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Grover 09-25-2008 04:43 PM

Mother frustrated with family court
 
I am writing with the hope that you can direct a woman frustrated with the Ontario Family Court to some help. There should be a committee set up to examine issues of fairness and bias, and oversight put in place to ensure that mothers and fathers do not have to go through what this mother has gone through. The names have been changed.

In 2003 Betty found that Peter was cheating on her. She was devastated but tried to keep the marriage together. It was an emotional time and she would often cry at Peter's unwillingness to discuss their marital problems. Peter began a campaign of emotional abuse and tried to convince Betty that she was mentally unstable. He kicked her out of their matrimonial house in Pickering with no warning and changed the locks. Before going to court they agreed to ask for joint custody of their daughter, but Peter surprised Betty by asking for sole custody and accusing her of being unstable and dangerous to their daughter. Peter obtained a letter from Betty's cousin who had been living with them, falsely accusing Betty of trying to harm her daughter. Note that Betty's cousin had experienced mental problems in the past and had moved from his parents' house because he could not get along with his family. Betty is considering suing her cousin for falsely accusing her, but does not want to cause problems in the extended family. Her cousin has almost no contact with his family while Betty remains close with them..

In court the judge showed a racial bias by asking Betty whether she was a citizen and whether she married Peter just to stay in Canada. She had been in Canada and a citizen since childhood. Betty later learned from others that this judge has a pattern of ruling against non-white women. Temporary custody of their daughter was granted to Peter, and Betty had supervised access on Tuesdays and every second weekend. Peter would often deny Betty her court appointed access, and would call Betty on the phone and ask her to guess where her daughter was (he denies this). Peter obtained a ruling allowing him to sell their matrimonial home without Betty's knowledge or permission and did not give Betty a share of their furniture or any other major possessions or investments.

Betty voluntarily underwent psychiatric assessments which showed that she was competent and able to care for her daughter, but Peter was not satisfied. In 2005 the Ontario Children's Lawyer (OCL) became involved and recommended that the parents share custody of their now 3 1/2 year old daughter. This did not happen for two reasons: first, Betty had an incompetent lawyer who showed up unprepared or very late and was later suspended for her handling of the case, and second, Peter said he was not satisfied with the psychiatric assessments. Peter and his lawyer asked for their hand picked psychiatrist assess Betty, a psychiatrist whom Peter knew of through a connection at work. This should not have been allowed without Peter also being assessed, and it should have been a neutral psychiatrist, but Peter's lawyer and a judge convinced Betty that this was the only way that she could get her daughter back. Betty underwent the assessment but the report was not forthcoming. The case had been adjourned pending the receipt of the report, so progress was stalled. Betty called the psychiatrist (who is well known and is often used for criminal cases) a few times but he would not provide a report. During the following 2+ years Betty had only supervised access to her daughter. Peter tormented her family by choosing which family members were acceptable to supervise, sometimes allowing only one specific family member as far as 50 km away, but changing his preferences frequently. In 2007 a judge ordered that the OCL get involved again, and Betty completed the paperwork but Peter did not and the file was closed. There was no follow-up process by the OCL after the 2005 recommendation of shared custody, and no follow-up to determine why Peter had not submitted the paperwork as ordered. This should have been a red flag but the OCL just assumed that the case had been settled. Peter defied the court orders and there were no consequences other than a delay and an increasing status quo advantage.

From 2007 through the spring of 2008 Peter's new lawyer did not respond to requests from Betty's lawyer. During this time, Betty again contacted the psychiatrist and reminded him that before her assessment she had signed a waiver acknowledging that if he found her to be a danger to herself or her child, he was obligated to report this to the police. He did not do this, and it was only at this point that the psychiatrist provided a letter stating that Peter's former lawyer had retained him and had instructed him not to prepare the report on Betty and had forbade him from communicating with Betty or her lawyer. They did not tell Betty, her lawyer or the court that they had cancelled the report. Since this was their stated criterion for determining whether Betty was fit, it should constitute contempt of court and obstruction of justice. It resulted in a 2 year delay in progress, lost time between mother and daughter and more court and legal expenses. Peter and his lawyer forced Betty into a corner and offered this additional assessment by their hand picked psychiatrist as her only opportunity to obtain joint custody and equal time with her daughter, and then when the psychiatrist was not going to support their false allegations, they suppressed the evidence.

