a very recent case, a daughter had parents who divorced when she was 18 months old. The mother moved to Florida, where the daughter visited her regularly.

At a certain stage, her father began to cancel her trips to visit her mother, which was within his rights as her custodial guardian. The case mentions that she tried to move to Florida with her mother, but he threatened to file kidnapping charges if the mother did not return the child to Ontario.

When the daughter turned 17, she filed a declaration of withdrawal from parental control, and began to apply to universities in and around Florida.

The father objected, and insisted that he be privy to all information sent to and from the universities. He filed a motion with the courts, stating that, according to the CLRA, the courts had granted him the right to be involved with his daughter’s educational decisions until she reached the age of majority.

Upon reviewing the claims, Justice Kiteley declared that the daughter had withdrawn from parental control of the father, and that she is “now an independent minor with all of the statutory and common law rights and privileges of a minor who has withdrawn from parental control”.While the Children’s Law Reform Act (CLRA) which would normally grant the father the right to have a hand in the daughter’s travel, housing, and educational planning, the CLRA only applies in matters of “custody, access, or guardianship”, therefore the CLRA does not apply.

Conclusion: The Limits of Custodial Rights

While the CLRA grants the custodial parent a number of rights, including the right to be a party to the child’s education, these rights only apply so long as the custodial parent is still the guardian. By formally withdrawing from parental control, the daughter had nullified the rights and responsibilities granted to the father by the CLRA.

As you can see, not all cases of family law are cut-and-dry. If you find yourself in need of the expertise of a family lawyer in Toronto, give us a call. If you have any questions about family law, or any other type of law, please feel free to submit a question through our Ask A Lawyer.

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