child custody dispute Victoria Law court

Father finds justice at Victoria Law Courts

A Victoria father has been awarded costs, after a Judge found the behaviour of his ex-wife “reprehensible” in a child custody dispute.  The mother, L.A.L. repeatedly made sexual abuse accusations that the father, P.A.L. She claimed he started sexually abusing there their daughter when she was 2 year old.  Over the next 9 years, the mother engaged in a bitter child custody dispute. Frequently limiting the father’s access to their children.  She made repeated accusations and reports to the Ministry for Children and Families and the Police.  She also enlisted the advocacy of a local counselling centre to bolster her sexual abuse claims throughout the child custody dispute.

However, when this case finally came to trial, the Judge found the mother’s evidence suspect, and wholly unreliable.  L.A.L. denied her role in refusing the father parenting time with the child. She rejected any evidence supportive of the father.  This was the case even when the positive reports about P.A.L.s parenting was provided by objective experts.

In his July 28, 2016 judgement, The Honourable Justice Punnett stated: “In light of my findings quoted above I am satisfied that the conduct of the defendant was reprehensible, egregious and deserving of reproof or rebuke.  She used unsupported and unproven allegations of sexual abuse over a period of nine years to manipulate the Ministry of Children and Families as well as other third parties to prevent the plaintiff from being a meaningful part of his children’s lives.  The allegations were without merit.  In addition she used those allegations to frustrate the efforts of the plaintiff through the court system to gain parenting time with his children.”

What are “costs“?

The court may award costs to compensate the successful party for disbursements (out-of-pocket expenses) paid during the legal action, plus time spent, or legal fees relating to the action.  Costs may be awarded in a Family Law Case, when the party has “substantial success of about 75% or better” (Mr. Justice Bouck in Fotheringham).

The mother continued to have the child seen by a counsellor at the Victoria Child Abuse Prevention & Counselling Centre despite the father’s objections She continued even after the Court raising concerns about the counselling in a prior interim application.  In that application, the Court expressed concern about the Counsellor’s report, because the supposed “expert report” was ruled to be inadmissible.

What are expert reports in child custody disputes?

An expert report is written by an Expert Witness in the field. Experts must have special training, education, and experience. Their role is to assist the court. In this case, the other party tried to enlist the experts as an advocate for her position.  It is not unusual, in a high conflict child custody dispute, for parents’ to solicit support for their point of view from counsellors or other service providers.

This Judge ordered equal parenting time for both parents, on a weekly basis.  He also ruled that, in the event the parents were unable to agree on decisions for the child, that the father would have the right to make the decision.

The mother was ordered to pay for the father’s share of one Psychologist’s (Dr. Yuille) report, and the cost of another Psychologist’s (Dr. Stangland) report.  She was also found responsible for “special costs” which are used as a kind of punishment for poor conduct resulting in raising the other party’s legal costs.

The B.C. Supreme Court website explains further about costs and how to apply for them.

The Ministry for Children and Families investigate any concerns that a child may be at risk.  If you think a child or youth under 19 years of age is being abused or neglected, call 1 800 663-9122 at any time of the day or night.  When there is a report of possible abuse, Social Workers assess the child and family’s risk.  Possible responses include:  offering the family support services, referral of the child or family to a community service, closing of the file, or placing the child with a family member or foster parent.

Jayne Embree holds a Masters in Psychology and is a highly experienced Divorce Coach and Child Specialist. She is currently working with the Administrative Department of Butterfield Law.