We have written blog posts recently discussing the importance of one parent not alienating children from the other parent following a separation or a divorce. A recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice further highlights the risks a parent undertakes if they don’t follow that advice.

The relationship

The parties met in 2003 and began a long-distance relationship. They began living together at the father’s parents’ home in 2006. They purchased the matrimonial home in September 2009 and had their first child in January 2011. Evidence suggested the marriage was a happy one before the birth of their first child. The mother described the birth of their first child as traumatic, and she withdrew from the father.

There were issues of isolation in between the birth of their first and second child. These issues were magnified after their second child was born in October 2013. While the couple attended counseling to help with the issue, the court noted that “the (mother) attempted to dominate all aspects of the children’s lives and attempted to reduce the (father) to a spectator regarding his own daughters.” It got to the point where the mother would take both children with her to a hair appointment rather than leave them with the father.

A conflict-ridden separation

The parties separated on July 11, 2016 with each parent testifying the other was violent during an argument. The mother moved out two days later and the father was arrested, later being released without charges. The mother’s lawyer let the father know that she was seeking a separation on July 18, 2016. The mother proposed that she would stay in the home with the children, with the father having access on Wednesday evenings, and every weekend during the daytimes. The father rejected this proposal and sought to negotiate terms.

Things continued to worsen, with the father claiming he was blocked from having the children spend the night with him while he was living with his parents in their five-bedroom home. The mother also unilaterally terminated the father’s ability to pick the children up from school.

The court also heard that while the father would make sure the children called the mother daily while in his care, the mother only provided the children with two opportunities to call the father while not in his care.

The court summarized the mother’s behaviour as follows,

“the (mother) has embarked upon a course of conduct since the birth of the children, and especially since separation, to attempt to eliminate the (father) from his own children’s lives.  I accept the evidence of the clinician from the Office of the Children’s Lawyer that the (mother) has intentionally attempted to alienate the children from the (father’s) life.

“The (mother’s) conduct prevents an order of joint custody being in the best interests of the children.  The (mother) has not shown a willingness to communicate and make joint decisions regarding the best interests of the children since separation, if not before. The (mother) does not value and recognize the (father’s) crucial role in the lives of the two children.  The (mother) is self-centred and only considers her best interests and not those of her children. Rather than embrace the applicant’s involvement in the children’s lives, the respondent has attempted to minimize and restrict his involvement in major decisions affecting the girls and in a parenting scheme that is in the girl’s best interests.”

The court ordered the father to have sole custody of the children, with both parents sharing physical access on a rotating basis. While the father has sole custody, the court required him to share in important decision making with the mother.

If you have questions about child custody, contact Windsor family lawyer Jason Howie. Jason takes the time to listen to the needs of each client, helps you consider all of your options, and provides you with the best recommendation. Call 519.973.1500 or contact us online. We serve clients in Windsor, Essex County and throughout the region.