An 18-year-old will be allowed to seek custody of his younger brothers to help rescue them from their warring parents and therapists who hope to deprogram them, an Ontario Court judge ruled Thursday.
Judge Steven Clark expressed optimism that his precedent-setting move may help shame the parents into recognizing the destruction that they have brought upon their family.
“Perhaps by adding P.F. as a party, the parents may come to realize that through their intransigence, their eldest child has now had to forsake some of his own adolescence and take on the mantle of a possible parent to the children, where they have both, arguably, failed,” Judge Clark said. “Having regard to the high conflict in this case, it may well be in the best interests of the children to become more invested in their own process by seeing that their brother has been named as a party.”
P.F. injected himself into the parental alienation case after his brothers – 12 and 14 – were bounced from a hospital psychiatric ward into a foster home in December because they refused to participate in a court-ordered therapy program.
Jeffery Wilson, a lawyer for P.F., told Judge Clark at a hearing last month that his client's plan to raise his brothers on welfare – augmented by support payments from their parents – is feasible.
However, in his judgment Thursday, Judge Clark also said he was afraid he may have created an “unsound” precedent that can be used in future cases by multiple family members who are intent on interfering in emotionally freighted family dramas.
Marvin Kurz, a lawyer for the mother, maintained that the woman's ex-husband is using her eldest son as a puppet in an attempt to get his two youngest sons back.
The startling chain of events highlighted a growing controversy over parental alienation and the therapies used to reverse it. A handful of U.S. therapists have touted their deprogramming clinics in Canada, resulting in at least three judicial treatment orders.
“P.F. is essentially seeking to rescue his brothers from the professionals who are trying to deprogram them and, if necessary, to wrest them from the parents who are battling for control of them,” Judge Clark said Thursday.
He said that, while his decision could lengthen or derail the case and potentially allow P.F. to “confuse or even stupefy the other parties,” it was worth the risk.
Judge Clark also remarked that, “part of the reason why the children were brought into care included that fact that they felt trapped in the legal system, and they felt forced to be in a therapeutic setting which fostered a sense of despair and accentuated feelings of helplessness in them.”
He said the real difficulty that bedevils the case is that for whatever reason, the children are distrustful of their mother and believe that any attempt by therapists to repair the relationships amounts to an abusive experiment.
“In the final analysis, this court finds that it owes this family the opportunity to see if something can be salvaged, and whether the family unit can be rehabilitated and reunified,” Judge Clark said.
The hearing to determine custody of the children is expected to resume in the near future.
Kirk Makin is The Globe and Mail's Justice Reporter
Despite risk of ‘unsound' precedent, judge sends message to warring parents ...Read the full article
- Steve St-Laurent from Vancouver, Canada writes: What a mess! It seems both parents overlook an important point: children are NOT property. From the moment of birth they are people in their own right with their own rights. As the Lebanese-American poet Khalil Gibran put it, your children pass through you, not from you. The warring parents might give this some thought.
- dennis baker from penticton, Canada writes: The system will not relinquish a dime for the family in the first place, yet have untold financial resources to pay lawyers, judges,shrinks,foster parents, group homes and what ever else. The eldest must make do with welfare, to support the other two. thats the problem the system is intended breakup familys to provide fodder as employment.
- Angry West Coast Canuck from Canada writes: It's cases like this that make you wish for the right of children to divorce their parents. It's obvious that age isn't an indicator of maturity. It's just as obvious that the intervention of lawyers has probably made a bad situation infinitely worse. As for 'the system' breaking up families, note that it's the 'pro family' crowd that is mainly responsible for creating insanely destructive 'family' environments in the first place, mainly by insisting that family members are 'property' of the patriarch, rather than independent thinking and feeling individuals regardless of their age.
- Cut The Crap from Canada writes: If one parent seeks to harm the children, and the other seeks to protect them from harm, on-lookers will only observe two parents fighting. Imagine you are attacked on the street and you defend yourself by fighting back. The police come by and see two people fighting; they appear equally guilty. It is fashionable to claim that both parents are guilty in this situation, but that is often not the case. One parent may well be using or abusing the children, but outsiders cannot tell which one. The oldest son is probably the most important person to listen to; he probably can shed light on what is going on in this family.
- Jim Mohagan from Funkytown, Canada writes: Angry West Coast writes: note that it's the 'pro family' crowd that is mainly responsible for creating insanely destructive 'family' environments in the first place, mainly by insisting that family members are 'property' of the patriarch Nice attempt to smear fathers with feminist ideology, but the article specifically states that the children are distrustful of their mother. Maybe they know something you don't.
