I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Globe & Mail ~ Justice Brownstone on parental alienation

Globe & Mail

Live, Wednesday

Justice Brownstone on parental alienation

Online discussion

"Several recent court cases have focused on the serious problem of parental alienation," Justice Harvey P. Brownstone wrote Saturday in his Globe essay on what he described as "a prevalent concern in high-conflict custody litigation."

He wrote: "Mental-health professionals debate the definition of parental alienation, and whether it is a clinical 'syndrome,' but few would disagree that the problem exists.

"In simple terms, 'parental alienation' refers to a parent's persistent campaign of denigrating the other parent to their child (sometimes called 'brainwashing' or 'poisoning' the child against the other parent), which causes the child to unjustifiably reject the other parent.

"Alienating conduct can take many forms: badmouthing the other parent's personality and conduct; portraying the other parent as dangerous, abusive or as having abandoned or not loving the child; withdrawing love and affection from a child who expresses positive feelings about the other parent; and denying the other parent contact with the child.

"While some mean by 'parental alienation' only the misconduct of custodial parents, we judges often see high-conflict cases where both parents badmouth each other to the children, cruelly placing them in conflicts of loyalty. Moreover, such conduct is not in the exclusive domain of mothers or fathers; both engage in it.

"In my view, the term 'parental alienation' incorrectly identifies the target parent as the victim.

"The true victims are the children, who are innocent in parental break-ups. Every child has a right to enjoy a loving relationship with both parents. Since it is the child's right that is being violated by a parent's alienating behaviour, it is the child who is being alienated from the other parent.

"However you name it, there is no doubt that children are at risk of emotional harm when they become weapons, pawns and spies for bitter, angry, vengeance-seeking parents who turn custody disputes into battles for power and control — battles that often focus entirely on the parents' needs and not at all on the children's."

"There is widespread dissatisfaction among parents with the family justice system. Among the most angry are non-custodial parents desperately seeking to enforce access to their children.

"Judges hear daily from heartbroken parents who say that the legal system vigorously enforces child support but does not care about enforcing access. I see their point, but it troubles me when people liken the enforcement of a parent-child relationship to the collection of a debt.

"Children are not pieces of property that can be 'seized' or 'garnisheed. They are vulnerable human beings.

"Decisions affecting a child's emotional well-being must be carefully made, always with a view to making a child's life better, not worse . . .

Justice Brownstone concludes: "Parents can have new partners, but no child gets a second childhood.

"Children learn about relationships and parenting from observing their own parents. No one should forget this."

Whether you agree or not, it's a provocative essay, so we at globeandmail.com are pleased that Justice Brownstone will be online Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. ET.

Join the Conversation at that time or submit a question in advance.

Your questions and Justice Brownstone's answers will appear at the bottom of this page when the discussion begins.

When Justice Brownstone was appointed to the bench in Ontario in 1985, he came with a rich understanding of the family law area.

After graduating from Queen's University in 1980, he worked as a legal aid lawyer and later joined the Ontario Legal Aid research facility, where he focused on family law.

He later joined the Minister of the Attorney-General as director of the Family Support Plan, a branch which is responsible for administering child support and spousal custody orders.

Editor's Note: globeandmail.com editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.

Darren Yourk, editor, globeandmail.com: Thanks so much for joining us today Justice Brownstone. We have plenty of reader questions, so we'll get right to it.

John Dunn from Ottawa Canada writes: What can parents do when those engaging in parental alienation are the child protection authorities and/or their staff members as opposed to actual parents?

Justice Brownstone: Child protection agencies have a statutory mandate to intervene to protect children from abuse or neglect. It is not uncommon for parents against whom a children's aid society has commenced court action, to feel that the society is "taking sides" for against one parent or other relative. It is important for parents involved in such court proceedings to be represented by legal counsel, who can advocate on their behalf. In addition, the court in most jurisdictions can appoint legal counsel for the child. If alienation is truly occurring by reason of the society's actions (as opposed to one unhappy parent's subjective opinion that it is occurring), the child's lawyer will generally take appropriate steps to bring this concern to the attention of the court.

Denis Pakkala from St. Catharines Canada writes: As a Professional Engineer providing services to the Public in Ontario, I understand full well the importance of Public Accountability and Transparency in serving the public. Much of the criticism of the Family Law Courts, Judges and Lawyers is often anecdotal and a result of public debate. Public Accountability and Transparency of the Law Society is severely lacking and for Judges it is essentially non-existent. How do you propose to maintain public confidence in the Family Law Courts without any real improvements in public accountability or transparency?

