Shaquille O'Neal ("Shaq") and his wife Shaunie legally separated in November 9, 2009. According to reports from TMZ.com, Shaq has recently used his 6 year old son as a means to delivering death threats to Shaunie's new boyfriend. Shaunie's lawyer has written a letter to Shaq/Shaq's lawyer claming that the basketball star "interrogated" the couple's children to telling him everything they knew about Shaunie's new relationship. The letter further alleges that Shaq intimidated and scared the children in order for them to divulge such information. Shaunie claims that Shaq went as far as yelling at their 6 year old son to tell her boyfriend that Shaq "is going to kill him". Shaunie's lawyer is demanding that Shaq cease further inappropriate discussions with the children, especially considering there is a non-disparagement provision in their divorce judgment.
If Shaq and Shaunie were divorcing in Ontario, and the threats and harassment were proven to be true, the following would be considered by Ontario courts:
If Shaunie can prove to the Court that she is being emotionally abused or threatened by Shaq, she may want to ask the Court for a Restraining Order preventing Shaq from molesting, annoying, and harassing her and/or the children. The challenge with this Restraining Order is that the threat was not directed at her, but at her boyfriend. This means that there is no reasonable apprehension of harm towards her and, as such, that her claim for a Restraining Order may be undermined. Arguably, if she could prove that her children are being harassed (e.g. Shaq coercing and scaring the children into stating on his behalf threats to Shaunie's boyfriend) then a Restraining Order could be made against Shaq towards the children and Shaunie if the children were in her care. The purpose of the Restraining Order is to ensure that the children and mother's safety is not jeopardized by the aggressor's volatile behaviour.
The couple are said to have four children and their ages ranging from 10 to 3. If Shaunie has custody of the children and they primarily reside with her, then the issue of changing the access arrangement may be revisited after the alleged harassment by Shaq. The Courts would be looking at Shaq's conduct and consider whether his behaviour will adversely affect the children and their safety. Moreover, the Court will assess whether Shaq's conduct is adverse to the children's best interests. If the Court finds that Shaq's conduct has affected his ability to parent and care for his children, the Court may order that Shaq's access time with the children be restricted to supervised access, whereby when the children are in his care, a third party must be supervising at all times.