The Problem With Playing Hard-Ball
In Mackie v. Crowther, 2019 ONSC 6431, the Court started off by nothing that “the facts of this case are simple yet outrageous.” The parties in this case had entered into a Consent Order in 2015 which dealt with the custody and parenting schedule for their then 9-year old daughter, Kelly. Kelly later became very involved in hockey. Both parties encouraged her participating in the sport.
Kelly had two hockey tournaments in the 2019-2020 sporting year. One tournament fell on the Mother’s parenting time and the other tournament fell on the Father’s parenting time. The Mother confirmed to the Father that this meant that each of them would be able to take Kelly to one of her respective hockey tournaments.
However, the Father took the position that he would be taking Kelly to both tournaments. He sent the Mother an email to this effect. The Father’s lawyer then sent a letter to the Mother’s lawyer confirming that the Father would be taking Kelly to both tournaments.
The parties ultimately agreed that the Mother would take Kelly to the hockey tournaments that fell during her parenting time. However, the Mother applied to the Court for police enforcement of her parenting time that weekend, as she felt that the Father could not be trusted to respect that agreement given his prior unilateral action.
The Court agreed that, by initially demanding that he take Kelly to both hockey tournaments, the Father was “acting in a heavy-handed manner and this created needless anxiety for the child who should be allowed to enjoy hockey tournaments without worrying about related conflict between parents.” The Court went on to note: “I wish to make it clear to both of these parties that I am trying to send a very strong signal. Don’t engage in hardball tactics when I comes to parenting issues.”
The Court ultimately agreed with the Mother that she and Kelly both required an absolute assurance that there would not be any more uncertainty or jeopardy with respect to the hockey tournament weekend. However, the Court did not agree that a police enforcement clause was the the way to go, noting that “police involvement in dynamic parenting disputes never helps.” The Court noted that, if the objective is to prevent or discourage inappropriate parental behavior, “we must create sanctions which scare offending parents without scaring the child.” As a result, the Court did not impose a police enforcement clause; however, the Court did issue an Order directing that, if the Father did anything to interfere with the Mother taking Kelly to the tournament, his access would be completely suspended indefinitely pending further court Order.
The Court concluded by noting: “Unreasonable parents need to understand that hard-ball tactics can backfire in a very expensive way.”