Justice Brownstone: I am not clear on why you believe that the justice system is not accountable or transparent? Court proceedings (except child protection proceedings) are open to the public, and transcripts of all court proceedings are available. Judges' decisions are all appealable. The Judicial Council receives and adjudicates all complaints of judicial misconduct. What more do you want?

A Germain from Halifax Canada writes: My question has to do with unrepresented (as opposed to self-represented) litigants. Two years ago after leaving an emotionally abusive marriage I won the right to move with our infant son to a different province. Since then my ex-husband has taken every opportunity to go to court and bring legal actions against me. My financial resources are exhausted and I am faced with the prospect of representing myself in a possible trial that will finalize our divorce and come to some sort of access arrangement. I earn a decent living and am able to provide for my son without his father contributing child support (I have not asked for it because he must pay to come visit our son, which he now does on a fairly regular basis after disappearing from our lives for a number of months). However I can no longer afford the crippling costs of litigation. I would like to make access arrangements between ourselves but if I do not agree to every single thing my ex demands, he insists on running to the courts - and he appears to have unlimited funds to pay his lawyer's fees. This all takes place in the province of my ex's residence, on the opposite side of the country, which makes things that much more difficult for me. My question is two-fold: Is it possible for me to get a fair hearing at any upcoming trial if I represent myself opposite my ex's lawyer, and is there anything that is being done about the larger problem of people not being able to afford legal advice and access justice? I must say right now it seems to me that justice is only available to those who are able to pay for it.

Justice Brownstone: You are absolutely correct that the unaffordability of legal counsel is a major crisis. Every day the courts are flooded with people who sincerely want a lawyer to represent them, but genuinely cannot afford it, and they are not eligible for Legal Aid. In your situation, where you are conducting litigation in a different jurisdiction from where you live, this can be extremely challenging if not impossible without a lawyer. Can you get a fair hearing without a lawyer when the other side has a lawyer? Absolutely yes. Fairness is the hallmark of every judge's conduct and decision-making, and does not depend on whether or not a party is represented by counsel. In fact, judges are regularly told by represented litigants (and even sometimes by lawyers) that we bend over too far backwards to ensure that unrepresented litigants receive a fair hearing. But remember: the court's decisions are based on the EVIDENCE - and if you don't have a lawyer to guide you in terms of collecting and presenting the necessary evidence to support your position, the judge will not be in a position to make the best possible decision. So it is very important to AT LEAST have a consultation with a family law lawyer, even if you can't afford a lawyer to handle your entire case. You should also consider out-of-court resolutions such as mediation, and a family law lawyer will be able to tell you whether your situation is suitable for mediation. In the end, you're going to have to take a good hard look at the changes your child's father is asking for, and decide whether they're worth the battle. As I tell parents all the time, not every battle is worth waging.

M. Gayle from Canada writes: What are your views in cases where domestic violence is present and the abusive parent uses the legal process parental alienation syndrome against the responsible parent? Do you believe in cases where domestic violence is present that the 'friendly parent' rule should apply?

Justice Brownstone: don't know what you mean by the "friendly parent" rule. The only rule that applies in custody and access cases is "the best interests of the child". Domestic violence presents a difficult challenge for separated parents, because even though in most cases the violence has come to an end when the parties ceased cohabitation, there is generally a restraining order in place for some time following separation — and this makes it sometimes impossible for the parties to communicate (even about the children) without a third party intermediary. A parent who has been victimized by domestic violence may believe that the abusive parent should have nothing to do with the child, especially if the child witnessed the violence. However, as I discuss in Tug of War, it is not always the case that a parent who has been abusive will be denied access. Many people who have been abusive towards a partner have actually demonstrated good parenting skills once cohabitation ceased. Every parent who is being denied access will be inclined to accuse the custodial parent of engaging in parental alienation. Some parents who are filled with hatred for the other parent (whether there was abuse or not) are not even aware of how their conduct in front of the child can convey a clear message to the child that he/she should not have a relationship with the other parent. That's why counselling is so important. A parent who has suffered abuse at the hands of his/her ex-partner, needs to distinguish between the ex-partner as a partner and the ex-partner as a parent.

Kris Zegota from Cookstown Canada writes: Why doesn't the judicial system look at the whole picture. No money = no kids? There is no onus on the party that receives the support, to obey the court order, as she/he knows that it takes a tremendous amount of time and money to process contempt of court order. Why can't a judge make precedent, and say no money needs to be paid, if the children are alienated by a parent. That would be fair, and I know that we do not live in a common sense world.

