Last Updated: 12th June 2009, 2:12am
Most fathers who've been denied access to their kids by demented ex-wives give up the fight rather than bankrupting themselves in lengthy court battles.
A Toronto surgeon had the money -- and the persistence -- to keep going. He won sole custody of his three daughters because his ex-wife spent more than a decade brainwashing the children to hate him.
She was subsequently fined $35,000 for contempt for ignoring repeated orders to get counselling. And on Tuesday, an Ontario judge imposed an even harsher punishment, ordering her to pay more than $250,000 of her ex-husband's court costs.
The father's expenses were "a litigant's worst nightmare," declared Ontario Superior Court Justice Faye McWatt. "She has acted deceitfully and in bad faith throughout the litigation."
If the mother in this case had been jailed the first time she ignored court-ordered access, everyone would have been better off.
The mother would have learned the courts don't take kindly to breaches of court orders, the father would have been able to bond with his children much earlier and court resources could have been used for more worthwhile purposes.
It's a pleasant surprise that the mother was actually punished; better late than never. Still, the father likely faces a huge challenge winning over his kids. Reversing the damage done by a parent who spends years alienating the children from the other spouse is a long-term process.
These girls, now aged 14, 11 and 10, may forever be damaged by their mother's sick, selfish actions -- behaviour McWatt bluntly described as "emotional abuse."
The couple split up in 1999 but K.D., as the mother is known, denied A.L., her ex, virtually any access. At the same time, she was over-protective of the kids to the point of infantilizing them. The oldest child wasn't even toilet-trained at the age of five. The middle girl was still using a bottle at night when she was three.
One psychologist warned as early as 2000 that the children were at "significant risk" of being alienated from the father.
A.L. gave up fighting for access for about six years because his ex warned that if he pressured her, he wouldn't get anything. But it didn't matter what he did. He still didn't get to see his daughters.
He only saw them for two weekends between 2000 and 2006. Then K.D. wouldn't even allow him to speak to them.
For a while, there was still a bond between father and daughters. Early on, one daughter would hug him and warn: "Don't tell mommy I did this."
By 2006, though, the bond seemed broken. The oldest showed no affection, the middle daughter stopped looking at him and the youngest only spoke to him in a monotone.
It's been 11 years since the release of the parliamentary report on child custody and access, with its dozens of recommendations, including the proposal that the terms "custody and access" be replaced with "shared parenting" in the Divorce Act.
But that assumes both parents are reasonable. In this case, the mother is clearly a nutbar who used her kids as weapons against her ex. Jail might have taught her a lesson a lot sooner.
A.L. is "exhausted but very, very happy. He has his children," says his lawyer, Harold Niman.
"This kind of case will hopefully send a message to those people who think it's OK to undermine a relationship between the children and the other parent."
I'm wiping some tears from my eyes. I've followed this case for some time and as a target parent I empathize greatly with this father. The descriptions of the impacts on the children you outline are what pushes my emotional buttons.
A parent who has walked in these shoes knows exactly how it feels to be rejected by your flesh and blood. I lost an arm as a 12 year old boy but the physical and emotional pain of that was and is nothing compared to the years of dealing with my emotionally abused children.
I recall so many occasions when my two youngest would skip down the driveway from the school bus as happy care free children and kiss me as I greeted them. On occasion such as when I managed to get the trampoline operational in early April 2005 and they saw it from the bus window they didn't just skip they ran down the driveway telling me I was the best dad in the world. It is at those transcendental moments you know how it feels to be like a rock star. Nothing is more precious or pure.
Compare that to being denigrated in a restaurant a year later by two children who had no guilt and no concern they were being over heard by other patrons. It was one of many occasions of hostility taught to them by a mother who hates me more than she loves her children.
I have written thousands of words in my blogs on this terrible abuse of children but I have yet to build a wall strong enough to hold back the tears when I read about its impact. The judges, just don't have the courage to deal with it until it is too late, if at all. It took 10 years in this case which is way too long but at least McWatt had the courage to do the right thing. Most of us don't have the resources this man had to draw attention to it so it makes a difference in court.
Thank you for adding to the body of knowledge people need to have to bring greater awareness of how terrible it is for children to be put in the position of choosing sides.
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