Recent cases in my practice have given rise to discussions on parental alienation. This is a challenging and complex issue, with great consequences for the children that have been alienated from a parent. As I discuss herein, these actions can also have great consequences for the parent responsible for the alienation.
Parents going through a divorce or separation will often reach an agreement about parenting and record those terms into a Settlement Agreement or similar document. One of the common terms in this agreement requires each parent to teach the children to love and respect both parents, and to encourage and strengthen the child’s relationship with the other parent. The Court also expects this type of behaviour, so far as it is in the children’s best interest to have a relationship with each parent.
Unfortunately some parents ignore their commitment to assist their children in building their relationship with the other parent. Some parents even take step to eliminate the relationship between the children and the other parent. Not only is this behaviour improper and offensive to the alienated parent, but it offends the Court and may be responded to very strongly by the Court.
In the Ontario Superior Court of Justice 2009 case of L. (A.G.) v. D. (K.B.), the Court found clear evidence that the mother had been taking steps to alienate her three daughters from their father for many years, beginning shortly after the children’s births. The Court heard the father’s application for sole custody, with the mother to have no access, the court granted an order to that effect.
The father was granted sole custody, and became entitled to make decisions about the children without consulting their mother. The mother’s access to the children was all but extinguished. She was precluded from being in the children’s presence, or attending at any of their activities. She was not allowed within 300 meters of her own children until such time as she had paid for significant counseling for the children.
This drastic change in custody resulted from the Court determining that the mother would not make decisions that were in the children’s best interests. The Court determined that the mother was guilty of abusing her children by keeping them from having any contact with their father physically, and for the emotional damage that she caused by alienating them from their father. The court found that she had conducted an “overwhelming campaign” of alienating the children from their father for more than a decade.
The children had expressed their wishes to remain with their mother, but the Court determined that as a result of the mother’s actions, the children’s opinions were not independent, and could not be accepted. Giving the father sole custody was in the children’s best interest.
If you are currently involved in or considering a common law separation or divorce in the province of Alberta or would like a second opinion regarding your situation, either myself or a member of our team of experienced lawyers are happy to speak with you. Contact Mark Baril at 403-328-5577 or 780-790-2022, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.