Police Enforcement of an Access Order
In Mackie v. Crowther, Justice Pazaratz ruled on the issue of whether police enforcement is necessary when a parent unilaterally declares their intention to disobey a court order. The parties in this case had a consent order to share joint custody of their 9-year-old daughter; the stipulation being that the child live primarily with her mother and have specified access with her father. This means the father would have custody of his daughter on alternating weekends and Thursdays, as well as every Tuesday.
The child was actively involved in hockey and had 2 upcoming tournaments scheduled. One tournament took place during the weekend of November 15, 2019, which happened to be during the mother’s parenting time. Despite this fact, the father unilaterally decided to be the one to take the child to the tournament. The mother was notified of this decision through the father’s lawyer. As the father was scheduled to see the child on the Thursday evening before the hockey tournament, the mother was concerned he would not return the child and brought a motion to enforce the terms of the consent order.
The father in this case clearly acted in an unreasonable and heavy-handed manner, which created needless anxiety for the child, who just wanted to enjoy the hockey tournaments. Nevertheless, the court declined to create an order for police enforcement with respect to the father’s access schedule. In coming to this decision, Justice Pazaratz noted that the goal is to protect children from harmful effects of parental conflict, yet police enforcement is a mechanism that will inevitably harm the child.
Children also derive no benefit from seeing their parents get into trouble with the law. At the end of the day, the goal is to discourage inappropriate parental behavior without scaring the child; and police involvement is not the most effective way to do that. Based on these reasons, the court ordered this rather than police enforcement. With respect to access, the father shall simply return the child pursuant to the access schedule; otherwise, his access will be automatically suspended until a further court order.
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