Family

Mother's actions unacceptable in failing to facilitate therapy, access

An Ontario Superior Court justice recently concluded a pattern of calculated conduct undermining a father’s efforts to repair his relationship with his children cannot be tolerated, says Toronto family lawyer Michael Stangarone, partner with MacDonald & Partners LLP.

V.N v. C.G deals with an ongoing dispute between two separated spouses over custody and access issues concerning their three children. The father, represented by Stangarone, argued his ex-wife intentionally impeded access to his children and purposely delayed court-ordered reunification therapy.

Justice David Price found the mother’s explanations for the behaviour “to be a transparent effort to avoid accountability” for actions meant to undermine the father’s “efforts to repair his relationship with their children and reintegrate their lives,” the decision reads.

In 2013, the mother was found to have breached a previous court order by discontinuing therapy sessions between her former husband and their children, says Stangarone.

At the time, the judge ordered the therapy sessions to resume immediately and exercised his power under Rule 14(23)(c) (now Rule 1(8)) of the Family Law Rules to order sanctions against the mother for her breaches.

In his decision, Price ordered an increased access schedule involving the father and says both parties must co-operate fully with the reunification therapy.

The mother must “encourage the children to have a relationship with their father,” writes Price. “She shall say nothing of a disparaging nature to them about him and she shall not discuss the court proceeding with them.”

If there are breaches of the access schedule or reunification therapy provisions alleged to amount to contempt, writes Price, the court will consider a full range of responses, including a fine of up to $5,000, a variation of the interim custody of the children, or police enforcement.

Price also ordered the mother to pay costs to her ex-husband in the amount of $5,500.

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