After months of no responses from Peter's lawyer, Betty obtained a court date in May 2008 and Peter showed up with no lawyer, claiming that he didn't know where his lawyer was, and obtained yet another delay. However, Peter was ordered to obtain a lawyer and the OCL was again ordered to become involved. After showing Peter and his lawyer the letter from the psychiatrist explaining that Peter's previous lawyer had suppressed evidence, Peter agreed to drop the requirement for supervision, since there was clearly no reason for it. Both Betty and Peter submitted the forms to the OCL, but the day before Betty's interview (July 31, 2008), Peter cancelled his interview (delaying the process yet again) and said that they had a great offer for Betty. Betty did not cancel her interview. The offer contained a very small increase in time with her daughter. Betty rejected the offer and made a counter-offer for equal time which Peter rejected. Betty asked that the OCL process continue. Betty's lawyer said that even if the OCL makes a recommendation in her favour, it would probably be overruled because the status quo advantage usually wins over the OCL recommendation. What is the point of having the OCL if they are regularly overruled and when they do not follow up on their reports and argue for their recommendations?

The child who is almost 7 years old wants to spend more time with her mother and cries for her mother but her voice is being shut down. The child is happy when picked up from Peter's house and often cries when it is time to go back and asks to stay with her mother. She has been asking Peter to take her to her mother but says that he ignores her. Betty has never denied her husband access and does not want to keep her daughter from him. The child loves both parents and Betty does not believe it is right or healthy to keep her daughter from either parent. Peter however, has used false allegations and unethical and illegal means to obtain a status quo advantage. He has disobeyed court orders and it has all continued to work to his advantage.

Three weeks ago, the child told Betty, "Daddy says that if I tell Pat (the OCL investigator with changed name) that I want to see more of mommy that I'll never see him again". This sort of psychological manipulation is harmful to the child's emotional well being. She should not have to worry about such things, especially when they are blatantly false. Betty has asked her daughter what she wants. The daughter has said she wants to stay with her mother at times, and has said equal time at other times. Betty has told her daughter that she should tell Pat what she wants. Two weeks ago, the child told Betty, "Daddy met with Pat and said that he agrees with equal time, and he said that I don't have to say that I want that any more". Since no offer has been received, Betty believes that this was an attempt by Peter to convince the child not to voice a desire for any change. The child met with the OCL investigator on the weekend at Peter's house, but we don't know how the meeting went. Our visit is tomorrow.

We want an investigation to correct the lack of follow-up and the lack of consequences for unethical and illegal actions, to ensure that it does not happen to another mother or father. Betty is frustrated with the family court and doesn't know what to do. Betty did nothing wrong, she and her daughter want to spend more time together, and nobody is listening to them. At this point, we are hoping that the OCL recommends more time between mother and daughter, and that the recommendation is not overruled based on the status quo. People have told Betty to go to the media, and we have sent messages to some reporters. There is a concern that having the story appear in the media may taint the OCL or family court process, so we don't know what the best course of action is.

Betty has filed a complaint against Peter's former lawyer and is considering filing a complaint against the psychiatrist for suppressing evidence, but we doubt that this would affect the outcome of the custody dispute. We have also sent messages to Betty's MPP, other MPPs, the Attourney General of Ontario and various advocacy groups, but she has received no real help yet. The Ombudsman was suggested.

