Wife “Doctors” E-mails – And Undermines Her Credibility with Court
It’s safe to say that family court proceedings don’t necessarily bring out the best in people. The period leading up to an interim hearing or divorce trial usually features acrimony and ill-will, and this sometimes breeds a “win at all costs” mentality.
In an Ontario case called Jesse v. Jesse, the mother even went so far as to alter certain e-mails and submit them to the court as evidence, in an attempt to malign the father.
The had parents separated after almost 10 years of marriage and three children. The mother worked as a physiotherapist, while the father had a spotty work history involving numerous computer and technology-related ventures. Beyond that, the facts and issues were complicated: The parents were in dispute on a wide range of issues, including the usual ones such as custody, child support, and spousal support. But they were also at odds over matters such as the precise amount the father was earning, whether the children should go to private school, the costs of the children’s activities, and a host of other things, all of which had to be untangled and resolved by a court.
Moreover, neither of the parents had behaved particularly civilly in the days and months leading up to the trial itself. The court summarized the tenor of that proceeding this way:
Unfortunately, this long trial offered each of them a perfect forum to deliver a final salvo at the other, and to define, once and for all, the mistreatment each had suffered. They did not waste their opportunity.
To give a sense of the flavor of the disputes, and the detailed (and arguably trivial) nature of their quibbles with one another, the court recounted some of the incidents:
I am not going to spend time describing particulars of [the father’s] misbehavior before the separation, or his angry e-mailed messages afterward when [the mother] allowed a relative to take the boys to the barber and their heads were shaved. She admitted her mistake. Similarly, it is unnecessary to examine in detail [the father’s] angry e-mails and name-calling when he was left with the children without explanation while [the mother] enjoyed her “hot yoga” class. He did apologize the next day for his intemperate outburst. … certainly [the mother] calling in the Children’s Aid Society to investigate [the father’s] having allowed [the son] (in the company of a bunch of the neighbor kids) to cross the creek and hike in the woods at the back of the ravine was “over the top.”
The court was equally frustrated with the parents’ testimony. Although it called the father “facile and glib” at times, it was especially critical on the mother, describing her this way:
[The mother] was an unusual and even frustrating witness. She was scattered and hard to understand. Sometimes witnesses become evasive and do not respond to questions put to them in cross-examination by opposing counsel who are, obviously, intent on casting doubt on their case, but [the mother] showed little inclination to answer even [her own lawyer’s] questions directly. She had made up her mind to tell a story which cast her in the best possible light and which would make her out to be a mother beyond reproach. After admonishing her on several occasions to simply answer her counsel’s questions, I had to give up. She was determined. …
But in the court’s view among the more troubling incidents was the mother’s attempt to doctor some of the e-mail evidence she tendered in court. In its indictment of this conduct, the court wrote:
I am much more reluctant to dismiss [the mother’s] actions with the e-mail she introduced in evidence …. She is a bright, very resourceful woman who was patently heavily invested in this proceeding and all the injustices to which she (and her father…) have been exposed by [the father]. That was her perception and that coloured her testimony, about which I became very cautious. I find that [the mother] took two previous e-mails from [the father] and forwarded them to herself after changing the words and paragraphs, adding in uncomplimentary phrases about herself to make it appear as if [the father] was abusing her. I find she attempted to mislead me with this doctored e-mail. Her credibility suffered considerably as a result.
Although the court went on to find that – to their credit – the parents did not disparage each other to the children nor expose them to any “obvious unpleasantness”, it was left to sort out the rights and responsibilities of two parents who were determined to make their separation and divorce difficult for everyone: each other, themselves, and the court itself.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Jesse v. Jesse, 2010 ONSC 861