Family law situations that deal with a child who refuses to see a parent are certainly some of the most difficult cases for family law counsel. In an effort to leave no stone unturned, counsel for the estranged or alienated parent must necessarily marshal all available arguments and resources, seeking to persuade a court to make orders that will lead to reconciliation and reunion between parent and child.
Sadly, these cases seem to have become more prolific over the last decade and JMC v. CJC 2019 BCSC 1408 is yet another example of the complexity of these cases. In JMC v. CJC the parties’ 14-year-old daughter resided with her father, refusing to see her mother. Her 10-year-old brother lived 50/50 with each parent.
The main focus of the 2-day hearing was an application for an order that the children and parents be compelled to attend reunification counselling. During the parties’ 2018 trial the estrangement issue had been front and centre and at that time the trial judge, Mr. Justice McIntosh, recommended that mother and daughter each engage in individual therapeutic counselling as a precursor to joint counselling to deal with the estrangement issues.
The mother’s application, again before Judge McIntosh, required her to show a “material change in circumstance” since the trial, a step she could not muster, as the child still refused to reconnect with her mother. The Court remarked that the child was now almost 15 years-old and even if there was a material change, he would not order that the family participate in reunification counselling saying:
“I am not satisfied that it is in the best interests of either of the children to embark on reunification counselling at this formative time of adjustment in their lives. For that reason, even if I could find a change in circumstances, I would not accept it to be in C.’s best interests to have her embark on individual counselling at this stage, which was J.M.C.’s alternative request to family reunification counselling.”
Judge McIntosh acknowledged that mother’s counsel had said everything that could be said on behalf of his client, but to no avail. Interestingly, the Court also commented on what can only be described as “overkill”, with respect to the “paper” created and relied upon to argue the case in relation to the costs award to the child’s father.
He noted that thousands of pages of evidence were filed, and in addition, four large volumes of law containing 62 authorities were filed by the mother. The father filed three binders with 37 authorities, while both parties filed lengthy written argument. The Court reduced CJC’s disbursements by one-half of the photocopy costs for printing affidavits and authorities saying:
“…despite capable submissions from both sides, both sides were disproportionate in the volume of their preparation…applications of this nature need to become more distilled and proportionate.”
While the mother sought several other additional orders that were not granted, including conduct orders and the retention of a parenting coordinator, presenting the court with almost 100 cases is akin to filing a large book of documents at trial and only referring to half of them.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang