A Supreme Court Judgment released November 20, 2014 pinpoints the dangers in “going it alone” (being self represented) when it comes to a parent relocating with the children.
The Honourable Justice Betton allowed the mother, known as D.G.T. (Ms. T.), to keep her two children in Arizona despite the father’s objections, despite the fact he had joint guardianship at the time, and despite a finding that she misled American and Canadian courts.
The mother, D.G.T. (Ms. T.), and father, J.D.S. (Mr. S.) were married in 1996. They had two children together, one born January 14, 1998 and the other born June 19, 2000. The parents entered into a separation agreement, which was filed with the Penticton Registry, in August 2002. The parties agreed, at that time, that the mother would have sole custody, but that they would both share joint guardianship of the children. The father worked as a long-haul truck driver, and his relationship with the children eroded by the mother over time.
The parenting coalition suffered from great animosity, and resulted in the mother’s active attempts to remove the father from the children’s lives. The court found that:
“By late 2012, Ms. T. had firmly adopted the view that Mr. S. was not part of the children’s lives and he did not deserve to see them. Ironically his motivation increased. Unfortunately, this led to conduct by Ms. T. that further alienated the children from Mr. S.”
Ms. T. applied for protection from the father to her and their children, as well as permission to dispense with his signature on any future orders, allowing her travel with her children without any say from the children’s father. She then purchased a home in Arizona with her new spouse.
Mr. S. tried to prevent the children from moving to Arizona, or alternatively, to have the courts establish his home as primary residence for the children before they left. He was self-represented in court. When the parties were before Madam Justice Hyslop in August 2013, they consented to an order on broad travel issues, and counseling for the children to lead to recommendations for a parenting schedule.
At no time during those proceedings did Ms. T. indicate that she intended to move to Arizona. Ms. T. then moved to Arizona with the children and initiated a proceedings in an Arizona court, to obtain a restraining order against the children’s father, without giving him any notice of the application.
The case was finally concluded, in Kelowna, after 10 days of trial in May and June of 2014. Justice Betton reviewed both the Arizona and Hyslop court transcripts and concluded that “She (Ms. T.) actively misled both courts.”
The court also found that the children’s mother neglected to consider the children’s best interests when it came to preserving their relationship with their biological father, and extended family. The court stated:
“Further, Ms. T. must show that reasonable and workable arrangements to preserve the relationship between the children and the children’s other guardians, persons who are entitled to contact with the children and other persons who have a significant role in the children’s lives were proposed. Again, she has failed to do so.”
Justice Betton determined that, despite Ms. T’s misrepresentations in court, and her alienation of the children’s father, it was in the children’s best interest to remain in Arizona.
His decision was based largely upon the children’s views that they were happy in their new home. The children, now aged 13 and 15, wished to remain in Arizona. Justice Bretton awarded special costs to Mr. S., and required that Ms. T. bear the costs of the Views of the Child reports completed in this case.
Had he hired a lawyer, rather than represented himself, Mr. S. could have had some of those costs recovered.
The judge decided that Mr. S.’s parenting time would be determined by an Arizonan counsellor for the children.
Jayne Embree M.A.
Divorce Coach and Child Specialist
Jayne holds a Masters in Psychology and is a highly experienced Divorce Coach and Child Specialist. Currently on sabbatical, Jayne is conducting research in the area of family dynamics and parental conflict.
Areas of Practice: Family law including separation, divorce, mediation, arbitration, child & spousal support, support variations, guardianship, parenting time, access, property division and more. Victoria BC