COVID-19 has presented challenges for some separated or divorced parents insofar as introducing problems related to one parent’s perception of another’s ability to keep their children safe. When other unfortunate issues such as physical and emotional abuse are involved, situations can become dire for some parents. In a recent decision issued by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the courts responded to a father’s attempts to keep a mother out of the marital home and away from their youngest child.
A relationship ends in abuse
The parents are in their mid-to-late 40s and separated in 2020 after being married for 21 years. They had three children during their marriage. The older two are in university, while the youngest is 13.
The mother said the marriage was characterized by physical, emotional, and financial abuse. The father faced criminal charges following an alleged physical assault on January 26, 2020. The father was released on bail and returned to the home with his father (“BF”) who tried to convince the mother to take him back. The mother refused to do so. As a result, BF, who owns the marital home, told her he was raising her rent to $2,200, nearly double the amount the parties were paying at the time.
The mother said that another assault occurred on February 9, 2020. She fled the home at that time and was unable to return after the father and children left, locking it behind them. She was taken in by a neighbour before moving in with a friend. At the time of the trial, she had still not been able to regain entry to the home or most of her things.
The father’s bail conditions do not allow him to enter the home. The mother was requesting the court to give her exclusive possession of the home as well as custody of the youngest child.
The court noted that most of the evidence presented in the urgent motion was written. The court recognized that the mother provided detailed descriptions of the relationship, including the two assaults described above. The father and BF, meanwhile, did not provide alternative descriptions of the events, rather issuing blanket denials. They admitted that following the alleged assault in February that the mother fled the home wearing only a t-shirt and slippers, and without her ID or keys, but maintain she did so voluntarily. The court responded that the only way “voluntary” could be accurate would be if she left deliberately to avoid harm.
The father also claimed that a tenant who had been living in the basement of the home had since taken possession of the entire home. However, no evidence to support this claim was presented to the court.
Possession of the home
The court was critical of the behavior demonstrated by the father and BF, calling their attempts to keep her out of the home a scheme to put her “in a terrible predicament” and to give the father and BF a “tactical advantage in the litigation.”
The court granted the mother exclusive possession of the home. The court also questioned the father’s responsibility and ability to parent, and determined the mother would serve as the primary caregiver of the couple’s youngest child.
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