When Montel Williams and Grace Morley divorced back in 2000, they were granted joint custody of their two children, Montel II and Wyntergrace. Now, ten years later, Morley is seeking sole custody of the children.
Both children want their mother to have full custody of them. They have their own lawyer representing them in this custody dispute.
The children do not want their father to have custody of them because they do not have a close relationship with him. Wyntergrace has only seen her father four times in the past five years and it is reported that she was not invited to her father's wedding to his third wife back in 2008. Montel II says that his father chooses not to be involved in his life and would often fight with him over minor issues, like paying for his PSAT testing.
Montel claims that the life coach that Morely hired for the children is influencing their opinions of him and keeping them away from him.
Would Ontario courts allow a custody battle ten years after the parties divorced?
In a word, yes. Custody decisions in Ontario are made based solely on the Best Interests of the Child. This means that custody cases can be brought at any time, so long as the children as still children, by anyone.
Would Ontario courts allow children to hire their own lawyer in custody case?
In two words, sort of. Although parents (or other persons seeking custody or access of children) are the parties to custody and access cases and children are not, the courts can request the appointment of the Office of the Children's Lawyer to report on the interest, needs and wishes of the children, to represent the children, or both. The Office of the Children's Lawyer can accept or decline their appointment. Children can also hire their own lawyers privately in Ontario.
It is often best to leave children out of their parents' disputes because exposing children to and involving children in their parents' disputes can negatively impact children. So, the Office of the Children's Lawyer only agrees to represent children when they feel it is appropriate.
As for how much of an impact the children's wishes will have on the custody decision, it is only one of many factors considered in the Best Interests of the Child test. Generally, the older the children are, the more weight a judge is likely to give to their wishes. So, because both Montel II and Wyntergrace are in their teens, their views would likely be a persuasive factor if an Ontario judge were making this custody decision. However, if an Ontario judge were to find that the children's life coach is unduly influencing the children to stay away from their father, the courts may attempt to mend the children's relationship with their father by ordering therapy sessions with their father or some other remedy.
One must wonder whether these wishes are truly the wishes of the children or whether they are being influenced by the mother. This is never an easy question to answer.
I must note that it is always a sad state when a parent no longer has a meaningful relationship with their child and one would hope that whatever the result of this case that over time Montel and his children could work towards repairing their relationship.