If anyone has any advice or contacts to offer that might help this mother, it would be greatly appreciated.

logicalvelocity 09-25-2008 05:33 PM

Grover, welcome to the forum. :)

Sadly, Betty is another victim of the system. Rather than focus on a campaign to overhaul the system or the ongoing wrongdoing; In my humble opinion is that Betty should not lose sight of her daughter as final adjudication will revolve around her best interests.

Everything else is peripheral and carries very little weight. At the end of the day the court is not going to care whether or not a lawyer did not play by the rules or a doctor supressed evidence.

Grover 09-25-2008 05:51 PM

We know the OCL investigation will focus on whether each house is a good environment for the child, with some consideration for the child's wishes. There are some things that we don't like about the father's environment and his care for his child, but there's no big reason that the child could not be happy there, except that the child wants more time with the mother. The tougher job will be to convince a judge to upset the status quo. It just seems so wrong that you can make false claims to establish a custody situation, then when you can't prove the false claims and your case is about to fall apart you can actively (and illegally) suppress evidence, disobey court orders and otherwise create delays to establish a status quo advantage, and that illegally and unethically obtained status quo advantage is the deciding factor. No matter whether Betty gets equal time or not, she wants to do as much as possible to change the system and get her story out there, even if it will only help others.

FL_Needs_To_Change 09-26-2008 07:17 AM

I agree with both previous statements, and before I finished reading your initial post was thinking an Ombudsman would help. They are there to correct the wrongs done by those in the government services, and a lawyer and or their "experts" are working for the courts who in turn are working for the government.

My husband was denied access due to stall tactics, and false allegations that delayed or completely denied any contact, which like in your case created a false status quo that the courts would NOT go against. We did try the route suggested to bring to light all the manipulations and stall tactics, but it only made things worse in our case. It's probably because we no longer could afford to keep a lawyer and went the last leg on our own, but for what ever reason, I suggest that you stay focused on the daughter.

Maintain the contact IE telephone, and maybe email now that she is getting older, and show up for the access, even if you think it's fruitless.
So that when you are in front of the judge you can show that your actions reflect your position for equal access and that his actions do not.

I feel her pain, thanks for being there for her, having someone that she can depend on that goes the extra mile to help is exactly what she needs to help her through this. Family Law needs to change, but until that happens all we can do is try our best to be the best parents possible for the children.

God bless you, may prayers are with your friend.

Grover 09-26-2008 09:36 AM

The access problem (being denied court appointed access) happened a while back. The police were called and the CAS were called and the husband/father stopped that. The mother always had to have an approved family member with her and had to stay with an approved family member when she had her daughter, but that is no longer the case. The father went away for two weeks in the spring and left the child with a relative, only allowing the mother her regular access, but since then has agreed that if either parent goes away for more than 48 hours, they have to offer the child to the other parent before making other arrangements. So the mother and child never miss their time now, and they talk on the phone every night. The mother also negotiated for 2 weeks straight in the summer, which she very much enjoyed.

The main issue is, assuming that the OCL report again recommends shared custody or equal time, how do we make a case to a judge to change the status quo? The child wants equal time but is too young for the court to make a ruling based on her wishes alone. The previous OCL report was almost 3 1/2 years ago but was not implemented because they used the request for an additional psychiatric evaluation to get a long delay (10 months to set up the examination, then they asked the doctor not to prepare the report that the court was waiting for and not to tell anyone which wasted another 18 months, then the husband disobeyed the court order to fill out the OCL forms, then his new lawyer didn't respond to communications). I know this focus is not on the child, but I guess there are two issues.... how do we change the status quo based on the child, and why are there no consequences for these sort of actions?

dadtotheend 09-26-2008 10:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Grover (Post 16650)
but I guess there are two issues.... how do we change the status quo based on the child, and why are there no consequences for these sort of actions?

After muliple breaches of our agreement, I struggled with the same question about consequences when I went through the courts. There aren't any consequences because they would involve upsetting the child's routine (ill conceived as it is). You can't very well jail the parent, that would take him/her away from the child who needs the parenting. If you fine that parent, that takes resources from the child. If you give custody to the other parent, that is a wholesale disruption (however valid) to the child.

