Judge finds mom in contempt of court

2006_0806July-Aug060034 How many parents have been told that their child does not want to come for an access visit?

This can leave a parent feeling angry, disappointed, frustrated and helpless. It is an issue we hear a lot about in mediation.

A recent Superior Court of Justice decision provides some guidance to parents, lawyers and mediators about what they should do in these cases.

In Jackscha v Funnell, the 11 year old child told his dad on Christmas day that he wanted to stay at his mom’s, even though it was his scheduled time to be with his father.

Because there had been a history of conflict over access problems, the father brought a contempt motion against the mother.

Justice Gordon found the mother in contempt of court, a rare finding in such situations, particularly when the child is older.

But in this case the judge found that there was no evidence that the mom had tried to get the child to go to his father’s.

“Fostering a child’s positive relationship with the other parent is one of the most significant parenting duties a separated parent undertakes”, writes the judge.

In other words, it is not enough for a parent to simply assert that the child does not want to go.

At a minimum, there should be:

– a discussion with the child about why he does not want to go
– communication with the other parent with some discussion about how the problem might be solved
– some incentive and/or discipline for the child.

There was no immediate punishment for the mother. However, the judge ordered that, if there is another contempt, she will have to pay $3000.