Parenting Time & Decision Making

Parental Alienation and Custody Switches: Fostering Relationships is Key

dad carry crying boy to car
Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

In a prior Blog, we discussed a case called Pryce v. Pryce where the court ruled the mother had alienated their children from the father, who originally had only access to them.  In response, the court ordered that custody should be switched from the mother to the father; this ensured children’s best interests would be served by maximizing their relationships with both parents.

This kind of court-ordered custody switch is not particularly common, but a finding of parental alienation is somewhat more so.  Perhaps this is understandable, since so many separations and divorces between parents are acrimonious, and often result in custody battles and acrimony.

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There is no bright line that a custodial parent must overstep, to be found to have alienated the other one to the extent that a custody switch is warranted.  It all depends on the facts and the circumstances.

But among the specific behaviour that courts hone in on, is an unwillingness of the custodial parent to put the children’s best interests at heart, and to “do the right thing” when it comes to fostering a good relationship with the other parent.

In Attia v. Garanna, for example, the court also took custody away from the mother and gave it to the father instead, emphasizing that the mother had made attempts to minimize the father’s role in their children’s lives.  Indeed, the court found she had done her “utmost” to restrict his access to them.  In contrast, the court found the father was “ready, willing and able” to share his parental role with the mother in a significant way.  This included abiding by court orders.

Likewise, in Rogerson v. Tessaro the Court of Appeal confirmed a lower-court ruling that custody of the children should also be switched from the mother the father.  While the mother insisted that she was supportive of the children’s relationship with their father, in reality she had actively thwarted it and made “diligent efforts” to exclude the father from their lives.  For example, she made a unilateral decision to move elsewhere, away from the father’s convenient access. In justifying the custody switch, the Court observed that the father would be more likely to support the children’s relationship with their mother, while the converse was not true.  The mother was unable to consider the children’s best interests; even though they were more closely bonded with her, the custody switch to the father would ensure that they would enjoy maximum contact with both parents.

For the full text of the decisions, see:

Pryce v. Pryce, 2019 ONSC 3558 (CanLII)

Attia v. Garanna, 2010 ONSC 2033 (CanLII)

Rogerson v. Tessaro, 2006 CanLII 15126 (ON CA)

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About the author

Russell Alexander

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