My ex-spouse is wrongfully preventing access to my child. Unfortunately there are many divorces that unnecessarily become high-conflict, with parents using children as pawns to get what their way. One such incident occurred in Ottawa, Ontario, a few weeks ago and the decision from the Judge provides some useful information for parents in similar situations.
The Mother Moved Out With the Child and Alleged Child Abuse
In this sad case, the mother and father initiated their proceedings while living separate and apart in the matrimonial home, with their four year-old daughter. The parents, with their lawyers, signed an agreement on May 13, 2020, which addressed many of the outstanding issues.
Apparently not happy with the settlement, two days later the mother moved out of the matrimonial home with the daughter. She then made claims of physical and sexual abuse that occurred three days prior to the signing of the settlement. She reported this to both the police and Children’s Aid. Both outside agencies did not take any immediate steps which means both did not think the child was in any immediate danger.
The Mother Kept the Child From the Father
After the mother moved out with the daughter, the mother refused to let the father visit with the daughter. Though the couple had just signed an agreement two weeks prior which provided for parenting time, the mother refused to honour the agreement.
The father went to Court to enforce the settlement that was signed by both parties. A court date was set for June 11, 2020, and on the week prior to the court date, the mother changed lawyers. The mother then sought an adjournment of the hearing date as her new lawyer was not available. She also said that her medical condition was such that she would not be able to be prepared for the upcoming court date.
Effectively what the mother did was make her own decision on her child’s best interests and then attempted to thwart the father from interfering with that decision. The Judge was very aware of this egregious tactic used by the mother and did not grant the adjournment, meaning the mother would have to go to Court as scheduled.
If a Parent is Wrongfully Preventing Access, Justice Must be Done Sooner Not Later
While I don’t often quote judicial decisions, the Judge in this case made a statement that needs to be repeated. “If a parent is wrongfully preventing access, justice must be done sooner rather than later for the child and the parties.” Effectively, the mother was not allowed to avoid the court date. Otherwise she would cause further harm. The Court will look to strengthen all parental relationships.
The Judge in this decision was only ruling on the adjournment application by the mother, which was dismissed. In a later decision (and the next blog post), the Judge went into extensive detail on the reasons why she believed the mother had fabricated the allegations of physical and sexual abuse. The end result was to grant sole custody to the father.
What Can You do if a Parent is Refusing Access
This is an extremely difficult situation and one that requires a measured and non-emotional response. My suggestion is that you obtain some legal advice and have your lawyer make the appropriate response. The first step will be to talk to the other parent. If you are very emotional about the entire situation, consider having someone do that on your behalf.
Sometimes the other parent will not reason with someone acting on your behalf. Then, unfortunately, the appropriate response may be through the Court. The best approach will be to try and get an urgent Court date set and provide your version of events. It will be very important for you to have evidence of what has transpired. You also want evidence of what attempts you have made to resolve the issue without turning to the Court.
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