Justice Brownstone: Take a look at my article in last Saturday's Globe and Mail. Since you're such a fan of using common sense, here's some for you: It's the CHILD'S right to be supported financially. It's the CHILD'S right to have a relationship with both parents. If one of those rights is being denied (the right to see a parent), it is NOT fair to the child to deprive him/her of another right (the right to be supported). Two wrongs don't make a right. Children are not at fault when a parent alienates them from the other parent. So we don't punish them by cutting them off financially. BUT… once a child becomes a legal adult, the situation could be different. An adult child seeking to be supported through university may find him/herself cut off if he/she refuses to be in contact with a parent who has been wrongly alienated.

Heather Reynolds from Kitchener Canada writes: Thank you for providing the stimulus for discussion in this important area. Your comment, suggesting that children learn 'relationship' from their parents, is true to the 'nth degree! To this end, it is my hope that powerful educators and people developing and implementing family law policies, like yourself, will be always mindful of the emotional needs of the child. We should also remember that childhood emotions fuel adult behaviour and unresolved and misdirected anger is a bad thing all around. Does the court system have any method for openly dealing with this issue? Parental alienation operates within the context of our (Canadian) system of law and governance and we have voted for a certain moral standard based on our values. That being said, we are a multi-cultural society and some recent immigrants are leaving countries with corrupt governing, a wretchedly poor standard of living where children and women are literally seen as property. With this is mind, we add another layer to understanding how to address this issue. Do you think the court provides enough cultural interpretation support to law makers and implementers?

Justice Brownstone: You've raised some excellent concerns, which most people working in the family justice system share. Many of our litigants are new to Canada, and come from countries with different customs and family values. The diversity of our population is one of our great strengths as a nation, and we all have much to learn from each other as we come together as a community. The law in this country must be respected by all who come here, and by and large I have found that most new Canadians I have had the pleasure of welcoming to my courtroom have been willing and eager to learn what their rights and obligations are. In determining the best interests of children, courts are mindful of the importance that language, culture, religion and family traditions play in keeping children connected to their heritage. There is room for all of that, and more, when separated parents put their personal differences and hostilities aside to give their children two loving and peaceful homes.

Colin Smith from Toronto Canada writes: You mention in your book that physical, emotional and economic stability are important factors in deciding the future care of the children. How does the Court ascertain the emotional aspects of each parent - such as maturity - since the financial and physical aspects are more easily measured? How does that influence the Court in making its decisions?

Justice Brownstone: Believe me, maturity (or the lack of it) is easy to recognize in a person. You can tell someone's maturity level pretty quickly once they open their mouth!

Dennis Gerard from Whitehorse Canada writes: For the sake of the children, can the court not enforce counselling for both parents? It seems like that would provide some protection to the children.

Justice Brownstone: I have generally found that people only benefit from counselling if they genuinely want it. You can force a person to go to counselling, but if he/she isn't open to gaining some valuable insight into him/herself, it will probably not work. It is more common In child protection cases than in custody/access cases, for parents to be ordered to participate in counselling programs.

Robert Samery from Toronto writes: Parental Alienation is now considered to be a common form of abuse predominantly used in separation/divorce cases. What kind of training is currently being provided to judges and lawyers on ways to identify and remedy the causes and consequences of that abuse?

Justice Brownstone: In most jurisdictions, family court judges receive up to 3 weeks of continuing education annually, and we frequently get presentations from mental health professionals about many issues, including the harmful effects caused to children by parental conflict. There are also many continuing education programs offered to lawyers by the Bar Association and the Law Society — and believe me, one of the most prevalent themes in those programs is how to deal with high-conflict parents.

John Magee from Burlington Canada writes: My husband is an alienated parent from his first marriage. We agree that lawyers and court battles are not what is best for the family unit. Most people don't have money for lawyers and court costs anyway. But the Alienating parent otherwise has no accountability for anything they say or do, short of causing bruises. J.Michael Bone & Michael R.Walsh wrote an article on the 4 criteria in assessing PA. One very relevant point made for our situation is the costly mistake of using a counsellor that is not properly educated, or even aware of PAS. Unwittingly, this counsellor made critical decisions that actually supported and encouraged his ex-wife's agenda and caused even more damage. CAS has made it very clear that despite their awareness of his ex-wife's intent to alienate (she has involved CAS 3 times), that they deal with physical abuse; that our only option is to see a lawyer. How hard would it be to change CAS format to start recognizing unhealthy animosity between parents as a reason for intervention. A counsellor specifically trained in PAS assesses each member of the family and makes recommendations for the child's best interest? Legally, my husband can only stand back and watch his daughters bear the emotional burden of their mothers' resentment and hostility and watch them systematically become detached and hostile towards him. Morally, to spare them from any more tug-of-war games, he has no option in even defending himself from any amount of denigration his ex-wife chooses to use to influence them. My husband has not seen his own daughters in almost 3 years despite his constant attempts to communicate. Your articles bring about necessary awareness, but WE need more relevant information that is going the help US regain access to our children. WE need a central hub where we can create one expansive voice to make changes that help our children. WE need help to do this. Is any of this happening?

