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The National Post

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A Travesty Punished

The Nation Post, January 22, 2005

In recent years, courts have gone out of their way to crack down on "deadbeat dads" -- or, in a few cases, "deadbeat moms" -- who fail to pay child support. That's a good thing: Any parent who effectively abandons his or her child deserves to be punished. But what about the flip-side -- loving, committed non-custodial parents, usually fathers, who are denied access to their children?

Such cases are all too common, and rarely is any penalty levelled against the guilty party selfishly denying their child a two-parent upbringing. So it was encouraging to learn this week that an Ontario mother who refused to allow her three children to see their father and deliberately turned them against him has paid the price.

At the time of Superior Court Justice Lorna Lee-Snowie's recent ruling, David Cooper, a 53-year-old Air Canada pilot, had not seen or spoken to his two youngest daughters since his ex-wife, Nancy Cooper, told him to leave the family home in 1998. That lack of contact does not appear to have been through any fault of his own: Judge Snowie has stated that Mr. Cooper "loves" his children, "has tried to be a good father" and "has been a good provider throughout their lives." But according to the judge, Ms. Cooper has sabotaged her children's relationship with him in a "knowing, wilful and deliberate" way.

Calling her behaviour "a travesty," Judge Snowie has fined Ms. Cooper $10,000 -- with another $15,000 and 30 days in jail to follow if she does not encourage her 16-year-old daughter, the youngest of the three children, to participate in family counselling aimed at helping her reconnect with her father.

Judge Snowie deserves full credit for adopting an unusually tough stance on what has come to be known as "parental alienation." But in most cases, the access denier would have gotten off with a slap on the wrist. Never before in this country has so large a fine been levelled for this offence -- and in most cases, parents denied the basic right to see their children just suffer in frustrated silence.

If there is any justice, the ruling against Ms. Cooper will set a precedent for future decisions. Even Read More ..portantly, it should encourage Read More ..n-custodial parents who have unjustly lost access to their kids to take their cases to court. We hope Read More ..dges will begin recognizing that parental rights deserve to be enforced just as much as parental responsibilities.

National Post 2005