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Wise Words from an Ontario Judge: A Custody Trial “Speaks Volumes About the Parents”

Custody Battle

Wise Words from an Ontario Judge: A Custody Trial “Speaks Volumes About the Parents”

In a decision from earlier this year called Jackson v. Mayerle, seasoned family court judge Mr. Justice Pazaratz began his judgment with these perceptive and disheartened-sounding comments:

1. Why would we need a 36-day custody trial where the basic facts are pretty straightforward?

a. One child. A delightful eight-year-old girl with minor academic issues but no special needs.

b. She loves both parents equally. She wants to spend as much time as possible with each of them.

c. Both parents are equally capable and dedicated to meeting all her needs.

d. But the parents can’t get along or communicate with one another. Not at all.

2. Not such a tough set of facts, really. Nothing we don’t see in family court every day.

3. So why did we need a 36 day trial?

4. Why did we need 20 witnesses, including teachers, a principal and vice-principal, CAS workers, a family doctor, and a custody/access assessor?

5. Why did parents of modest means choose to impoverish themselves – and their daughter’s future — for a needlessly destructive three-year court battle?

6. For the sake of the child?

7. Not a chance.

8. Custody trials are supposed to be about children. But 36 days – that speaks volumes about the parents.

(And the emphasized words are those of the justice himself).

Indeed, it’s common knowledge that there is no shortage of high-conflict family law disputes in our society, and not merely those that end up in court. Virtually everyone knows someone first-hand – be it a family member, friend or acquaintance – who is embroiled in seemingly-endless and costly divorce or custody litigation. It almost seems to be the rule, rather than the exception these days.

Is Justice Pazaratz right? Is acrimonious child custody litigation more about the parents, i.e. their own egos and latent agendas, rather than the best interests of the child? Is it just a thinly-veiled battle between the parents, in the guise of asserting their respective rights in relation to the care of child?

What are your thoughts?

For the full text of the decision, see:

Jackson v. Mayerle, 2016 ONSC 72 (CanLII)

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at

  1. Stephanie #

    I think custody should by default start at joint custody and go from there. I feel fathers are still getting the short end of the stick and i feel women still manipulate the system. I think a child needs/deserves to be loved equally by both sides of their family.

    August 29, 2016
  2. Lisa #

    Having been through the process twice, I can say that it is the lawyers who like to escalate things because there is more money in a trial. The anger of one parent also fuels the fight even when litigation is not wanted.
    Judges do not bother to read the file on several past motions and have no idea what has preceded the litigation.
    I was forced into mediation at one point that was costly and was never going to work with a person who does not want to comply and has a manipulative nature.
    Judges have neglected to look at the mental Heath of many parents which plays a significant role as to why there is a need to litigate. There is also no limit on filing frivolous law suits as I was brought to court weekly on many insignificant issues that a judge could have curbed.
    Lastly, people lying about income and providing tax returns that are self prepared and judges buying that nonsense leads to further litigation. If a judge doesn’t see through common sense accounting 101, they shouldn’t be on the bench making decisions that affect people’s lives so significantly. My ex litigated for eighteen years in Ontario and Michigan. Any judge could have put a stop to it at any time. The lawyers got rich with the help of the judge.
    The system also plays a role because motions are heard by different judges. Not having the same judge each time is like reinventing the wheel. That too perpetuated more litigation that leads to trial.

    August 29, 2016
  3. Tracy #

    This isn’t just about the parents being idiots, it’s about the system. Why can’t judges be judges, and do what’s right for the child? Each parent is in need of a lawyer to suck them dry, what’s that got to do with the child? And the flavor of the day, what mood is the judge in? The system is messed up totally, it’s not about the kid!! And the parents are just pawns in the kangaroo court. That is why there is no respect!! These parents are in fear of loosing their access to their own child, fear is a paralyzingly emotion, but that’s what judges learn. He who pays the most wins, correct?

    September 2, 2016

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