Justice Brownstone: Your understanding of the role of CAS is mistaken. "Emotional harm" and "risk of emotional harm" are included in the statutory definition of "child in need of protection" in the Ontario Child and Family Services Act, and the CAS intervenes regularly in such cases. At the court where I preside in Toronto, we routinely refer cases to the CAS (on top of all of the cases referred to them by teachers, doctors, counsellors, and of course, parents). So you are definitely not correct in thinking that the CAS will only deal with cases of physical abuse. In my experience, when a parent complains to the CAS about a risk of emotional harm to children because of parental alienation, the CAS will investigate and determine whether the expressed concerns are valid. Where the CAS decides not to intervene, that is usually because they've determined that there are no protection concerns in the child's home. This of course is very upsetting to the complaining parent, but it should be reassuring to know that an objective professional (a trained social worker) employed by the government to ensure the safety of children, has made a determination that the child is not suffering harm. Your husband should consult a family law lawyer who can review all of the circumstances in his situation, and advise him as to whether court action would be appropriate.

Darren Yourk, editor, globeandmail.com: That's all the time we have for questions this afternoon. Thanks to Justice Brownstone for joining us, and thanks to all the readers who sent it questions. Any closing thoughts?

Justice Brownstone: I continue to be overjoyed and overwhelmed by the public response to Tug of War, which became a national best seller and went into second printing only six weeks after being released. I have received hundreds of letters from parents who were convinced by the book to shift their attitudes and behaviours towards each other, and adopt a non-adversarial approach to the task of devising post-separation parenting plans for their children. Many family law lawyers across the country are now routinely requiring clients to read Tug of War, to help them understand what to expect - and not expect - from the justice system. Although I remain firmly convinced that going to family court to resolve parenting disputes should be a last resort for most couples, I am also painfully aware that for many parents — for a variety of reasons — their only hope of getting any decisions made at all about their children's lives, is to go to court. It is indisputable that there is great dissatisfaction with the family justice system, which most people feel tends to aggravate and intensify hostilities rather than induce peace-making between parents. I am glad that Tug of War and the media attention it has engendered have helped to put family justice issues on the front burners of the public consciousness.

Justice Brownstone on parental alienation

Online discussion

Read the full article

This conversation is fully-moderated What is moderation?

