Custody disputes tend to be the most contentious disputes in family law as it is extremely difficult for parents to accept that their access to their children will be limited after a separation.
We have all heard about amber alerts where one parent abducts a child and attempts to remove the child from the jurisdiction. We have also heard of cases where a parent takes their own life and the lives of their children.
Lawyers are required by the Family Law Act to ask their clients whether or not there has been any past or ongoing physical or psychological abuse.
If there has been a history of violence lawyers can recommend that the client obtain help from the police and/or report the matter to the Ministry of Children and Families to ensure that the children are protected.
The courts can also make orders preventing one parent from contacting the other parent and/or a child or there can be an order that any future access must be supervised. The court can also order that a child’s passport be retained in a safe place to prevent the child from being taken out of Canada. Psychological assessments of parents and children can be obtained in order to determine what is in the best interests of a child and to recommend which parent should primarily care for the child.
Unfortunately in some cases none of these safeguards are effective. Abductions and violence can and do happen without warning and court orders can be ignored. Even the most civilized custody battles are fraught with extremely intense emotions and every attempt needs to be made to reduce the conflict as much as possible.
Deborah A. Todd