On April 6, 2009, the Quebec Court of Appeal issued an interesting decision about parental authority.
In this case, the father has custody of his daughter, a 12 years old child. The child was represented by an attorney with respect to the court case pending between her parents.
At one point, as a matter of punishment, the father decided not to authorize his daughter to participate in an activity organized by her school, a trip to Quebec City. The mother was agreeing to have the child go to this trip, but she did not institute any proceedings with respect to this situation.
The child herself, represented by her attorney, petitioned the court in order to be authorized to go to this trip and, in fact, to contest the father’s decision.
According to the Civil Code of Quebec, the child is under the parental authority of both parents. Whether custody is entrusted to one of the parents or to a third person, and whatever the reasons may be, the father and the mother retain the right to supervise the maintenance and education of the children, and are bound to contribute thereto in proportion to their means.
In this case, the Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled that the decision relating to this trip was not of a routine nature, but something that is within the scope of the common right to supervise attributed to both parents.
Consequently, the father had no right to oppose a veto to that trip to Quebec.
In this case however the tribunal had not been seized by the mother but by the child herself. So, it was not court litigation on difficulty in exercising parental authority, but rather on effect of parental authority over the child.
The Civil Code of Quebec states that a minor may, with the authorization of the court, institute alone an action relating to his or her status and to the exercise of parental authority (among other situations).
Of course, the authorization to institute such court actions alone cannot be granted for reasons that are not serious, and it is true that the Court cannot be a place where all the children could contest any punishment from one of their parents (or both).
In this case, the Court of Appeal has ruled that the judge had reasonably exercised her discretionary power to authorize the child to institute her motion.
On the merit of the case, the father’s decision not to authorize the child to go to this trip to Quebec City was set aside.
This shows that, in theory, in Quebec any important decision taken by a parent with respect to parental authority could be contested in court by a minor child.
Distinct society, as we say.
- Christian Dufourd, Montreal
Me Christian Dufourd is Member of the Bar of Quebec
(Montreal section)and practices law in Montreal with Dufourd, Dion Avocats. The firm focuses on family law, civil law, immigration, criminal law and business law. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This commentary is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Consult with a lawyer for information regarding your own specific circumstances.