  1. J Smart from Canada writes: My daughter's father took me to court to settle the issue of custody and access after three years of civil and amical separtation. I was given full custody and his request for 50/50 access was rejected by the judge who cited the fact that he had not provided any financial support (and still doesn't 10 years on...) to the child. I took the high road and did not denegrate my daughter's father, however he took every opportunity to critisize me to her. She once said to me that the nasty (untrue and frankly petty) things he said about me were making her hate him. He made his own bed and now they are estranged. It is sad but it was his choice. Please parents, resist the urge to use your children as spies, as hard as it may be. It will pay off in the end, hopefully better than for my daughter.
  2. Colin Smith from Toronto, Canada writes: Your Honour, You mention in your book that physical, emotional and economic stability are important factors in deciding the future care of the children. How does the Court ascertain the emotional aspects of each parent - such as maturity - since the financial and physical aspects are more easily measured? How does that influence the Court in making its decisions?
  3. M. Gayle from Canada writes: What are your views in cases where domestic violence is present and the abusive parent uses the legal process & parental alienation syndrome against the responsible parent? Do you believe in cases where domestic violence is present that the 'friendly parent' rule should apply?
  4. Dennis Gerard from Whitehorse, Canada writes: For the sake of the children, can the court not enforce counseling for both parents? It seems like that would provide some protection to the children.
  5. Robert Samery from Toronto, writes: Parental Alienation is now considered to be a common form of abuse predominantly used in separation/divorce cases. What kind of training is currently being provided to judges and lawyers on ways to identify and remedy the causes and consequences of that abuse?
  6. Brad Nelson from Victoria, Canada writes: Justice Brownstone makes the point that children have a right (a) to be financially supported, and (b) to have a relationship with both parents. In BC, the province ensures the first right is being met, through the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program. However, there is no monitoring or enforcement system for the second right. At a minimum, could families not be assigned an 'Access Officer' that parents could communicate with in cases where access is being denied? It may be difficult/impossible for such an officer to enforce access, but they could at least collect information that could be supplied to the court should legal intervention be required. They could also recommend counselling when necessary. They could provide important statistics to the medical/legal system about the prevalence of parental alientation. Finally, they would serve as a tangible evidence to alienating parents that our society values the contributions of both parents to a child's well being. My ex-spouse does not get that last point.
  7. Kris Zegota from Cookstown, Canada writes: Thank you Judge, I understand your point of view. Most parents that use alienation tactics, do not need the $$ from the other parent, as we have seen in our case. On one hand how many cases do you see a dad trying to come to terms of 'a living death' not knowing where, what and are his children alive. And then on the other hand you have FRO going after the targeted parent who is trying just to survive, put a roof over his head, and try to put food in his stomach. But Canada's laws, states that it is ok for the target parent to have nothing, but make sure you send us your money, because we only deal with that issue. It is a separate issue. Ask any Dad, grandparent, and they will tell you that Canada's marine laws need to be updated from the 1800's, and that money, kids, love, nuturing 50% are all separate issues. Judge, we live in a country that gives away our money to outside countries, have people protesting for outside causes for days, but when will the Judical system and Canada learn to look after their own, equally.
  8. Roger Townsend from A Disgusted Canadian Citizen, Canada writes: Your Honour, If pilots and police require psychological screening prior to hiring, do you agree that judicial candidates should undergo psychological screening prior to making the short list for consideration? Do Regional Senior administrative judges have the authority to accept public complaints and, Do Regional Senior administrative judges have ANY power to suspend a judge when and if serious allegations backed up by solid evidence are provided to that supervisory judge.
  9. Georgie Rocolas from Misandry-town, Canada writes: Judge, could you comment on the rapid increase in co-habitation arrangements and the increasing disrespect and repugnance directed towards the legal community and whether this is connected to the statistical reality that Family Court separates men from their children 90% of the time and men from their finances 99% of the time?
  10. Mark K from Canada writes: Parental Alienation Syndrome is not recognized as a disorder by the APA and is seen as having an insufficient research and evidence base by many. Given that it is the parental behaviour that is active problem in high conflict cases, what is the relationship with this to whether or not parental alienation is truly a syndrome or disorder when you hear evidence about Parental Alienation?
  11. Denis Pakkala from St. Catharines, Canada writes: Although the Children's Law Reform Act states that the joint custody is the preferred outcome, this is not the same as the Presumption of Equal Shared Parenting. A parent who is the primary caregiver (usually the Mother) can create additional arguments and conflict to scuttle any possibility of Joint Custody or Shared Parenting. Even if it is convincingly proven that the vindictive primary caregiver (usually the Mother) has engaged in an abusive campaign of parental conflict, Family Law Case Precedent will award full custody to the vindictive primary caregiver every time. In summary, the Ontario Family Law Courts are responsible for enabling and encouraging further parental conflict, rather than helping parents who want to be fully involved with their children. My question to you is how can the Family Law Courts change to reduce parental conflict and to help non-custodial parents who at the receiving end of that conflict and have no recourse? I would suggest that mandatory mediation reporting to the courts and mandatory parental counselling should become more common in high conflict cases.
