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: