Family

Father's conduct factors in decision to award mother sole custody

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

Family law litigants should take care when communicating with former partners after a judge took a father’s abusive messages into consideration when awarding sole custody of the child to the mother, Toronto family lawyer Michael Stangarone tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Stangarone, partner with MacDonald & Partners LLP, acted for the successful mother in the case and says she was “very happy” with the result.

“The lesson here is that you have to be very careful in your oral and written communications with former spouses,” Stangarone says. “You should stay child-focused, and don’t let the animosity and resentment you may have towards your former partner interfere with your parenting.

“Disparaging the other parent is not only inappropriate, but it can impact on the best interests of your child. As well, it can potentially affect the decision a judge ultimately makes about the custody of the child in question,” he adds.

The judge’s decision noted that, generally, conduct is not a factor in determining issues of custody and access.

“However, in this case, [the father’s] hostility has resulted in his focus on anger towards [the mother] and on his own self-perceived rights rather than on [the child's] needs. He wishes to be a great parent. However, being a great parent includes cooperating with and supporting the other parent,” the ruling continues.

“In contrast, [the mother] has shown extraordinary patience in dealing with his abusive messages, his unpredictability in exercising access, his lack of cooperation in the sale of the matrimonial home, and his undermining of her plans for the child whether they be regarding daycare, health, or school.”

Stangarone’s client and her former husband had their only child together in 2015, since then the boy has suffered a number of significant health issues, requiring ongoing medical treatment.

Following their split a year later, the mother applied for sole custody of the child, allowing for frequent, regular access to his father. However, the father wanted a joint custody order, suggesting a 50-50 time split between each parent.

According to the judge’s decision, the father’s actions not only delayed the start of his contact with his child but also resulted in a number of unnecessary court appearances to obtain medical consents and enforce disclosure orders.

In addition, the judge found the father had violated a court order instructing the parties to communicate through a computer program and to restrict correspondence to child-centred issues.

“Many of the comments from [the father] have been hostile and threatening,” the judge noted, adding that a review of the correspondence “demonstrates his disregard for the court order and his hostility towards his wife.”

Although he found both the mother and father had a close bond with their child, the judge concluded that sole custody could be the only result due to the “total lack of positive communication between the parties.”

“[The mother] has presented a more viable plan to meet the best interests of [the child], and as such she shall be awarded sole custody,” he added.

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