April 17, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
A Superior Court judge in London, Ontario has levied a whopping $1.4 million in court costs against the Children’s Aid Society and another $600,000 against a mother in child custody suit. The case stretched over three years taking 154 days of court time and became known around the courthouse as “the case that will never end.” Read about it here (London Free Press, 4/10/14).
But it has. It ended with the father getting custody of his three sons and the mother and CAS receiving harsh rebukes from Judge John Harper as well as the unprecedented orders to pay costs. What began as an off-the-shelf case of child custody with the usual false claims of abuse by the mother spiraled out of control as she did. But despite the mother’s increasingly erratic behavior and bizarre claims, CAS invariably took her side against the father, behavior that is well outside its function as protector of children.
“This started as a snowball of an allegation of unspecified emotional abuse that was flagged and assessed as high risk and it came crashing down on this family like an unstoppable avalanche,” Harper wrote.
The CAS applied for a court order in September 2010 to protect the three boys, aged 15, 12 and 5, months after the parents separated. But the judge found the CAS became “a lead advocate” for the mother, the driving force behind the trial. Her “multiple problems” included substance abuse and “manipulations and false claims.”
“(The CAS) had the statutory duty to investigate these claims through a thorough, objective and professional manner and they did not do so,” the judge said.
But dropping the ball was not the worst of CAS’s infractions. It figuratively dropped it and then kicked it out of the stadium. CAS came to be the mother’s strongest advocate despite her behavior that clearly abused her sons, their father and the court system.
The erratic mother went from claiming her husband emotionally abused her, to claiming he was a sexual abuser and murderer who used his eldest child “as a gun in his hands to try to kill the mother of these three children.” Harper wrote.
Recordings, text messages and e-mails showed the woman to be erratic, verbally abusive to her sons, often drunk and having at least two extra-marital affairs.
The children repeatedly tried to get CAS to see the truth, but it continued to ignore their pleas, obvious facts and their duty to protect children.
In the middle were the three boys, who boomeranged between the parents. They repeatedly tried to alert the CAS to their mother’s violence, alcoholism and manipulation, only to see the agency side with her.
Finally, the mother’s tactics seemed to succeed, in one way at least. During one of her violent attacks on her children, the oldest boy attacked back. She filed criminal charges against him and he pleaded guilty to “excessive self-defense” against her.
With such an unhinged mother as their de facto client, CAS went to remarkable and illegal lengths to promote her effort to get custody of the children.
The judge dismissed the mother’s ever-shifting evidence. The agency, Harper said, tried to squelch any evidence that went against its theory the mother was a victim. A supervisor, responsible for providing lawyers in the case with CAS information, removed 475 pages of notes, records, e-mails and summaries from the file.
At trial, it was revealed the mandatory document-sharing was running a year behind.
Notes in the file referred to the mother as the “Society’s client.”
Meetings were held to discuss how to protect her and case workers from the father.
The article linked to ends with this grab bag of facts Judge Harper found about the case:
About the mother:
Serious credibility problems “drove the case to the extreme it became.”
About the father:
Fortunate had help “to dig out from under the avalanche thrust upon him.”
About the children:
“What did survive were the scars to the children . . .”
About the CAS:
“Acted in bad faith.”
“This was exacerbated by the actions of the Society, some police officers, some women’s groups, a school board and her employers . . . many of whom accepted without any level of scrutiny the (woman’s) self-reports.”
The case is as clear as it is outrageous. But, outrageous as it is, it’s also not unexpected. In the United States, we’ve known since at least 2006 when the Urban Institute report on the subject came out, that child welfare organizations tend to have a strong anti-father bias. When a mother has her child taken from her either temporarily or permanently, child welfare agencies contact the father to see if he would be an acceptable placement for the child in fewer than half the cases. We’ve seen this happen with fatal consequences to the child.
It’s a mindset that privileges mothers over fathers and seeks to marginalize the latter in the lives of their kids. It’s a mindset that holds one truth to be self-evident – that if a mother cries “abuse,” she’s always telling the truth. It’s a misandric mindset that suspects all men of violence and all fathers of abusing either their children, their wives or both. It’s a mindset that’s well described by the judge when he said the various people and organizations “accepted without any level of scrutiny the (woman’s) self-reports.”
And so it was with CAS, albeit in a more extreme form. Caseworkers, supervisors, indeed the entire local office took part in taking a violent, abusive mother as their “client” and furthering her cause of denying a father to his children. They did all this at enormous cost to the taxpayers of Canada and backed up the local courts for years. And they didn’t stop at simple advocacy for the mother, wrong as that was. No, they went on to apparently perjure themselves and tamper with evidence by doctoring the agency’s file for the court.
And through all that the father soldiered on, enduring the worst slanders, libels and defamations.
The mother also made a “most wanted poster” put up in her workplace and in her youngest son’s school file that had photos of her husband and oldest son with the words, “if you see these men, call the police they have a history of violence.”
Neither father nor son was convicted of any crime until the son’s self-defence plea. Harper found the sons were in more need of protection from their mother than father.
What’s perhaps most remarkable about all this is that, with the exception of taxing costs against her which she’ll never pay, the sole punishment for the mother will be the loss of custody. All her lies, her manipulation of the court, the alcohol-fueled violence, the false claims, the libel and all the rest are essentially given a pass. There are no criminal proceedings against her and no suits for damages.
She and her many enablers both within CAS and without will get the message loudly and clearly – there are no consequences to this type of behavior. CAS, the mother and likely anyone else paying attention will be able to treat this as a “teaching moment.” They’ll learn how to better abuse the system, fathers and kids next time.
And as sure as the sunrise, there’ll be a next time. In family court, there always is.
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