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April 16th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
A court in British Columbia has ordered a father’s three children returned to him, reversing a previous order that allowed the children’s mother to have custody of them and take them to Israel.  Read about it here (Victoria Times Colonist, 4/14/12).

None of that seems particularly strange until you focus on the court’s reasoning.  In the first place, the family court in Vancouver ruled that the mother should have custody of the three kids and be permitted to take them to Israel.  Why?

The trial judge had initially awarded joint custody of the children and permitted the mother, Lilach Stav, to move to Israel with the children.

The father, Gil Stav, applied for an order staying the move, pending his appeal.

The trial judge dismissed the father’s application last year, finding the children couldn’t live on the father’s income of $90,000 a year. Days later, Lilach Stav and the children left for Israel.

Hmm.  A man and his three children couldn’t live on $90,000 per year.  Really?  I know the cost of living in Vancouver is high, but it’s beyond my imagination that they couldn’t live on that.  My guess is that countless children in that city make out on less.  Further, I’ve got my doubts that insufficient income on the part of the dad was anything but an excuse for maternal custody.  After all, the mother said she had a job in Israel, so the Dad wouldn’t have been supporting them on “just” $90k, he’d have had her child support too, right?  Or was the judge unwilling to make Mom support her children?

My skepticism is bolstered by the fact that, according to what she told the court, Mom was actually going to earn less than Dad, once she moved to Israel.

The appeal court found that the trial judge placed considerable weight on the mother’s evidence that she had job offers in Israel at $7,000 per month.

Of course the cost of living in Israel may be lower than it is in Vancouver, but it’s hard to believe that the difference is so great that the children couldn’t live in BC on $90,000 a year, but could in Israel on $84,000.  Strange indeed.

But then it turned out that Mom had apparently misrepresented to the court what she’d actually be earning in Israel.  In fact that $84,000 she claimed she’d be making turned out to be less than $30,000.

A three-judge panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled in a recent judgment that the trial judge “misapprehended the economic circumstances of the parties.”

You bet it did.  Mom actually earned $2,300 per month in Israel.

So it’s back to BC for the kids, or at least that’s what the appeals court ordered.  Whether Mom elects to comply remains to be seen. 

Still, it’s an odd case.  When was the last time you saw a case in which the sole factor governing child custody was the amount of income earned by the respective parties.  I’m assuming both the Stavs are fit, loving parents, but in virtually every other such case I’ve seen, it’s the dad who’s the higher earner and the mom who gets custody.  So it’s odd that, in this case, the trial court decided that, since the mother was the higher earner (i.e. according to what she told the judge and the difference in cost of living between Israel and Vancouver), she should get custody.  From here it looks like a case of yet another family court making an exception to its usual way of doing things in order for the mother to get custody.

Still, all’s well that ends well.  It looks like Gil Stav will get custody of the children after all and presumably, Lilach will pay child support although no mention of that is made in the article.

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