- John Ridout from Canada writes: It is hard to imagine the depth of pain these two parents are causing their children. And from the age of the children, the parents are certainly old enough to know better. When loves turns to hate, its venom will live on for years to come!!! The older brother's love and concern for his brothers is a light in this darkness.
- J Planet from Everywhere, Canada writes: If the older brother is successful in obtaining custody of his brothers, a corporation or organization should open a bank account for these three children, to allow the public to make donations to help them out.
- Mom Ottawa from Ottawa, Canada writes: Personally, I think the mother should move to a tropical island and sell necklaces on a beach to support herself. Do some reading and make peace within herself and realize that she did the best she could to fight a futile battle. It is not worth fighting anymore. The other side was too strong for whatever reason. Life is not fair. Perhaps when her sons are older, they will see how they were brainwashed by their father.
- BCer living in Ontario westerner from Canada writes: Mom Ottawa from Ottawa, Canada writes: Personally, I think the mother should move to a tropical island and sell necklaces on a beach to support herself. Do some reading and make peace within herself and realize that she did the best she could to fight a futile battle. It is not worth fighting anymore. The other side was too strong for whatever reason. Life is not fair. Perhaps when her sons are older, they will see how they were brainwashed by their father. ---------------- Perhaps you know more about the case than is presented in the article, but nowhere does the judge condemn only the father. Most likely when they are older they'll be POed at both parents for trying to use them as weapons in their fight against each other, and then again maybe the mother is truly a psycho that they are best away from. Not enough information here to even form an opinion.
- D F from Canada writes: How shameful. Here are 2 supposedly intelligent and educated people who can't get their act together enough to save the most important thing they have ever had, their family. How selfish, how immature, how abusive. Out of all rotten things some glimmer of good can usually be found. I hope they find it, because otherwise, the three young lives in question have so much damage to repair. Hopefully they come out stronger, rather than shells of their former selves.
- Orest Zarowsky from Toronto, Canada writes: Speaking from direct experience, BOTH parents in an unhappy marriage can and do have no compunction in using any and all children in the family as weapons against each other. This has its own set of consequences. And this is well before one gets into a discussion of one parent attempting to poison the children against the other parent. Note that this only really works when the parents are divorced and the children are young. The critical issue here is that the system does not have a fair and balanced perspective and approach to these issues. It tends to assume that the father is the one at fault, consequently giving support and custody to the mother. Trust me on this one this is something that should be considered - very closely and carefully - on a case by case basis. Far too often both parents are FUBAR.
- Squish_a_p From BC from Canada writes: Jaded in Vancouver, I'm sorry but I must dissagree with you. My children's father did this to them in the 90's. It's only been through talking about parental alienation that has brought the issue to light. It's too late for my kids but if making it a public issue helps other children and educates parents to the damage they can do, then I'm all for it.
- Jarek Walter from Toronto, Canada writes: All of us have to be very careful with our comments. It's almost impossible to fairly judge the situation without knowledge of all the facts and court documents. I'm wondering if all comments would be the same if the article would mention following facts available in court documents: - the mother had a custody of children for the eight years since the divorce. During this time children were happy, were very good students involved in number of extra circulum activites; - the father started to seek the custody only two years ago when he was evicted from his apartment for unpaid rent and when he was living in a shelter for the homeless; - the 'possesion' of children allowed the father to obtain social financial assistance and accommodation. The question to be raised is: Where was the father when the mother was struggling to provide the best for the children during the first eight years following the divorce? -
- brad brien from Canada writes: Anyone supporting the mothers or fathers position is simply falling into the same downward, un-adult, un-parent mindset as these two so called 'parents'. They both left the 'Sandbox' long ago and should always place their childrens needs and wellbeing before their own ! Sometimes giving-up or giving-in on what we think we must keep, have or obtain from a broken marriage can be the best for all. Neither side needs to 'win' ! Always remember, when a child is in need, suffering or in trouble, you (the adult) must run towards that child, never run away !!!
- Jenna Beason from Canada writes: Jaded in Vancouver from Canada writes: Except for the immediate and extended family, why is this anyone else's business ? This is hardly a news article, but a private matter which doesn't belong in the media. I can't help but notice that you not only took time to read the article but you commented as well.
