Mother’s Bad Faith Nets Father a Whopping $675K in Costs
Over the years, this Blog has featured cases that we fondly categorize as “what NOT to do” in a custody battle or Family Law dispute. In a very recent landmark decision, the court ruled that in a parenting time battle over two young children, the mother had demonstrated bad faith that was so egregious, that the father should be entitled to more than $675,000 in costs.
The background of the case involved a 5-year litigation journey, which culminated in a 39-day day hearing – one of the longest parenting time trials in the history of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
The court found the mother was on a campaign to alienate the children, aged 5 and 7, from their father. Her tactics included making false allegations of physical and sexual abuse against the father, which sparked reports to the police and child protection agencies. This orchestrated strategy had some success: The children had no meaningful contract with their father for over a full year after the parents separated in mid-2016. When the children did resume having access visits with him, the mother gave instructions that included a “no hugs and kisses” rule, as a well as a ban on birthday cakes and parties.
All of this culminated in a hearing, where the court looked at the evidence around the parental alienation that was being orchestrated by the mother. The end result was an order that vindicated the father’s legal position completely: It required that the primary care of the children should be transferred immediately from the mother to the father, and that the father was to have decision-making authority over them. The court also designed a parenting schedule that was intended to restore a healthy relationship between the father and the two children, and to repair the damage that the mother had wrought.
Next, the court turned to the financial impact of the litigation, noting that the collective cost to the parents was somewhere in the range of $1.7 million. The court added that this amount “well exceeds their personal savings and their equity in a jointly owned home.”
As the successful party at trial, the father claimed about $938,000. The mother resisted, on the basis that she was of limited means. She said she should pay no more than $50,000.
The court sided with the father, and agreed he was entitled to his costs almost in full. It was not merely the father’s overall success in the litigation that needed to be looked at, but rather the success of the child (i.e. his or her best interests). In this case the mother “acted in bad faith because she purported to support the boys having a full and healthy relationship with their father while she intentionally took steps to sever their sons’ affection, sense of safety and self while with their father. She caused the boys to suffer emotional harm.” The court added:
A finding of bad faith requires more than a pattern of sustained unreasonable litigation conduct. Bad faith is devious conduct designed to achieve an improper goal that causes harm to the other party or to the children. The party need not intend to cause the actual harm occasioned, provided that the party acted recklessly or in a manner that should have been known would cause harm without justification…
Here, the mother had engaged in obstructionist tactics and “win at all costs” approach over a 5-year period. Her goal was that the father was “not to be just removed as a competitor for the children’s time and affection, he was to be expunged from the family.”
In the end, the court ordered the mother to pay a staggering $677,610 in costs.
For the full text of the decision, see