Mother hit hard in custody case
Judge concludes she ignored court rulings
Apr 03, 2009
LEGAL AFFAIRS REPORTER
LEGAL AFFAIRS REPORTER
A Toronto judge has taken the drastic step of finding a mother of three in contempt of court for flagrantly violating court orders during her relentless campaign to alienate her children from their father.
The woman, known as K.D., lost custody of her daughters in January, but this latest ruling takes the case to a new level, with the 42-year-old chiropodist finding herself on the losing side of a power struggle with the court.
The mother intentionally acted against the best interests of her children by cutting off telephone calls and visits with their father and walking out of counselling sessions, Justice Faye McWatt said in a decision released earlier but withheld from publication until today so K.D., who is self-represented, could read it first.
She has been ordered to pay $35,000 in penalties and legal costs to her ex-husband, 56, a vascular surgeon known as A.L., who was also granted permission to take the girls to a U.S. therapy program designed to undo damage caused by parents who poison children against another parent.
K.D. consented to the calls, visits and counselling sessions ordered by a series of Superior Court judges over eight years beginning in 2000, but “once she left this building, she ignored the orders believing that she could escape scrutiny,” McWatt said.
The mother’s defence was she did not intentionally contravene the orders and it was her children who refused to spend time with their 56-year-old father.
But her claims were contradicted by the children themselves during interviews at the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, McWatt said, noting one daughter said she loved and wanted to see her father, but later refused to get out of her mother’s car for a visit with A.L.
“There is really only one explanation for the children’s attitudes,” the judge said. “It is their mother’s consistent negative influence on them from their early childhood about A.L. and her persistence at excluding them from his children’s lives.”
While courts have been reluctant to make contempt findings against parents who violate court orders even out of spite towards another parent, what sets this case apart is the mother consented to the orders then adopted a “you can’t touch me” attitude, said Harold Niman, A.L.’s lawyer.
“What needs to be clear is that you can’t assume every case of access difficulties means there is alienation or even contempt,” Niman said in an interview. “But once a court gets to the stage of determining it is wilful disobedience of an order and … something is being done ... to hurt the children, I think this case makes it very clear a court will not hesitate to step in.”
A.L. told the court that K.D. insisted on setting rules for visits with his daughters, including her being in the car when he drove them to school. In 2005, he only spent time with them when K.D. decided he should pay to take her and the children on holidays.