In a recent Ontario case, a father asked the court to impose a “black out period” during access visits with his daughter, which would mean that the daughter would have no communication with the mother during such times.
Daughter Resists Access Visits With Father
The parents were married in June 2012 and separated in May 2014. Their daughter was born on October 6, 2012 and is now 8 years old.
The father was exercising regular access until late June, 2019, when a physical altercation involving both parents and the daughter occurred during an access transition. For some considerable time after, the daughter – with the mother’s support – refused to see the father.
In an April 2020 court order, the mother was found to have been wrongfully withholding access and the parents were ordered to consult a parenting mediator who would facilitate a resumption of access.
Beginning in May, the parents retained a parenting mediator. Access was initially resumed through daily video calls. In his initial August progress report, the mediator observed that while both parents had made some progress, the mother was still projecting her resentment of the father onto the daughter and the father needed to improve how he interacted with the daughter and respond better to her fears.
In a subsequent October report, the mediator opined that “it is imperative that the momentum needs to speed up such that face to face visits between [the daughter] and [the father] occur more regularly and frequently.” He recommended that such visits occur weekly, be of short duration, and that the mother not participate.
During an October 22 hearing, the parents agreed that in-person access visits between the father and the daughter should resume as soon as possible, and agreed to the specific terms related to timing and location. Four visits occurred following the hearing. The transitions from one parent to the other on each visit continued to be problematic.
In his most recent report of November 12, 2020, the mediator observed that both he and the daughter’s therapist believed that the daughter’s anxiety was “largely transferred by [the mother] and that this continues to be problematic”, that the mother and the daughter were “very enmeshed”, and that the daughter’s views about visits with the father “needs to be changed such that she sees these visits as normal and as part of her life”.
Finally, in a summary of a November 15 access visit, the mediator reported that the daughter, in a highly manipulative fashion, continued to resist even brief access visits with the father, despite the encouragement of the daughter’s therapist and positive efforts by the father to welcome and involve the daughter within his home.
The father went to court, asking that his access be expanded to a full weekend visit and that it proceed as a “black out period”, during which the daughter was to have no communication – by any means – with the mother.
Court Considers Ordering Black Out Access for the Father
At the outset, the court stated that it found the mediator’s description of the most recent access visit “very disturbing”. The court then observed:
“I am extremely troubled by [the daughter]’s entrenched refusal to engage positively with [the father]. Whatever his past mistakes, it is apparent [the father] is now making a sincere and concerted effort to welcome [the daughter] and connect with her. It is also apparent that [the mother] is not doing enough to promote [the father]’s relationship with [the daughter]. In particular, there is a striking absence of consequences to [the daughter]’s defiance. She appears to believe she can dictate how she will be parented by acting destructively when she doesn’t get her way, without facing any consequences from [the mother].”
The court found that, despite its earlier ruling, the mother continued to be unable or unwilling to manage the daughter’s behaviour or to impose effective consequences to her misbehaviour. The court stated that the mother must immediately take assertive and consequential parenting steps to achieve a meaningful improvement in the father’s access visits with the daughter.
As a result, among other orders, the court directed that visits with the father must occur at least weekly and gradually increase in length. Finally, the court also imposed the following order:
“[The mother] shall immediately take assertive steps to achieve a meaningful improvement in [the father]’s access with [the daughter], failing which I will consider imposing a form of black out access for [the father].”
At Feigenbaum Law, our goal is to help you move forward following the breakdown of a relationship while retaining as much financial stability as possible and ensuring your children are provided for. Mark Feigenbaum is able to counsel his clients on all potential risks that may result from a family law dispute, not just those related strictly to the breakdown of a marriage. Contact Mark online or call him at (416) 777-8433 or toll-free at (877) 275-4792 to book a consultation.