Private Schooling: A Joint DecisionA recent decision from the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta highlighted the importance of obtaining consent from the access parent before enrolling a child in private schooling.

In Austin v. Austin 2013 ABQB 562, Madam Justice S.L. Hunt- McDonald dealt with a case where the parties were married in 1993 and separated in 2001. In 2001 they also entered into Parenting, Support and Property Agreement that was to deal with all of the issues arising out of the dissolution of the marriage.

The Agreement was negotiated with the intention that both parties would consult one another in relation to the child’s expenses and work cooperatively and amicably to resolve disputes. The opposite happened. Without consulting the access parent the primary parent enrolled to child into private schooling from grade 10 to 12.

The total cost being $39,300.00. The access parent did not pay and the primary parent made an application to the Court of Queen’s Bench to be compensated for those costs retroactively. The court held that the access parent was to be consulted prior to incurring that expense and that consultation did not take place. The court held that private schooling is an extraordinary expense that should have been agreed upon by both of the parties prior to the expense being incurred.

The court quoted Justice Wilson in Steiger v. Steiger, where he held: “private schooling is a matter calling for a decision between mother, the father and the child rather than the mother deciding on her own.”