Alejandro’s wife died of a fast-growing melanoma at 25, leaving him with four-year-old twins. He was crushed. Between long days at a minimum wage barista job and caring for the twins at night, he was emotionally haggard and physically exhausted. To complicate his plight, Alejandro’s mother in Manila was struggling with early Alzheimer’s.
Custody Rights for Ontario Grandparents
Alejandro was torn between going home and caring for his own family. His deceased wife’s parents, Jack and Malaya, worried he was burning out. They already lost their beautiful daughter to cancer. Now they watched the girls while Alejandro worked. What more could they do?
Temporary Custody Gives Parents a Break
When Jack and Malaya asked their Vaughan family lawyer for advice, she suggested temporary custody. That would give Alejandro a time out to go to Manila to help his mother. The kids were young and demanding. Taking them along didn’t make sense. Temporary custody would give Jack and Malaya authority to make day-to-day decisions about their health care and schooling. They could enrol the girls in the Catholic preschool down the street, with no questions asked. Alejandro was relieved and happy to have them care for Tala and Evangeline.
Applying for Temporary Custody for Grandparents
Being the twins’ grandparents didn’t mean Jack and Mayala would automatically get temporary custody. Granting custody is left to family court judges’ discretion. Generally, judges decide custody based on the best interests of the child:
- the affection, love and emotional ties between the child, applicants and others involved in their care and upbringing
- the child’s views and preferences, if they can express them
- how long they have lived in a stable home environment
- any proposed plans for the child
- and applicants’ ability and willingness to provide for the child and act as their parents.
Other Parties’ Interests are Heard
If anyone else in the twins’ life had objected, the judge would have heard their petition as well. Blood ties are important, but a third party can be granted custody if it is in a child’s best interests. Alejandro’s family was in the Philippines and rarely visited. That made Jack and Malaya the girls’ only biological relatives in Canada. Since no one else stepped forward, the judge decided they could likely provide the most stable and permanent home, with the least disruption while Alejandro was abroad. Their grandparents were able to take care and control of the girls, who they babysat daily anyway.
More Steps to Temporary Custody
Jack and Malaya weren’t in the clear just yet. The judge had agreed they were capable of providing guidance, education and the necessities of life for Tala and Evangeline. But did they have the emotional energy and flexibility 24/7 parenting required? A psychological assessment would tell if Jack and Malaya had what it took.
What Happens During Court-ordered Psychological Assessments
Ordering a psychological assessment gives a family court judge more information to make a final decision. A psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist or mental health professional prepares the report. Jack and Malaya each met with the assessor alone and with the twins present. She watched how they got along and how Tala and Evangeline responded to their direction. The power struggles between the four amused the psychologist, but she took that in stride. Since they were the ones applying for custody, Jack and Malaya paid for the assessment.
Significant Parties Give Second Opinions
The assessor didn’t stop there. She spoke to Alejandro and his family in Manila via video conference. She canvassed the twins’ family doctor and catechism (Catholic religious school) teacher. With their permission, she talked to Jack’s and Malaya’s former employers. Neither had a criminal record. Everything checked out.
Getting a Parenting Plan Approved
With help from their local family lawyer, Jack and Malaya had drafted a parenting plan. The girls would move to their grandparents and Skype with Alejandro weekly on Sundays after catechism. They would attend preschool during the mornings and fit ballet and art classes around play dates. Both girls needed glasses and Tala had a special diet. Their grandparents had extended health benefits. Alejandro would be consulted if Tala or Evangeline needed medical or dental care. They had his blessing to make emergency medical decisions.
Government Aid for Raising Grandkids
Jack and Malaya were aware they could claim tax credits and get income tax deductions for caring for dependents. They added caregiver tax credits and medical expenses deductions to their income tax returns. Tala and Evangeline qualified for the monthly Universal Child Care Benefit. That was a welcome addition to their fixed income. They got a GST refund cheque quarterly and the monthly Canada child tax benefit as temporary caregivers.
Legal Advice for Family Problems
Alejandro, Jack and Malaya had the legal advice and court documents they needed. There would be bumpy days ahead but they were ready for it.
Legal Services You Can Afford
Axess Law makes legal advice on custody applications more affordable, with flat fee rates for most services. Book an appointment by phoning toll free to 1-877-552-9377 or 647-479-0118 in Toronto or use our online booking form. Visit us in person at our local law offices in Toronto, Scarborough, Mississauga, North York, Vaughan, Etobicoke or Ottawa. Online video calls can be scheduled with a family lawyer anywhere in Ontario, 7 days a week, day or evening, at times convenient for you.
Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s family law services.