Court Says: Being Abusive to Your Child’s Other Parent = Bad Parenting
In a recent Ontario decision involving a child custody and access determination, the court made a rather sweeping – though likely not incorrect – conclusion:
“[A]busing the other parent of your child be it verbally or in writing, is bad parenting.”
The facts of the case were chronicled in a prior Blog. They featured a father who asked the court to rule on the appropriate level of access he should be given to his child, who was now 5 years old.
The complicating factor was the nature of the father’s relationship with the child’s mother: He had been persistently abusive to her both verbally and emotionally, and took every opportunity to act vindictively toward her. Especially in his email and text conversations, he called her names like “bitch and “idiot” and engaged in blaming and manipulative behaviour. The court summed up this collective correspondence as being “extremely offences and abusive” and “vile and abusive”.
Now that he was before the court to ask for access rights, the father claimed to have reformed himself. But after looking at a detailed chronicling of the incidents between them, the court found otherwise. It stated:
The court finds that there is no evidence to demonstrate that the father’s attitude towards the mother has changed in any significant way. While he says he has changed and that there is little recent evidence of inappropriate behaviour by him towards the mother, it was readily apparent during his evidence that he sees himself as the victim and the mother as the villain and that this belief system informs his judgment and decision making process.
Importantly, the court reflected on how the father’s continued abusiveness impacted on his ability to parent his child, especially in a shared parenting model which would require cooperation and communication between him and the mother. The court explained:
The court finds the father’s conduct towards the mother to be highly concerning. As difficult as the situation is between the parties and acknowledging that conflict between separated parents can create a heated and emotional environment, [the law] mandates the court not to treat this level of vitriol as typical or acceptable. What must be acknowledged is that this is very poor parenting. The way in which the parents treat one another goes directly to the issue of parenting. The court must acknowledge that abusing the other parent of your child be it verbally or in writing, is bad parenting. If this is how the father communicates when he feels the need to assert himself with the mother, how will these parents function in a shared parenting arrangement that will most certainly require frequent contact?
Perhaps the court’s conclusions simply accord with common sense. But while many child custody / access cases end up tainted by acrimony, parents seem to overlook the simple correlation between mistreating the other parent, and demonstrating to the court that their own parenting skill and judgment leaves something to be desired.
The decision in V.P. v. D.M. helps to make that connection clear. Hopefully more separated and divorcing parents will hear that message well in advance of their child custody hearings.
For the full text of the decision, see:
V.P. v. D.M., 2019 ONCJ 289 (CanLII),