Dad Wrests Custody from Mom After She Alienates the Kids from Him
The parents married in 2007 and had two daughters. In 2016 they separated very acrimoniously, and the court ordered the children to live primarily with the mother pending a later determination of their fuller issues. The father as given generous access on a set schedule.
At that later hearing, the mother asked for joint custody but with the added stipulation that the children would live with their father only on a limited basis, pursuant to a set schedule. In a somewhat unusual move, the father asked the court to change the status quo so that he had sole custody, with an equal timesharing agreement during various set days.
According to the father, the basis for this request was that the mother had used the time since their separation to intentionally alienate the children from him, and to relegate him to a small role in their lives and upbringing.
The court heard that even during the marriage the father had tried to be actively involved with the children, but that the mother had made all the decisions about their care. In the court’s words, she “attempted to dominate all aspects of the children’s lives and attempted to reduce the [father] to a spectator regarding his own daughters”. This changed only when it suited the mother’s needs, and in the father’s view it only got worse after they split up.
For instance, he claimed that since separation she blocked him from having overnight access, even though he lived with his parents in a five-bedroom home that the family had occupied during the marriage. She suddenly and unilaterally terminated his right to pick up the children from school. She refused to allow him summer access, forced him to go to court three times over that issue – and then did not even show up for one of the court hearings.
The father also accused the mother of thwarting the children’s everyday interactions with him. Since separation, he still encouraged the children to call their mother during every one of his access weekends; conversely, he had received only two calls in the entire time they were with her. The children were also encouraged to keep secrets from the father, and were coached not to eat meals with him on those limited days during the week when he had access. The mother also did not inform the father of any medical, dental or counselling appointments, even though she had been ordered by the court to do so. Finally – and tellingly in the court’s view – she also insisted that the father’s weekend access be interrupted so that she could take the eldest child to piano lessons on Saturday mornings, and to her church on Sunday mornings.
The court found this collectively indicative of the mother’s “selfishness and lack of appreciation of the role that the [father] plays in his own daughters’ lives.”
The court added that both parents clearly loved the children, and both had the requisite parenting skills. But while the father’s overall conduct was geared towards the children’s best interests, the mother’s conduct was not. Joint custody was not appropriate, since the mother had not been willing to cooperate and make joint decisions. As the court explained:
The [mother] does not value and recognize the [father’s] crucial role in the lives of the two children. The [mother] is self-centred and only considers her best interests and not those of her children. Rather than embrace the [father’s] involvement in the children’s lives, the [mother] has attempted to minimize and restrict his involvement in major decisions affecting the girls and in a parenting scheme that is in the girl’s best interests.
The court accordingly ordered that it would be in the children’s best interests that there be shared physical access to the children, but that the father should have sole custody. Although the father was required to consult with the mother prior to making any final decisions, in the event of a dispute, he was granted the right to make the final decision. Otherwise, the children would reside equally with both parents on a stipulated, strict schedule.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Pryce v. Pryce, 2019 ONSC 3558