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Old 05-15-2006, 07:38 PM
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Default Parental Alienation

Mother loses kids after hindering father's access
An Ontario woman loses primary custody after court finds she sabotaged her ex-husband's relationship with their two young sons
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Font: * * * * Cristin Schmitz, CanWest News Service
Published: Saturday, May 13, 2006
OTTAWA -- A divorced woman who sabotaged her children's relationship with their estranged father has been stripped of their custody in a decision by Ontario's top court which sends a message that "parental alienation" harms children and will not be tolerated.

"We recognize, as did the trial judge, that the remedy of granting custody to the father is a dramatic one. However, that remedy was supported by the expert evidence and by the mother's persistent, ingrained and deep-rooted inability to support the children's relationship with the father," said three judges of the Ontario Court of Appeal in a unanimous decision this week.

The court dismissed the appeal of the Jarvis, Ont. mother against a lower court decision last year which ordered that the primary residence of her five-year-old twin boys be switched from the mother -- who had sole physical custody of them since their birth -- to her ex-husband who resides in Hamilton.

Calling that decision "amply supported by the evidence," the Appeal Court said that although the mother was "otherwise a good parent," her persistent "troublesome conduct" against the children's best interests included unilaterally restricting the father to daytime visits and failing to inform him about the children's medications, or to give him their prescription drugs, so that they would return home from visits with him sicker than when they left.

Obstructed access affects thousands of divorced parents and their children across Canada, according to a 1998 parliamentary report which urged the federal government and the provinces and territories to devise a nationwide co-ordinated response to failed parenting orders.

In Ontario and other provinces, courts have broad powers to punish those who violate custody and access orders, including fining parents and throwing them in jail for contempt of court.

But stripping a parent of custody, particularly if she or he has had sole care of a child for years, is still a relatively unusual step, said the woman's lawyer, Andreus Snelius.

"Contempt [of court] proceedings don't always dissuade a person" from impeding access, Snelius noted. "This decision may be an indication that courts are starting to take the situation of parental alienation much more seriously and are more willing to change custody."

"Parental alienation" is a term coined to describe the phenomenon of one parent persistently denigrating, devaluing and brainwashing the child against the other.

Snelius said his client has not yet decided whether to take her case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The appeal court was also critical of the mother's unilateral decision -- without warning, just before the custody case went to trial -- to uproot the boys from their school and community to move to another town further away from their father. "Moreover, the mother said that if the father moved to her new town, she would move again," the Court of Appeal noted.

"This conduct, in addition to many other instances of alienating conduct, was properly viewed by the trial judge as evidence of the mother's inability to support the father's relationship with the children and to consider the best interests of the children."

By court order, the boys now reside with their father, but live with their mother most weekends and see her for mid-week evening visits.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006