Status Quo vs. Best Interests of the Children
Introduction: Separating and conflicting spouses often have conflicts especially in contentious custody cases. What does the Court do when there are allegations against a spouse having long-standing custody of the children, but when the children recently complain of maltreatment by the custodial parent to the other non-custodial parent? Confusing, right? Background of the facts of the case: Well, the Owen Sound Superior Court in Green v. LaFond (attached and unreported decision) recently had to review this most difficult and unenviable situation to make a decision. In this case, the children were under the custody of the father thanks to a final order from 2013. The children are currently 13 (almost 14) and 12 years. The children had given contradictory information to their counsellors / children’s aid society over the years. This is a high conflict case. As recently as in January 2020, due to circumstances as mentioned in the attached decision, the mother had secured temporary custody of the children. The mother understandably was reluctant to return the children despite the long-standing final order from 2013 given sole custody to the father. Mother pointed out that the children had been complaining to her and to an independent, third party counselor about maltreatment at the hands of the father as a result of which she could not return the children. Father pointed out that mother had attempted to make these types of allegations for a long time and that despite a final order from 2013, the mother was attempting to alienate the children from him. There was clearly contradictory evidence offered between the child protection worker and the newest counselor. What did the Court do?: After reviewing over 300 pages of disclosure from the Children’s Aid Society (Bruce Grey Child and Family Services), the Court decided that because the children had revealed to the most recent counselor that they may self-harm and harm others if sent back to the father, with reluctance, the Court ordered a change in the status quo and that the children could remain with the mother on a continued temporary basis, while affording alternate weekend access to the father. Clearly, it would appear that the Court gave weightage to what the children said to the most recent counselor and also, given their maturity and ages. The attached analysis from the Court is very well written and analyzed. The reader should appreciate the Court’s dilemma when faced with competing claims and difficult decisions to be made in weighing various contradictory pieces of evidence. What you need to do?: These are complicated issues and you need a good lawyer – someone who is strategic, experienced and knowledgeable. At Shankar Law, we are happy to assist and guide you through whatever challenges you have in your spousal and marital life. We work in three counties: Huron, Bruce, and Grey and span several cities (Southampton, Kincardine, Goderich, Wiarton, Hanover, Dundalk, Walkerton, Meaford, Markdale, Chatsworth), through our two locations in Port Elgin and in Owen Sound.