In a recent Ontario family law case, a mother was awarded $300,000 in damages as a result of the father’s continued harassment and cyberbullying.
The parents married in October 2000 and separated in September 2016. They have two children.
Their daughter is almost twelve. She has an unspecified neurological disorder and is on the autism spectrum. She requires special needs supports, including significant educational supports. Their son is almost nine years old.
The father was abusive during the marriage: he damaged furniture in anger, including with knives; trashed a laptop; threatened to kill both himself and the mother; engaged in significant verbal abuse, including in front of the children; and orally threatened that if his business did not succeed, he would kill himself and the children. In December 2015, the father wrote an email attacking the mother and her “satanic cruel family.” He threatened that if the mother sought to “take the children from [him]” or limit the time that he spent with the children he would “ensure that the damage done is irreparable” to the mother and her family.
Following the parents’ separation, the children lived with their mother and their maternal grandparents.
The parents went to court to decide many issues, including custody, access and support.
Another issue was the father’s behaviour following the couple’s separation.
The father had created two main websites which contained embedded links to many videos involving the children. One website was focused on the mother, her parents and their family business. On top of the websites, the father posted 10 videos to his YouTube channel, his Facebook page, and his Go Fund Me page to “save an abducted autistic girl from captivity”.
The material posted online by the father contained photographs and videos of the children, personal identifying information, and comments about the children. The father did not tell the mother that he intended to post the videos and the mother never consented to his posting of the children’s images and videos, done contrary to a court order of June 26, 2018.
The father had refused to remove the videos and images contrary to an order of the court of April 18, 2019.
The father also posted images and videos of the mother and her parents with written and oral commentary accusing them of various illegal acts including kidnapping, child abuse, stealing money from the UK government, multiple “felonies” against the UK, U.S. and Canadian governments, assault, drugging the children, slapping the children, death threats, “breaking countless laws,” forging documents, fraud and abusing the children.
The father had also made several unsubstantiated accusations against the mother and her family to various authorities in the United States, the United Kingdom and in Canada.
Throughout the proceedings, the father also sent the mother many abusive emails, calling her names and making various accusations and threats.
As a part of the family law case, the mother filed a civil claim seeking damages of $150,000 for nuisance, harassment, intentional infliction of mental suffering and invasion of privacy, and $300,000 for punitive damages. She also sought a restraining order against the father.
The court ordered a permanent restraining order against the father, finding that there were reasonable grounds for the mother to fear for her own safety and for the safety of her children.
The court then awarded the mother $50,000 in compensatory damages for intentional infliction of mental suffering.
On the tort of invasion of privacy (false light and public disclosure of private facts), the court also awarded damages of $100,000, considering the father’s conduct.
Finally, regarding the mother’s claim for punitive damages, the court stated:
“I have no hesitation in finding that the long campaign of cyberbullying of [the mother] is outrageous and egregious conduct at the extreme of reprehensibility. […]
This is the exceptional case. [The father]’s conduct is reprehensible. The damage that he has inflicted upon [the mother] is purposeful and premeditated. […]
[The father]’s conduct must not only be punished but it should be denounced, and it should be deterred. A significant award of punitive damages may serve to deter [the father], since the court orders have had no effect in deterring his conduct. It will also serve to warn other litigants, both represented and self-represented, that cyberbullying another party online, in family law proceedings where the interests of children are in issue, will not be tolerated.”
As a result, the court also awarded the mother $150,000 in punitive damages.
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.