Court Cases & Orders

Court Calls It:  “Another Disastrous Christmas” in Embattled Couple’s Acrimonious Divorce

Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

High-Conflict Divorce in Ontario Disrupts Family Holidays and Puts Children in the Middle

As the holiday season comes to a close, parents often tell their friends and colleagues about their cherished festive traditions and warm gatherings that brought the children and extended family together.

Not so for one Ontario couple, whose high-conflict divorce has put their two children in the middle of drama, acrimony, false accusations – not to mention several ruined holidays.


After a lengthy on-off relationship, the couple were married for five years, and had two sons.  They separated when one child was nearly three, and the other was only four months old.  They divorced in 2021, but in the time since, their lives were littered with high-conflict parenting disputes between them.  This culminated a 39-day trial over nine weeks, with the court receiving volumes of materials.

Parenting Time

The father wanted to have primary care of the children, and then therapy working towards shared parenting. He had a number of experts to support his proposal.

The mother, in contrast, gave only lip-service to being willing to cooperate in shared parenting time; in her next breath she accused the father of physical, verbal, emotional, financial and sexual abuse.  The court heard from experts that her behaviour was consistent with her having Histrionic or Borderline Personality Disorder, and that she was forever locked in a feeling of distrust, victimization, and fear over the father’s involvement with the children.

She claimed the boys justifiably rejected their father, and that they should not be forced to see him.  She even hired private investigators to conduct surveillance on access supervisors they had agreed to.  The witnesses she provided were, in the court’s view, “either allies, dupes or well-meaning persons whose evidence concerning the issues in this litigation was shaped by the selective misinformation provided to each of them by the mother.”

False Accusations

In truth, as the court noted, the mother had professed a willingness to participate in court-ordered family reunification therapy, but was secretly working behind the scenes to have the father’s access terminated entirely.  Among her prime weapon was to make untrue allegations to the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), that the father was sexually abusing the boys.

One of those false accusations took place on December 20, just two days before the children’s scheduled Christmas access with their father.  The mother called CAS to falsely accuse the father of having masturbated one of the sons on a prior visit. The entire Christmas visit was cancelled so that CAS investigators could look into the matter.

The next Christmas was also ruined, this time with a 2.5-hour incident involving supervised hand-off of the children, where the police eventually had to be called.  As the court recounted it:

Another Disastrous Christmas

December 23, 2019 was planned as the [father’s] family Christmas. The house was decorated, and [the father]was ready with gifts and special food for the boys. When [the mother] arrived with the boys, she took the unusual step of parking some distance down the street from [the father’s] home. A protracted, public and painful attempt to transition the children ensued. Throughout the 2.5 hours over which this drama unfolded, [the mother] could be seen talking on her cell phone. She told the access supervisor that she was talking to her counsellor who was helping her protect the children.

On December 23, 2019, the access supervisor worked hard to help the boys exit the car and walk down the street to their father’s home. The mother argued with her and warned the supervisor not to be telling her what was in the Court Order because “I know what is in the court Order.” When [the father] approached the car to help remove the children, [the mother] began to scream “do not touch my car and don’t get near the car, I will call the police if you touch my car” and then turned to the supervisor to declare that she was afraid of him.

[The father] gave the mother and the boys some space. In an effort to try and get the boys to come to the house for Christmas, he went to his home, and then returned to the parked car with the boys’ presents. [The mother] refused the gifts and told him to give the presents to the supervisor, which [the father] did. The supervisor gave the children their Christmas gifts. Both children were crying and distraught.

At the two-hour mark, the police attended. They were shown the court Order and they attempted to assist. Ultimately, [one child] resisted getting out of the car, but [the other child] did attend the Christmas visit for the time remaining as set out in the Order.  [The mother] would not agree to extend the time, citing another engagement. Neither did the balance of [one child’s] Christmas Break visits occur; and he did not see his father again until he was back in school, where he could be picked up away from the sight of his mother.

These were just some of the highlights of numerous incidents in nearly five years post-separation.

Children’s Best Interests

In a 335-paragraph judgment in which the court scrutinized the long and tragic history between these parents, it declared the mother unable to focus on the children’s best interests, or support their relationship with the father.  She had manipulated various child assessment and other experts to align with her entrenched negative views of the father. As a result, the children were showing clear signs of emotional distress and psychological issues that would likely follow them throughout their lives.  The court explained:

There is a great deal of recovery work to be done.  Dark themes underscore my finding that the boys have suffered emotional harm: one son being caused to falsely report the sexual abuse of his younger brother by their father, a six year old child brandishing a knife at a babysitter in front of his younger brother, and the constant allegations to children aid’s societies – requiring numerous interviews of the children – to sabotage consent Orders in the family law litigation.

In contrast, the court said the father was a “good enough parent” who had the ability to care for the children, despite his admitted role in all the acrimony.  Primary care should be transferred to him.

Next, the court ordered the mother was precluded for 90 days from having any contact with the boys, except by Zoom calls. This included a restraining order which prevented her from physically going near them during that time.  From there on, she would have stepped-up parenting plan that would lead to shared parenting.  This would give the father time to establish the boys in his home, and settle them into therapy.

Full text of the decision: S. v. A., 2021 ONSC 5976 (CanLII)

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About the author

Russell Alexander

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