Court Cases & Orders Parenting Time & Decision Making

Court Conjures “Breaking Bad” Analogy for Warring Parents


Court Conjures “Breaking Bad” Analogy for Warring Parents

It’s not often that you see a judge summon up a TV show reference in the courtroom as a means of driving home a point to misguided parents. But that’s precisely what Mr. Justice Pazaratz of the

Ontario Court of Justice did, in a case called Coe v. Tope.

The judge wrote:

Breaking Bad, meet Breaking Bad Parents.

The former is an acclaimed fictional TV show whose title needed a bit of explaining: “BREAKING BAD: A southern U.S. expression for when a good person suddenly loses their moral compass and starts doing bad things”.

The latter is a sad reality show playing out in family courts across the country. “BREAKING BAD PARENTS: When smart, loving, caring, sensible mothers and fathers suddenly lose their parental judgment and embark on relentless, nasty litigation; oblivious to the impact on their children”.

SPOILER ALERT: The main characters in both of these tragedies end up pretty much the same:

Miserable. Financially ruined. And worst of all, hurting the children they claimed they were protecting.

To prolong the tortured metaphor only slightly, the “urgent” motion before me might be regarded as this family’s pilot episode. Will these parents sign up for the permanent cast of Breaking Bad Parents? Will they become regulars in our family court building, recognizable by face and disposition? Or will they come to their senses; salvage their lives, dignity (and finances); and give their children the truly priceless gifts of maturity and permission to love?

Stay tuned.

Justice Pazaratz concludes his unconventional ruling with a stern admonition for the parents:

One final comment: I hope I didn’t offend the parties with my Breaking Bad Parents analogy. They’re not bad parents. Yet.

Mainly, I was trying to give both parties a sobering warning: Stop!

Stop being nasty.

Stop jockeying for position.

Stop playing hardball.

Stop acting like you hate your ex more than you love your children.

It didn’t have to be this way. These parties had a year between separation in July 2013 and the sale of the house in June 2014 to work out a comprehensive, sensitive parenting plan. They could have spent a lot less money on parenting professionals than they’re spending on lawyers. They could have negotiated a civilized final agreement by now. There was no need for crisis and brinksmanship.
Now that things have stabilized (albeit, by court order) both parties have a chance to rethink their strategies and start over.

They can waste time, money and energy on more case conferences, motions, settlement conferences, trial management conferences, questioning, and a long trial.

Or, they can declare a truce; focus on their children; call in some therapeutic help (like social workers or mediators); make a few compromises; work out a plan everyone can live with – and take the kids on annual vacations to Disney World with the money they save.

What are your thoughts on the court’s TV show analogy and rebuke?

For the full text of the decision, see:

Coe v. Tope, 2014 ONSC 4002 (CanLII)

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.