Situations involving child custody and access can be some of the toughest family law issues for people to navigate due to the emotional stress that comes with it. The emotional impact these situations can have are pushed further when the child or children state they do not want to have a relationship with one of their parents. A recent decision from the Supreme Court of British Columbia demonstrates how difficult these issues can be to resolve while also discussing the problems associated with an “overkill” of documentation.
The family’s background
The family had been working to resolve a number of issues through the courts, particularly as they related to the relationship between their 14-year-old daughter (J) (there is also a 10-year-old referred to as “C”) and the parents, specifically the estrangement between J and the mother.
At a 2018 trial before the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the court ordered the mother and J to undergo reconciliation counseling. A world trip over 2015 and 2016 either caused or increased tensions within the family. Members of the family regret certain things they did or said during these disagreements, which resulted in the relationship between the mother and J to badly deteriorate.
J experienced difficulty with depression in 2017, and she continued to fight with her mother. The mother stopped driving J to school and stopped making her school lunches, causing the two to grow further apart. In 2018 J expressed suicidal thoughts on two occasions, and was living with the father exclusively. However, both the mother and the father sought a long-term goal of shared parenting. The mother asked for the entire family to take part in reunification therapy as opposed to just the mother and J.
By the time the trial being discussed came around, there was no change in the relationship between J and the mother. The court summarized,
“The sad reality of this case, to repeat, is that J.’s refusal to have anything to do with her mother is unchanged. She is now closer to 15 than 14, at an age when her views ought to be taken into account. I am unable to find, in this difficult case, that there is the required change in circumstances that would permit me to vary the order so as to now have the whole family embark on reunification counselling. If I considered that I did have the power to vary the order, I would be most reluctant to exercise it at this stage in any event. The evidence taken as a whole demonstrates that both children have adjusted reasonably well to their move to Victoria. I am not satisfied that it is in the best interests of either of them to embark on reunification counselling at this formative time of adjustment in their lives. For that reason, even if I could find a change in circumstances, I would not accept it to be in C.’s best interests to have her embark on individual counselling at this stage, which was (the mother’s) alternative request to family reunification counselling.”
The mother also asked for the court to appoint a parenting coordinator, but the court determined it was too early in the process for that to occur. The main reason for this is that parenting coordinators exist largely to shield children from parental conflict, but the parents in this case largely get along as far as the matters before the court are concerned.
An overkill of documentation
The court also took time to note that the parents and their lawyers had filed a copious amount of documentation, writing “ In my respectful view, despite the fact that I heard capable submissions from both sides, both sides were disproportionate in the volume of their preparations, or at least their written presentations, for the application that was before me. J.M.C. filed four large volumes of law containing 62 authorities, and C.J.C. filed three large volumes containing 37 authorities. Thousands of pages of evidence were filed, and lengthy written arguments. In my view, applications of this nature need to become more distilled and proportionate.”
Both access and custody are complex legal issues with a very emotional element. Parents going through separation or divorce need good, experienced, and independent legal advice to help them navigate their new reality, work through the arrangements, and ensure that the best interests of their children are protected. At Borden Family Law, our team has been helping clients with separation, divorce, custody and access for more than 17 years. We have the experience and knowledge necessary to help you come to the most optimal arrangement. Call us at 905-576-6090, or contact us online. Ask about our flat fees and bundled packages.