Court Says Divorce Trial is a “Highlight Reel of How Not to Behave as a Parent”
In a recent Ontario divorce case called Misiuda v. Misiuda, the court was blunt in its criticism of both parents, but had particularly harsh words for the father, concluding he had “weaponized” his three children in his custody battle with their mother. As the court put it:
[The father] was obsessed with the 50-50 shared parenting regime from the outset. His conduct in furtherance of that goal was deplorable and not in the best interests of the children. It is clear that his children have been damaged as a result of his conduct, despite the fact that the two eldest now live primarily with him.
The parents had numerous custody and support-related issues still in dispute since their 2015 separation. The most dramatic and compelling parts of their shared history related to the father’s vow to the mother that if he did not get the equal shared custody he wanted, he would be relentless in trying to turn the children against her, “between now and the [expletive] time they get married”. And as the court noted:
In hindsight, this was not a threat. This was [the father] laying out the blueprint of his path to victory. Six years later, his plan has been executed. No one is victorious, certainly not the children.
Indeed, in the words of a Child Advocacy and Assessment Program report, the father “demonstrated little understanding of the impact of his behaviours on the children”. Nor was his single-minded pursuit tempered by the fact that the marital separation was prompted when it was revealed he was having an affair with the mother’s best friend.
In the six years since that separation, there had been numerous dramatic confrontations and altercations between the parents, with police being called repeatedly. Often, the children were present or even actively involved in those disputes – usually at the father’s instigation. The court found he repeatedly used the children as messengers, discussed adult matters with them, and acted like they were “pawns to be used to achieve his goals”.
While the court certainly did not absolve the mother for her role, it said her misconduct paled “in comparison, by orders of magnitude to the inexcusable behaviour” of the father. His testimony also lacked credibility, and the court found he had “carefully constructed a scenario whereby he was innocent in the eyes of the children for the separation”, while actively maligning the mother in front of them.
In deciding on a parenting order that gave primary consideration to the children’s physical, emotional, and psychological safety, the court said:
[The father’s] conduct from the date of separation forward, and particularly in the early days of the separation, shows that he has little regard at all for his children regarding these primary considerations. This trial has been a highlight reel of how not to behave as a parent.
In the end, the father’s open plotting and vindictive misbehaviour was all for nothing: The court concluded that under the Divorce Act factors, there was no justification to award decision-making responsibility to him, nor any reason to deny decision-making responsibility to the mother, whose parenting plan was in the children’s best interests. The court also set a strict visitation schedule, and ordered that neither parent was to speak negatively to the children about the other.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Misiuda v. Misiuda, 2021 ONSC 5258