It may be well and truly best for the child to have the routine changed, but the court, at a distance, can only at best have a tip of the iceberg view of the situation, so it is forced to play the least risky (for the court and the child) hand it can.

The really sad thing about the whole thing is that the court has to be involved in the first place. That speaks to the inability of one or both parents to put the child's interest first. Very sadly, it is often the lesser equipped, but cunning, parent, who ends up with custody. Even more sadly, many lawyers encourage this process.

As far as changing the status quo, FL above has the answer. Stay child focused, adhere to the access schedule, etc. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes. Patience, patience and perseverence will carry the day. It's so so very sad that the most important thing in your entire life hangs in the balance.

Grover 10-01-2008 06:12 PM

How to have lawyer and doctor charged
 
While we wait... does anyone know how to have the lawyer and doctor who conspired to suppress evidence charged? They should be guilty of contempt of court and obstruction of justice. Also, the doctor can not deny Betty the right to a copy of her own medical file unless he found an illness that he feels would cause her to be a danger to herself or another if she were aware of it. We have since learned indirectly that the doctor found nothing wrong with Betty, so he violated her rights. The respective societies can discipline them, but if we can have them charged, so much the better. How do we go about having them charged?

dadtotheend 10-01-2008 11:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Grover (Post 16748)
The respective societies can discipline them, but if we can have them charged, so much the better. How do we go about having them charged?

Go through the Law Society, check the web site.

You ain't gettin' them charged. No happenin.

Duped 10-02-2008 01:48 AM

...there are no consequences.
 
Grover,

Forget about any form of actions against the Lawyer and the Doctor by the system, not going to happen, in 'family law' and I use that term very lightly as it only slightly resembles real law, there are no consequences, they use the term without prejudice. For several years my ex was told at each court hearing that her repeated attempts to use deception and dishonesty could work against her, however to this day, she has not had any repercussions, and still she persists.

Family law is a system that depends on this sort of misbehaviour for its survival. Lawyers play games on behalf of their clients, this results in billable hours for them and the opposing counsel and bench time for the judge. Remember the judges were and still are lawyers. If the Lawyers simply sorted out all of the problems quickly and painlessly, we would not need judges, if the judges actually made decisions cases would move through the system quickly and lawyers would not make as much money. My ex has been told several times by the judges at various court dates that she is supposed to be making child support payments which she is not, and that failure to do so could work against her in the future, however, no court order has yet to be made. The court expects us to work it out and agree. And like clock work every 6 months I hand over a large portion of my annual income to my lawyer and receive nothing in return.

The only alternatives that I would suggest would be to 1) ask your questions on the forums at hxxp://www.canadacourtwatch.com/, and 2) sue them in civil court, attach a dollar value to your loss and sue each of them, if nothing else you may raise a few eyebrows. What is the damage value of a lost relationship and meaningful contact with your child?

Not to insult anyone or demean your story but consider that your ex and lawyer have put you in the same position that thousands of fathers have been put in for many years and if you read on the forums here, you will see many similar stories.

Best of Luck,

Duped

Grover 10-02-2008 10:36 AM

Discipline
 
We are going through the respective societies, but my opinion is, if they broke the law rather than just acting unethically, I want them charged. I'm prepared to spend some time on this and to make a noise about it. I know that this has happened to others, but I want someone with the authority to charge them to explain why they don't do this, and then I'll see if the media are interested. I might be wasting my time, but considering the slow pace of the system, time is available. It isn't just about making organizational changes or combining divorce & family courts, it's about oversight, follow-up, and clear rules with consequences for breaking them. That would streamline the process and help everyone, except perhaps the lawyers. I'm not under the illusion that I'm going to change the system, but I want to at least make some noise and affect those who did wrong so that at least they might not do the same thing again.


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