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Parental Alienation and Custody Battles

Parental Alienation 

Custody battles are a difficult time for all parties involved. They become even more difficult when one parent alienates (unfairly manipulates a child to reject the other parent) a child against the other parent. 

Thankfully courts are moving towards an extreme approach in such cases, and may go as far as to remove a child from the custody of an alienating parent and place them in the custody of the alienated parent, provided they undergo reconciliation therapy. 

Reverse Custody with Therapy: A.M. v C.H. 

In the recent case of A.M. v C.H., the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge’s decision to remove an alienated child from the custody of his alienating mother and place him in the sole custody of his alienated father. The child was not permitted to see his mother until he satisfied the court that he was meaningfully engaging in reconciliation therapy with his father. 

Background 

The mother and father had 3 children together. After a tumultuous relationship since 1998, they separated in 2014 and finally divorced in 2017. The trial judge held that the mother had completed her campaign of alienation even prior to separation, concocting stories about the father’s actions and character and unreasonably refusing to let him see his children. 

Superior Court Decision 

By the time the case was heard before the trial court, all of the children resented their father. Two of the children were no longer minors and were thus beyond the jurisdiction of the Divorce Act (“DA”) and Children’s Law Reform Act (“CLRA”). The youngest child was the only subject of the case. 

In removing the youngest child from the custody of his mother and placing him in the sole custody of his father, the trial judge noted that he could not allow the parental alienation (which in his opinion amounted to emotional abuse) to continue, and permanently sever the child’s relationship with his father. 

The trial judge further ordered that the child and his father undergo “reconciliation therapy” to try to restore their relationship. As an enforcement measure, the child would not be permitted to contact his mother or siblings until he had “meaningfully engaged” in the reconciliation therapy. 

The Court of Appeal’s Decision 

The Court of Appeal upheld the Superior Court’s decision despite evidence that the child had run away, assaulted the father and was in foster care since the trial judge’s order, dismissing all four grounds of appeal from the Appellant mother. 

Final notes and updates 

While the efficacy of reconciliation therapy in restoring relationships is subject to debate, the case of A.M. v C.H. has a happy ending, for now at least. 

Further reporting has suggested that the youngest child and his father have since reconciled and the child is now living with the father.

 

This article was written by Summer Law Student, Ryan Chan.  For further information about this article or about any Family Law matters, contact Ross Macdonald.

This article is not intended to serve as a comprehensive treatment of the topic and is not legal advice. All legal matters are dealt with pursuant to their specific facts and circumstance. Nothing replaces retaining a qualified, competent lawyer.