In a recent Ontario decision, the court had to determine whether a three year old boy should attend a religious or non-religious kindergarten class when the parents could not agree on the matter.
Parents Argue Over Son’s Kindergarten Education
The parties were married on March 3, 2013 and have a son together, born in October 2016. They separated in late 2018/early 2019.
In September 2020, the parents went to court because they were unable to agree on the kindergarten/school that their son would attend that fall.
The father requested an order that the son attend kindergarten at Thornhill Nursery School and Kindergarten (“Thornhill”), while the mother wanted the son to be enrolled at Associated Hebrew Schools (“AHS”). He argued that the son had already attended Thornhill from September 2019 through March 2020 and was familiar with the teachers, students and the building. The father further argued that the son needed the stability of a familiar school as he had been exposed to considerable change in 2020 as a result of the breakdown of his parents’ relationship, the sale of the matrimonial home and his subsequent move.
Additionally, the father stated that Thornhill had class sizes smaller than AHS and, in terms of geography, it was closer to both parent’s residences than AHS. Finally, the father submitted that the cost of tuition at Thornhill was significantly less than AHS; on an annual basis, tuition at Thornhill was $8,530 in comparison to AHS where tuition cost $14,185 annually.
In turn, the mother argued that she had always remained steadfast in her belief that it was best for the son to attend AHS, a private Jewish school. The mother submitted that the son is Jewish as are both parents and both sets of grandparents and that he was being raised in the Jewish faith.
The mother also argued that AHS was geographically closer to the parents’ residences and it had student/teacher ratios similar to Thornhill. In terms of change, the mother argued that the son had attended Thornhill the previous year but only on two mornings per week for the first four months and three mornings a week for the last two months. She submitted that the son would have new teachers and a new classroom at Thornhill and, because of COVID-19, he had stopped attending Thornhill six months prior; accordingly, there would be a change regardless of which placement was ordered.
The mother further argued that the son would receive a Jewish education at AHS. While the father had submitted that the son could obtain a Jewish education separately from school, on weekends, the mother claimed that would limit his time with family and friends and with each parent. Finally, the mother claimed that while AHS was more expensive than Thornhill, a charitable receipt would be provided and the taxable receipt could be shared. Additionally, the mother encouraged the court to take into account the additional cost of the supplementary Jewish programming proposed by the father should the son attend Thornhill, which would range between $600 to $1,200 per annum.
Court Finds in Favour of Religious School
The court began by explaining that the best interests of the child must guide its decision. The court also took note of the fact that both parents agreed that the son would be raised as a member of the Jewish faith. The court further determined that both schools wereadequate educational facilities and that, in terms of geographical proximity, neither required extensive travel for the son. Finally, the court held that the son would experience change regardless of which school he attended.
The court then explained its ultimate determination by stating:
“I have chosen AHS as being in [the son]’s best interest because it offers an academic education, religious instruction and Hebrew during the week. I find this preferable to the plan offered by the [father] who proposes that [the son] be enrolled in a supplemental Jewish Program in addition to his education at [Thornhill]. The supplemental Jewish Program he proposes would occur for approximately two and a half hours on Sundays. For many separated couples with young children, parenting time is precious. When considering parenting plans, weekend times are crucial. Children are at school during the week and parents are, generally, working during the week. Having [the son] attend a program every Sunday will, potentially, interfere with available parenting time unnecessarily and expose [the son] to an educational regime 6 days a week. It will also limit his time for socialization with friends on Sundays and limit his ability to attend extra-curricular activities as he matures on Sundays.”
Finally, the court noted that the cost of AHS was not significantly more than Thornhill for junior kindergarten when it factored in the additional cost of the Jewish Program proposed by the father. Furthermore, given the parents’ incomes, the court found the expense to be reasonable.
As a result, the court ruled that it would be in the son’s best interests to be enrolled at AHS for the 2020–2021 academic year.
At Feigenbaum Law, our goal is to help you move forward following the breakdown of a relationship while retaining as much financial stability as possible and ensuring your children are provided for. Mark Feigenbaum is able to counsel his clients on all potential risks that may result from a family law dispute, not just those related strictly to the breakdown of a marriage. Contact Mark online or call him at (416) 777-8433 or toll-free at (877) 275-4792 to book a consultation.