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At Feldstein Family Law Group P.C., we accept high conflict divorce cases and aggressively fight for custody rights, even if you are pursuing full custody. Our attorneys have negotiated high conflict divorce cases, and believe the following case detailed in this blog poses as a cautionary tale for those eager to engage in litigation, yet have constantly been in violation of court orders.

High Conflict Divorce Results in Judge Awarding Sole Custody to Mother

Ms. Angela Elizabeth Van and Mr. David Micheal Palombi (Van v. Palombi, 2018 ONSC 6228) were married for 3 years, separating in 2010. The couple shared two daughters, aged 8 and 9, at the time of trial. Mr. Palombi, the respondent father, had not seen his children for more than a year since the start of the trial, as he refused to exercise visitation access, and forced Ms. Van to bring several motions for issues such as travel consents, counselling for the children, and adhering to his daughter’s diet in accordance with her lactose allergy. By the time the parties reached trial, Mr. Palombi had been reprimanded by the court for repeatedly violating court orders and his general obstinacy. The court noted he lacked insight into the problems he himself had created by stirring up unnecessary litigation. As a result of disobeying the existing court orders, the father’s pleadings were struck, and his participation in the trial was limited.

When Joint Child Custody Is Not Advisable

Typically, courts will strive to award joint custody to parents whenever possible. When, as a result of personal animosity or communication issues where the parents cannot communicate with each other, disagree on major issues concerning the children, or have fundamentally different parenting philosophies, an order for joint custody is likely not in the best interests of the children. Ongoing parental deadlock or conflict is clearly harmful to children, especially where children are exposed to this conflict. According to case law, for a court to make an order for joint custody, a finding must be made that such an order is in the best interests of the children involved. Moreover, in determining whether joint custody is in the children's best interests, reasonable communication between the parties is essential. The only exception is where a parent unreasonably "creates problems" with another parent with the intent of frustrating joint custody and communication with the other in order to co-parent the children.

In the Van vs. Palombi case, there was little evidence of the mother acting in an irresponsible manner, contrary to the father’s accusations. The communication requirements for joint custody also meant there is no default position for joint custody, especially where the court is considering a high conflict custody case. In the end, Ms. Van was granted sole custody of the couple’s children, and child support in the amount of $1,203 per month. Section 7 expenses, such as child care costs, health-related expenses, and any extracurricular activity participation fees, were ordered to be split equally between the parties. Interestingly, the court ordered that in addition to these expenses, Mr. Palombi would be responsible for the costs of the children’s psychotherapy and stipulated the father would only have access to the children in a therapeutic setting. The judge awarded Ms. Van costs for the trial, and made an order prohibiting the father from bringing another proceeding until he had paid all costs, including trial.

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