- Jenna Beason from Canada writes: D F from Canada writes: How shameful. Here are 2 supposedly intelligent and educated people who can't get their act together enough to save the most important thing they have ever had, their family. Trust me D F, not every family can (or should) be saved. My parents' marriage was a nightmare, the divorce even worse, but afterwards their hatred at least simmered at a distance. Given a choice I far preferred post-divorce life, even with the attempted brainwashing against the other parent, which was done by both sides. I applaud this 18-year old for stepping up for his brothers and want to smack these parents upside the head.
- Orest Zarowsky from Toronto, Canada writes: @ Jaded in Vancouver: This is a public issue because the affected children may carry on the tradition. Also, they will act out and need treatment on their own cases. This treatment is publicly funded, and the acting out is not necessarily limited to anti-social behaviour in the workplace. It can extend to substance abuse and addictions to nasty stuff. Twits like you are a root cause of these problems. We are all connected.
- William Blake from Canada writes: Jaded in Vancouver from Canada writes: Except for the immediate and extended family, why is this anyone else's business ? Um, because it is creating a potentially far-reaching precedent in family law? Why would family law be anyone's business?
- Canadian Woman from Toronto, Canada writes: Thank you William Blake for pointing out the potential this case has to set precedent that may play out not just in Ontario but across the country. I wonder how many eldest siblings would have welcomed this kind of state protected, finacially sound, publicly transparent, socially supported legal action in days gone by? Judge Steven Clark is a visionary leader whose argument deserves the attention of all Canadians.
- BCer living in Ontario westerner from Canada writes: Walter from Toronto, Canada writes: All of us have to be very careful with our comments. It's almost impossible to fairly judge the situation without knowledge of all the facts and court documents. I'm wondering if all comments would be the same if the article would mention following facts available in court documents: - the mother had a custody of children for the eight years since the divorce. During this time children were happy, were very good students involved in number of extra circulum activites; - the father started to seek the custody only two years ago when he was evicted from his apartment for unpaid rent and when he was living in a shelter for the homeless; - the 'possesion' of children allowed the father to obtain social financial assistance and accommodation. The question to be raised is: Where was the father when the mother was struggling to provide the best for the children during the first eight years following the divorce? - So do you have access to the father's side of the story. Perhaps he was paying huge child support payments and the mortgage on the house the mother and 3 children lived in. If the case was as you have presented with your one sided information, the judge would have decided in the mother's favour a long time ago. Things are never as simple as presented on paper.
- Ivan Wilson from Canada writes: brad brien from Canada writes: Canadian Woman from Toronto: I'm confused . Please elaborate on your statements. What is the 'potential impact' to us common folk ? It's called legal precedent - go and look it up and do some reading before you ask silly questions.
- Bobcat 64 from Halifax, Canada writes: This is absolutely ridiculous. Me and my ex didn't exactly like each other after our divorce but we were smart enough to not involve the kids. I would never ask them to pick one parent over the other. It is extremely important that kids maintain a great relationship with both parents, unless one is abusing that child. This sounds like mental abuse and it disgusts me that a parent could do that to their own children. Sounds like the 18 year old is more mature than the parents.
- Don Portz from Trochu AB, Canada writes: As some posters have mentioned, we should not be making judgement on who or which of the parents are in fault, as we do not know all the circumstances. However I recall the comments made by a divorced lady when I was still fairly young and I had understood (from others) that she had been unfairly treated and probably abused. Her Comments when asked was; I'It takes TWO to fight'. I have never forgotten those comments of some 50 yrs ago. My only hope is that the children get the help that they need to become responsible citizens and a chance at a productive happy life.
- brad brien from Canada writes: IVAN WILSON: Thanks for the info regarding 'Legal Precedent', very helpful. Are we still discussing the three children in this case, or has it been reduced to squabling legalphiles without compassion??
- marlene stobbart from High River, Canada writes: These troubles brought to mind the Colin Thatcher family tragedy and difficulties of those children. Disfunctional families cause children to have difficulties in both present and future life. That the 18 year old brother is wishing to help his siblings is admiable. I trust the state will also be there to help as his task is formidable and will before ever having to deal with the warring parents and guilt they will bestow upon him.
- Jarek Walter from Toronto, Canada writes: In reply to BCer living in Ontario westerner from Canada who wrote: 'So do you have access to the father's side of the story. Perhaps he was paying huge child support payments and the mortgage on the house the mother and 3 children lived in. If the case was as you have presented with your one sided information, the judge would have decided in the mother's favour a long time ago. Things are never as simple as presented on paper'. Court documents clearly state that the father owns the mother huge amount of overdue child support payments previously ordered by the court. And I totally agree with you, that things are never as simple as we see them, as the judge sees them, as involved parties see them. Let's hope that the court will find the solution which would be the best for the children. The only thing we know for sure is, that the children will be suffering from this horrible experience for the rest of theirs lives and no court decision will be able to erase it from theirs memory.
