Recently, I wrote about a case titled “Kids Live with Mom Their Whole Lives – But Her Alienation Efforts Prompts Court to Transfer Sole Custody to Dad” in which the mother of three children lost sole custody of them primarily because she was trying to alienate them from their father, even though the children had lived with her their entire lives.
In a similar case called A.P.V. v. J.L.R., the Ontario court imposed an even more drastic remedy: The mother was prevented from even have access to her daughter (never mind custody), because she was obviously attempting to cut the father out of both their lives entirely.
In that case, the 10-year old child had been the subject of an intense custody battle between the parents since she was only five months old. Both custody and access had shifted back and forth between the parents throughout that time, sometimes by their agreement, but often by way of contested court proceedings. The father had recently been granted temporary sole custody, with supervised access to the mother; however, the mother’s access had been gradually increased to the point where she spent about 40 percent of her time with the mother.
Then, in violation of a court order, the child ran away from the father’s home altogether and had been living with the mother ever since. The girl refused to see the father, and the court was asked to resolve the matter of custody and access.
The court summarized its dilemma this way:
At trial, both parties were seeking sole custody. And while each party had a plan for some access to the other; it was clear that the choice before the court was much starker: Whichever parent [the daughter] resided with, she could not, for very different reasons, have access to the other.
The evidence showed that the daughter may have adopted as her own various misimpressions and unfounded conclusions about her father that had actually been fed to her by her mother. This included a story that he had allegedly killed a pet cat that she had, that he was “not a nice person”, and that the father refused to pay child support and that he was taking the mother to court because of it. During access visits, the mother also routinely spent her time complaining at length about the father’s deficiencies as both a person and a parent.
In light of these kinds of incidents (among many, many others) the court reasoned that to give the mother any form of access to the child would undermine the stability of the father’s relationship with her; indeed it might even rupture entirely as it had in the past, during the episode where the girl had precipitously run away from the father’s home, for example. The court also noted that allowing the mother to have supervised visits while attending counselling had clearly not worked in the past: there had been unfavourable assessment of the mother’s parenting skills by various professionals, as well as complaint-prompted investigations by the Children’s Aid Society and police.
Equally important was that despite claiming to support the child’s relationship with her father, the mother clearly preferred for the child to have no relationship with him at all. This did not bode well for the child’s future well-being and spoke poorly for the mother’s parenting ability as well. As the court put it: “The ability of a person to act as a parent includes their ability to support the child’s relationship with the other parent.”
While noting that the court will not automatically order a change custody if the custodial parent refuses access or otherwise interferes with the development of the other’s parent’s normal relationship with the child, it was within the court’s authority to do so in the right case. The court was also entitled to go further where appropriate and deprive the former custodial parent of access as part of the order. As always, the decision depended on what was in the best interests of the child.
In this case, the child deserved stability, permanence and emotional security and she was most likely to obtain that in the father’s full-time care since he had proven himself better equipped to meet the child’s emotional needs. The court allowed the father’s application for sole custody, and then went on to forbid the mother from having access to the child whatsoever.
For the full text of the decision, see: