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When feelings are ignored, a child custody fight can become ugly

Family law issues are not restricted to people getting divorced. However, even in the absence of bitter, post-separation emotions, non-divorce squabbles can turn just as sour. In a child custody case tried in Ontario, one woman showed just how far some people will go to win a fight.

The combatants in the battle were a mother and father who never married, nor even lived together, in court to decide custody over their almost 6-year-old daughter. The pair met online in 2008, and the woman became pregnant after their first offline encounter. In 2014, they undertook a six-day trial to sort out their remaining issues pertaining to the child.

The father, who had been paying child support all along, sought joint custody of his daughter but was willing to settle for overnight access. The mother was after full custody and wished to end his access to the girl. She produced letters from her housing co-op management, warning he was not welcome on the premises and that the police would be notified if he attempted to access her home. Furthermore, she alleged the man was suffering from personality disorders, could not form a bond with their child and had been psychologically abusive. 

Noting a lack of supporting evidence, the judge questioned the property management team and found they had accepted the woman's word without proof. He found the woman to be abnormally argumentative and sarcastic, and his ruling reflected his lack of belief in her assertions. The judge awarded joint custody to the father, and he was ordered to continue paying child support of $682 a month. The woman will need to provide the father with a list of every place where she has applied for work, twice a year until she finds employment.

Not all child custody disputes go as badly as this one did. However, the risk is always there that one party will attempt to bully the other to force an unfair settlement. In a case like this, and in all other family law matters in Ontario, representation from a skilled lawyer may be of great benefit.

Source: National Post, "Even in family court, this litigant stood out as 'callously conniving'", Christie Blatchford, March 24, 2017

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