Flouting custody orders to cost mother $35,000
The Globe and Mail, KIRK MAKIN, JUSTICE REPORTER, April 3, 2009
A 42-year-old Toronto mother has been fined more than $35,000 for systematically alienating her three daughters from their father after the couple's marriage broke down.
In making the unusually harsh ruling, Madam Justice Faye McWatt of the Ontario Superior Court said that the woman - a chiropodist identified only as K.D. - blithely flouted a series of court orders aimed at restoring her children's relationship with their father.
"The respondent came to this court time and time again and consented to orders in question," Judge McWatt said. "Once she left this building, she ignored the orders, believing that she could escape scrutiny. The evidence of her contempts is overwhelming."
The ruling was the second stage of a decision Judge McWatt started last year when she ordered that the three girls be seized, sent to a parental alienation centre in the United States for deprogramming and prevented from communicating with their mother.
The children - aged 14, 11 and 9 - now live in the sole custody of their father.
"At the end of the day this was a case about a parent who did not care about what was best for her children," the father's lawyer, Harold Niman, said in an interview yesterday. "The contempt findings and penalties will hopefully make it clear to other like-minded parents that orders are to be taken seriously - and there are consequences to those parents who ignore them."
Soon after the couple met in 1993, K.D. became pregnant. While K.D. attempted to keep the father from seeing his first daughter, she eventually agreed to marry him. The couple soon split up, but had two more children during brief periods of reunification.
Judge McWatt categorically rejected the mother's assertion that she was not to blame for anything, and that the children had unilaterally refused to associate with their father, a 56-year-old vascular surgeon identified as A.L.
"There is really only one explanation for the children's attitudes," she said. "It is their mother's consistent negative influence on them from their early childhood about A.L., and her persistence in excluding them from his children's lives."
Judge McWatt noted that a total of six judges had issued orders in the long-running case - and virtually none of them were honoured.
As early as 2000, she said Madam Justice Mary Lou Benotto of the Ontario Superior Court had warned that "each day that goes by creates more and more ..sk that these children will be further alienated from their father and consequently permanently harmed."
However, K.D. carried right on cancelling sleepovers that were planned at the father's house, or vacation trips to New York, Quebec City and Niagara Falls. K.D. even refused to let him drive the children to school unless she was in the car as well, Judge McWatt said.
She said the children lost the capacity to make independent decisions about interacting with their father. In her 2008 order, Judge McWatt said K.D. must turn over the children's clothing, passports and possessions. K.D. was also ordered not to harass the children or go within 300 metres of them.
Judge McWatt described the mother as immature, evasive and completely lacking credibility. She said K.D. precipitated physical confrontations with her husband and berated him in front of the children. Eventually, the father was reduced to shouting good night to his children through a door at his estranged wife's home in the hope that they were there and could hear him.