According to TMZ, Kim Goldman, the sister of Ron Goldman – whom many believed was killed by O.J Simpson, has been receiving violent threats from her ex-husband. Kim is in fear for her life, and as such she is seeking court protection. She is requesting that the court issue a restraining order to keep her ex at least 100 yards away from her, and require him to attend anger management courses.
Let's say that Kim and her ex were still married and she was experiencing this emotional abuse. Could she use this as a reason for divorce? Well, in Canada's Divorce Act there are three grounds for divorce:
- separated and apart for one year,
- adultery, and
- mental or physical cruelty.
Kim could rely on the third reason as a basis for divorce. It is important to note, however, that people rarely claim cruelty because of the lengthy and costly litigation involved. It is often more efficient to be separated for one year, because proving cruelty is a process that can take longer than one year.
Emotional abuse can sometimes impact child custody. Of course, the best interests of the child will be at the forefront of all considerations made with respect to custody. However, the way the child's parents treat each other can play a role in custody decisions. Furthermore, if a parent has misbehaved in the past, s. 24(3) of the Children's Law Reform Act tells us that past conduct is only relevant if it in some way speaks to that person's ability to parent. However, s. 24(3) must always be read in conjunction with s. 24(4) regarding violence and abuse. This section provides that in assessing a person's ability to act as a parent, the court will consider whether the person has at any time committed violence or abuse against,
- his or her spouse;
- a parent of the child to whom the application relates;
- a member of the person's household; or
- any child.
Therefore, even if a party wants to co-parent and is open to joint custody, if it is not in the best interests of the child to be exposed to a parent who is mistreating the other parent, then until he/she seeks some form of anger management or counseling, supervised access may be the best option for that party.