  12. Roger Townsend from A Disgusted Canadian Citizen, Canada writes: How do you justify Ontario spending on the Family Responsibility Office while having no Office for the enforcement of access?
  13. Roger Townsend from Canada writes: Do you agree that it is a flagrant abuse of Judicial authority for an Ontario Judge to order security for costs and or orders for costs when it is obvious that the order will permanently terminate a child's right to a relationship with their father?
  14. Roger Townsend from A Disgusted Canadian Citizen, Canada writes: When only 5% of cases on the trial list actually go to trial, and an almost equal number are ended by motions for 'summary judgment' would you agree that this is a symptom that the administration of the courts are improperly 'disposing of cases'?
  15. Dennis Gerard from Whitehorse, Canada writes: Why wait until a child needs protection until the court forces some kind of emotional protection? I would have to disagree that a judge is going to be able to tell the emotional background though a few hours on a witness stand. I agree with Colin Smith that emotional aspects or emotional abuse is a very difficult thing to measure in the long term health of a child.
  16. John Magee from Burlington, Canada writes: My husband is an alienated parent from his first marriage. We agree that lawyers and court battles are not what is best for the family unit. Most people don't have money for lawyers and court costs anyway. But the Alienating parent otherwise has no accountability for anything they say or do, short of causing bruises. J.Michael Bone & Michael R.Walsh wrote an article on the 4 criteria in assessing PA. One very relevant point made for our situation is the costly mistake of using a counselor that is not properly educated, or even aware of PAS. Unwittingly, this couselor made critical dicisions that actually supported and encouraged his ex-wife's agenda and caused even more damage. CAS has made it very clear that despite their awarness of his ex-wife's intent to alienate (she has involved CAS 3 times), that they deal with physical abuse; that our only option is to see a lawyer. How hard would it be to change CAS format to start recognizing unhealthy animosity between parents as a reason for intervention. A counselor specifically trained in PAS assesses each member of the family and makes recommendations for the child's best interest? Legally, my husband can only stand back and watch his daughters bear the emotional burden of their mothers' resentment and hostility and watch them systematically become detached and hostile towards him. Morally, to spare them from any more tug-of-war games, he has no option in even defending himself from any amount of denigration his ex-wife chooses to use to influence them. My husband has not seen his own daughters in almost 3 years despite his constant attempts to communicate. Your articles bring about necessary awarness, but WE need more relevant information that is going the help US regain access to our children. WE need a central hub where we can create one expansive voice to make changes that help our children. WE need help to do this. Is any of this happening? This should be the focus of your next article.
  17. Denis Pakkala from St. Catharines, Canada writes: First I have a comment: As a victim of parental alienation, domestic violence and abuse, I find Judge Harry Brownstone's assertion that a parent is not a victim of parental alienation is very naive. Parental alientation, parental conflict and the adversarial nature of Family Law courts have had a dramatic effect on my own mental health and quality of life. My children and I are both victims of Parental Alienation and the lack of any meaningful action by the Family Law Courts. My Question: Although the Children's Law Reform Act states that the joint custody is the preferred outcome, this is not the same as the Presumption of Equal Shared Parenting. A parent who is the primary caregiver (usually the Mother) can create additional arguments and conflict to scuttle any possibility of Joint Custody or Shared Parenting. Even if it is convincingly proven that the vindictive primary caregiver (usually the Mother) has engaged in an abusive campaign of parental conflict, Family Law Case Precedent will award full custody to the vindictive primary caregiver every time. In summary, the Ontario Family Law Courts are responsible for enabling and encouraging further parental conflict, rather than helping parents who want to be fully involved with their children. Mr. Brownstone, my question to you is how can the Family Law Courts change to reduce parental conflict and to help non-custodial parents who at the receiving end of that conflict and have no recourse? I would suggest that mandatory mediation reporting to the courts and mandatory parental counselling should become more common in high conflict case.
  18. Roger Townsend from A Disgusted Canadian Citizen, Canada writes: Your honour, On behalf of all the participants, I would like to thank you for 'putting family justice issues on the front burners of the public consciousness.' I would respectfully like to point out that the fathers of Ontario have been held over the burners of the judiciary and and would probably prefer to be burnt alive than suffer the pain and anguish of parental alienation, caused directly, not by a parent, but by the underbelly of the judiciary who are prepared to flagrantly abuse their power for reasons that have nothing to do with the best interests of children. Your Honour acknowledges the severe public dissatisfaction with the Family Court system. Does your Honour recognize that the Ontario Judiciary has an improper, 'code of silence' similar to that of criminals that effectively encourages the judiciary to 'bury complaints' rather than go on the record that another judge's orders were 'improper'? If the Ontario Judiciary has any sincere and genuine willingness to deal with the problem of Corrupt Judges, I am sure there are no end of volunteers including myself who would be willing to help provide valuable feedback and input to the judicial ongoing education program.