- J Planet from Everywhere, Canada writes: Most on this site appear to want to take sides or issue polemic. If you care about these children, put your money where you mouth is. I challenge everyone here who claims to care about the welfare of these children to see to it a trust fund is opened for them, and to make a donation to support them. If you aren't willing to take that step, then quit your blather.
- Mark Couvier from Toronto, Canada writes: Re: J Planet from Everywhere: 'a trust fund is opened for them' I think it's too early - do we know who is going to control potential trust fund? Before making such proposals we have to wait for the result of court proceedings. Until such decision is reached, nothing prevents us from sharing our thoughts, feelings and reflections.
- xtrump 42 from Middle Earth, Canada writes: Jarek Walter, You make a very good point. The author of this story, (or the G&M editor) should be chastised for only telling ' half the tale' and misleading the public. Very second rate job of reporting.
- G D from Canada writes: This story is lacking on important facts, as other posters have noticed. I myself am confused as to why more information is not available as the court documents are usually made public unless there is a publication ban. Naturally, the Globe and Mail may be respectfully holding back some identifying information (exact dates & places, names, etc.), but what's the deal with the parents? Couldn't the circumstances be better described? It is not that very meaningful that a brother adopted his siblings unless we know what it took for the court to arrive at that decision. I learned more about the situation through the some of the posters (who hopefully know their stuff), and I am disturbed by the sexism (both ways). And...It is quite possible that the father had good reason to ask for custody. It is also possible that he was a scoundrel trying to find an excuse to get financial assistance and found the children to be the perfect cash cow. I don't know, and don't even know where to look, because I do not have the names of the adult parties involved.
- brad brien from Canada writes: I apologize for being 'obtuse-deliberately'. My intent is to draw attention to the fact (as seen in many of the above comments) that important family issues, requiring mature thought and resolve, are often reduced to petty squabbles. The real issue tends to be lost or sidelined due to individuals focusing on their own needs. Family law regarding childrens wellbeing is about just that, THE CHILDRENS WELLBEING ! It shouldn't matter so much that the Mom or Dad comes out ahead. What's important is that the children have what they need to carry-on and grow as successful human beings. Mom and Dad can be proud of the fact that, even though they lost something substantial (money, house, etc.) they have held on to their rights as a good parent! Parenting is not forced onto any of us, it's a choice. Resolving important family issues is no different, we all have a choice in the outcome. As a parent, the choice is clear, what is best for the children, I (the parent) come second !!!
- Dick Garneau from Canada writes: Jaded in Vancouver from Canada writes: 'why is this anyone else's business ?' We have lost the concept that from conception the child was the most important asset of a society. The framework of the family is the basic structural foundation of a society. That my dear Jaded is why the public is interested and very concerned. .
- Donald Wilson from Canada writes: For those wishing to assist the older brother financially ; go to the Salvation Army and offer to make a donation that you wish to be directed to the brother . They are able to obtain the name and contact the un-named brother in this case . you will get a tax deduction receipt for your donation and have no fear that your money will get used somewhere else . ............................. There is more to this saga than is written in this article . Thus it is difficult to determine who is the nut-case in the matter .
- You (Mike Murphy, from Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Canada) wrote: This is indeed a sad and desperate story. Children are always the victims in an Alienation situation and these 3 may well have life long problems as their estrangement is both egregious and bizarre given the behaviour of the parents. We clearly don't have all the details. Judges in our Family Law (FLAW) have been practicing social engineering on families for the past 40 years with terrible results. Many of the social problems faced by children are the direct result of this. Law makers and the judiciary need to wake up to the dysfunction being created while lawyers line their pockets helping families destroy themselves. The adversarial winner take all approach may be the root antecedents of the problem. We don't know. The law has to be changed to one that treats parents equally upon separation and divorce. A rebuttal presumption of shared and equal parenting needs to be enacted. In all studies it shows when this is in place children do far better having both parents equally in their lives, divorce rates drop and high priced lawyers are less needed. In the Belgium model any parent who does not comply with child exchange on a scheduled basis is probably going to jail for abduction. That should knock some sense into recalcitrant parents quickly and improve cooperation in the best interest of the children. We have failed miserably so far. This case is testament to how very dysfunctional it can get.