Issues around child custody and access can be some of the most difficult to work through for parents going through a separation or divorce. When a relationship between parents that isn’t necessarily trustworthy or contains animosity is thrown into the mix, it’s natural for tension and issues to arise. This is what we saw in a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice where a mother asked the court to find a father in contempt of a previous order.
The family’s parenting order
The parties were married in 2004 and separated in 2008, one year after their child was born. A final order was granted on December 3, 2013. This order provided that the mother would have sole custody with primary residence of the child, while the father would have access every other weekend as well as two non-consecutive weeks of access during the summer.
The order is obeyed for years
There were no issues for a number of years after the order was issued. The mother remarried and she was planning to move with her new partner (“the husband”) so he could pursue his career with the Ontario Provincial Police. The father had no objection to that. While COVID-19 interrupted their summer plans, it was agreed that the father would have a week of access from July 24 to July 31.
The mother begins to get concerned
The mother stated that she began to become concerned on July 27 when she received an alert that her son’s email password was changed and that the father’s phone number replaced it as the recovery contact for the account. She was also concerned that the child was not having regular FaceTime calls with her.
The husband visited the father’s home, but left without the child (the scheduled visit was not yet over). The child had originally told the husband he wanted to go home with him, but the father came back outside a short time after to say the child had changed his mind. The police were called and performed a wellness check on the child.
The parents each offer a differing account of the afternoon in question as well as the child’s feelings at that point.
The visitation period ends but the child is not returned home
When the child still did not return home after the scheduled visit with the father had ended, the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa was called. They talked to all the parties involved and ultimately found that the child wished to stay with the father and suggested to the mother that she respect his wishes and let the child stay for one more week.
The police were eventually called by the mother, who reported that the child did not want to return home to the mother because of an argument they had. The child told the police that he would return home on August 9. That date came and went and the child was still with the father.
The court was critical of the father’s failure to take formal steps to adjust the parenting schedule and to unilaterally make decisions about keeping him for longer than the parties agreed to. The court found the father in contempt of that part of the order, and ordered the child to be returned to the mother’s care immediately.
Contact the experienced family law lawyers at Gelman & Associates to learn how we can protect your custody and access rights. We strive to provide you with the information and resources necessary to make informed decisions about family law matters. To help you maintain positive mental health during a difficult period, we also offer our clients a free consultation with a psychological professional.
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