  19. Denis Pakkala from St. Catharines, Canada writes: Although the Children's Law Reform Act states that the joint custody is the preferred outcome, this is not the same as the Presumption of Equal Shared Parenting. A parent who is the primary caregiver (usually the Mother) can create additional arguments and conflict to scuttle any possibility of Joint Custody or Shared Parenting. Even if it is convincingly proven that the vindictive primary caregiver (usually the Mother) has engaged in an abusive campaign of parental conflict, Family Law Case Precedent will award full custody to the vindictive primary caregiver every time. In summary, the Ontario Family Law Courts are responsible for enabling and encouraging further parental conflict, rather than helping parents who want to be fully involved with their children. My question to you is how can the Family Law Courts change to reduce parental conflict and to help non-custodial parents who at the receiving end of that conflict and have no recourse? I would suggest that mandatory mediation reporting to the courts and mandatory parental counselling should become more common in high conflict cases.
  20. Sask Resident from Regina, Canada writes: Since the courts have decided that adults are still children in a divorce, why not have the child support go directly to the child over 18 so the other parent cannot use the 'payments' to convince the child over 18 to stay at home? Would that not be in the best interest of the 'child'.
  21. Blue Guy from Canada writes: Justice Brownstone, I am a divorced and since re-married father of a 7 year old boy who is in a 50-50 joint parent situation since he was very young. My ex-wife and I split when he was a young child. She now has a partner who has been with her for since before we seperated. For the most part things have worked over the years. We are now seeing a councellor to settle some issues that continue to create conflict. All though I have not said it aloud or directly to her, I fear that her actions are in bordering on 'alienating behavior' and that if we do not address it now it will become worse. She expects me to defer to her and her partner when he is not with me and has actually asked for me to not be near him in the locker room which is unacceptable. She has actually lashed out at me when all I have tried to do is be a good parent and say hello to him after a game. She rarely answers the phone when I do call the house and asks me why I want to speak with him. Most troubling is that at events when we are all present he displays an openess towards her when he is at my house yet is somewhat guarded when I see him at events when he is at her home. I have been told that this is not a concern because obviously he feels comfortable expressing his love to her when I have him with me. Nonetheless, it is troubling. If I were to escalate this beyond the conuncelling to a mediation, I am concerned. I am not interested in changing the 50-50, I love my boy too much to do that to him. But I do want her to acknowledge that as his father it is not right to expect me to step aside, or not call or continue to have this behaviour impact him. She even had my son refer to her partner's as grandparents long before they moved in together. I am not a non-custodial parent yet am concerned. What advice do you have for my wife and myself to live in peace with this woman?
  22. dick brown from missy, Canada writes: Denis...100% correct. The only way to change any of this is to lobby politicians. Brownstone has to be by-passed as he is a tiny cog in the divorce industry. Effective legislation would essentially eliminate 99% of the requirement of lawyers. 1. Automatic pre-nups written into law. No need to go to see a lawyers. Eg. You get married, this is what happens upon divorce. 50-50 custody is the starting point.
  23. AH Razorwit from Belleville, Canada writes: This is a target parent speaking. The justice system did not help me in any way shape or form. I have done everything including suffering supervised access to ensure my son has a father. My ex used the system including unsubstantiated accusations of abuse that were leveled at strategic intervals in the custody process. All we subsequently found to be frivolous but, the damage was already done. My son did not understand why we could not go to the park together without having someone from social services with us at all times...the court in it's infinite wisdom chose to centure me just in case the allegations were true. Even when I pointed out to the judge in the final stretch that the allegations served only to restrict access to my son and prolong the custody battle making it obvious to my son that there had to be something wrong with me, he simply shrugged it off and said there was nothing he could do. I say that this is baloney! Judges have the power to investigate and find the truth. However, they do not use it effectively at all. If alienation is suspected, every judge should do their flat out best to find the truth and correct the situation for the sake of the child. This is not what the system is set up to do however. I would like to hear what Justice Brownstone has to say about this fact...
  24. John Piercy from Canada writes: Justice Brownstone thank you for participating in this conversation . My question to you ! Do you favour Joint Custody ? Im a single 53 yr old man who had a relationship with a woman in 1991 that produced a child . I have had very limited access to this child who is now 18 .. but yet the enforcement of the debt seems to be the predominant entity . My ex-girlfriend always used the 'I have Full Custody'line on me . How many times must I have a door slammed in my face . If I dont pay , I lose my license ,lose my job ( I have been garnished since 1994 ) But No access ? My mother just passed in January 2009 , she had never seen my daughter . I havent seen my daughter since 1996 .. over 10 yrs .. Why must I spent thousands of dollars to access to my daughter . Why is there no enforcement on the Access ? Thanks for your concern John Piercy
  25. Denis Pakkala from St. Catharines, Canada writes: Mr. Brownstone is only here to sell his book, not to address all of the failures of the Canadian Family Law System that he represents.
