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Custody/Access: Parental Alienation

Custody/Access: Parental Alienation

The recent decision Miller v Miller 2016 ONSC 5734, shows what can happen to parents who are found to be making unilateral decisions and/or alienating their children .  In this case, when the parties separated the mother left the matrimonial home with the children without the consent of the father.  The children were 13 and 7 years old. As a result of the mother’s unilateral action, the father was awarded temporary primary care of the children.

The Office of the Children’s Lawyer became involved and found the father was undermining the children’s relationship with their mother.  The mother brought a motion to change the residency of the children in light of the report of the OCL.  The mother was successful at the motion and the children’s primary residence was transferred to her.  The father was permitted alternate weekend access and week night access with the children.

The father brought another motion seeking temporary primary care of the children.  At the motion, the father led evidence that the 13 (almost 14) year old child:

  1. Wished to live with his father;
  2. Hated living with his mother;
  3. Asserted that his mother put him in a hammerlock on more than one occasion;
  4. Asserted that his mother had slapped him or hit him;
  5. Asserted that his mother pulled him by the leg off the coach when he refused to come to the table for dinner. That caused him to bump his head on the floor;
  6. Asserted that his mother insulted him and yelled at him; and
  7. Asserted that his mother insisted upon washing his hair while he is standing in the shower. He did not suggest that anything sexual occurred but that she exceeded appropriate boundaries.

The father also led evidence that the Children’s Aid Society worker strongly urged him to bring a motion seeking primary care.

Despite this, the judge declined to change the residency of the children, even though the eldest child was of the age where is views and preferences were to be given significant weight.  The judge had serious concerns that the children were being manipulated by the father in order to force a change in residency. The judge wrote in his endorsement that such behaviour, if found to have occurred, is unconscionable and may have long-term implications not only for the children but for the applicant’s future custody of or access with the children.

This decision highlights the serious consequences that parents may face if they are found making unilateral decisions or to be interfering with the relationship between the child(ren) and the other parent.

Erika MacLeod is a family and divorce lawyer practicing in Guelph, Fergus, Elora, Kitchener-Waterloo, Orangeville, and the surrounding areas.  If you require legal advice for your family or divorce matter contact her at

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