Courts Are Not Above Lecturing Parents
One of the things I’ve noticed recently while reading recent Family Cases, is that courts are increasingly willing to “colour outside the lines” in their written reasons, in order to admonish litigants for their poor behavior, lack of cooperation, and unwillingness to participate fully in the very same court processes that are designed to help resolve the disputes between them.
A good case in point is McCall v. Res, which involved a typical pair of parents who were having difficulty cooperating with each other, even though it was at the expense of their child’s best interests. Both father and mother had been combative and uncooperative with each other, and each had ignored or tried to circumvent the rights of the other. As a result, the parents had to return to court a number of times in order to have relatively minor disputes resolved.
After making its latest ruling, the court levelled this criticism at the father:
There are a couple of messages here for the parties. They are the parents of a young child, and they will be very involved in his life for many years to come. Father in particular needs to decide how he will conduct himself toward the mother. If he chooses to carry on in the manner he has demonstrated up until now, he will find himself in ongoing litigation, with potentially very serious consequences. Apart from the more obvious consequences, he will eventually discover that by modelling such poor behaviour for his son, this could well lead to negative outcomes for his child. Very simply, he must change his attitude toward the mother, as well as his behaviour toward her.
The court also chastised the mother for her narrow thinking in connection with the father’s rights:
For her part, the mother must understand that notwithstanding her victimization at the hands of the father, he is very much involved in his son’s life and, on the evidence to date, it is in the child’s best interests that this continue. The mother’s attitude expressed in her pleadings, that she is the custodial parent and, as such, she has the right to make vacation decisions, including the sole decision regarding how much time she is entitled to be out of Canada with the child, is dismissive toward the father, as well as to the child’s rights to have an active and nurturing relationship with him.
The court ended with a more dire warning to them both:
The parents are now at a crossroads, and they have two choices. They can continue along their present path, the results of which will not be pleasant for either of them nor, incidentally, for their child. Or, they can sit down with the parenting coordinator and make sincere efforts to reach compromise solutions to their respective problems. Each will have to make concessions to the other. That is what parenting is about; that is what life is about. If they demonstrate their willingness and ability to take this second path, they can then concentrate on moving on with their lives, rather than becoming one of those high-conflict sets of parents who spent their child’s entire life returning to court over and over again. I wish to stress that I do not believe these parents are at this stage yet, but unless they engage in an attitudinal sea-change, it is only a matter of time before they get there.
These are very wise words from the court, indeed.
For the full text of the decision, see:
McCall v. Res, 2013 ONCJ 254 (CanLII),
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