  26. John Pev from Canada writes: How many time have we heard: 'If you want to win in court you need to hire a bulldog'? Part of the problem lies with over zealous Family Law Lawyers who encourage their clients to use any means possible in order to win. The gains can range from custody..to financial gains..to visitation restrictions. As you are already aware, divorce can turn very bitter. When there are children involved scorned parents often make tactical false claims in order to gain favor with the court and some lawyers support this by filing motions that contain erroneous and unsubstantiated claims. How can a defending parent protect themselves against false claims in Family Court when the opposing lawyer is immune from prosecution for filing false allegations in a court motion? In my opinion there are some 'bulldog' lawyers thinking about their fees rather that trying to reach out to the other side with a 'win-win proposition' that will help the children and the parents achieve an acceptable compromise agreement.
  27. cyan blue from Canada writes: Anything other than a default 50:50 access clearly teaches children that one relationship (usually that with the mother) should be more valuable than the other (usually with the father). The ramifications of this will haunt us all for many years to come. Kids aren't stupid. Joint custody does not equal joint access, and regrettably they know the difference.
  28. Brad Nelson from Victoria, Canada writes: An underappreciated player in the issue of parental alienation is the family doctor. When my wife and I separated, my kids and my ex-wife continued to see our doctor. However, I noticed right away that his attitude toward me changed, as he saw me as responsible for the break up. I was no longer consulted about my kids' medical issues. Instead he acted as if my ex (who has full custody) was their sole guardian. He provides medical letters on my ex's behalf to excuse her from working due to emotional distress, while at the same time showing little concern that my 11 year old daughter is no longer speaking to me or any member of my family. This seems like a conflict of interest. I think he's a good man, but doesn't know how to handle this situation. My ex is very angry and depressed, and I imagine it's easiest for him to side with her. At the same time, I think he has enormous potential to help the situation, since he's one of the few people my ex takes advice from. Questions: Are there medical or legal guidelines for family doctors to follow in cases of parental alienation? If our family doctor continues to ignore my concerns, do I have legal grounds to request that my kids are cared for by someone with a more neutral stance? In the big picture, can we as a society do more to promote the positive role of family doctors in ensuring that kids maintain healthy relationships with both parents after divorce?
  29. Georgie Rocolas from Misandry-town, Canada writes: Judge, could you comment on the rapid increase in co-habitation arrangements and the increasing disrespect and repugnance directed towards the legal community and whether this is connected to the statistical reality that Family Court separates men from their children 90% of the time and men from their finances 99% of the time?
  30. Michael Simpson from Toronto, Canada writes: I am sorry, but Justice Brownstone just does not get it. He complains that it is parents who are comparing the collection of a debt to access to a child, when the point is that the court and the justices of the court are placing a higher priority on debt collection than getting it right in the best interests of the child. Justice Brownstone, and I do not mean this as a personal attack, does not have personal experience raising children. He does not get the nuances of the relationship. He talks about how children are suffering, but not only continues that kind of exchange in the rulings, but furthers it in the statements made to these very parents. These same parents suffer a lot of abuse in the courtroom, from this court. The problem is education and increasing the understanding of the parent and of the lawyers. The Office of the Children's Lawyer comes forward, with reports from inexperienced social workers with knowledge but not understaning, who fail to understand the basic issues and the reall problems in the relationships. These conclusions are then applied to the parent from that time on, never to be changed. This system feeds on itself, supporting those who make such mistakes. I strongly disagree with Justice Brownstone and his book, there is a lot of expert material out there that instructs and directs the consideration not only to the best interests of the child, but to resolution, rather than a position that parents and children are stuck with until the child is old enough to take matters into their own hands. There are way too many people who think they are experts and set themselves up as experts and not enough workers who make things happen. It is understanding that makes a difference, not to be found in too many courts, based on too many old, biased and subjective assumptions and beliefs.
  31. You (Mike Murphy, from Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Canada) wrote: I find the Judges comments interesting and sometimes wrong. Perhaps in his jurisdiction will the CAS explore Parental Alienation as abuse but not in mine. I tried desperately to get the local CAS to deal with it. In one meeting I handed the protective intake worker a pamphlet on PA and she literally recoiled. Her response was they can't deal with it. They have no expertise in it. I recommended to their Executive Director, as a member of the Ontario Association of CAS', he discuss a Province wide training program. Social workers at these agencies require expert training to detect it. They are not equipped or qualified currently. This same intake workers pat answer to the denigration by the children of me on a 3 hour access visit was: 'You are responsible for their behaviour when in your care'. A standard unprofessional pat answer from someone who didn't understand the dynamics. The ex sets up a negative visit with the children and then the CAS blames the target. What's that called - Oh yes - a Catch 22. This is when the CAS became active enablers of child abuse followed by the courts.

1 comment:

andrea chiu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.