Hatcher v. Hatcher (ON SCJ): Access – The Right of the Child; The Obligation of the Parent
In this case, the father was of the opinion that one of the parties’ four children did not want to return to his mothers’ home, which, pursuant to the access order, was his primary residence. The father sent the mother an email stating that the child no longer wanted to live with her and that he would not bring the child to her home until the child requested a visit with his mother.
When the mother had a chance to communicate with the child, the child said that he did not want to return to her home because if he did not reside with his father, his father would lose his house. The child explained that he thought his father could not afford his child support payments and so he would not be able to afford his home if the child continued to reside with the mother. The mother told the child that he could do what he pleased.
Justice Quinn upheld recent case law stating that parents have an obligation to actively ensure that children comply with access orders, even if children resist such access. He said that parents, not children, are governed by access orders and that parents must not allow children to decide access. He then found the father in contempt for not enforcing the access order and decided that the mother’s telling the child to do as he pleased was relevant in determining the sentence of the father’s contempt, but not relevant in determining whether the father was in contempt.
It seems that the father tried to influence the child’s decision not to return to his mothers’ home by telling the child the he (the father) would lose his house if the child did not reside with him. This type of behaviour is unacceptable and the court was correct to find the father in contempt. No parent should be putting this type of pressure on a child as it is not in the child’s best interests. Parents should allow children to be children.