Canadian mother imprisoned during complex child custody case

On behalf of Kirk Montoute Dawson LLP posted in Family Law on Saturday, August 2, 2014.

Many separated or divorcing parents negotiate through mediation to establish effective child custody arrangements. Even when there is hostility between parents, it may still be possible to achieve family-specific, out-of-court solutions by prioritizing the welfare of the children. Generally, peaceful collaboration is the most efficient way of creating a parenting plan for the long term.

In the event that a family court does become involved, however, it is extremely important that the parents follow any order the court issues; contravening the order could have serious legal repercussions. For example, consider the unfortunate circumstances of a mother who has been incarcerated for nine months while her family court case progressed.

The mother came to Canada from China in 2001, and now she is a Canadian citizen. In 2010, when her job as a shift worker kept her from properly caring for her daughter, the woman sent the child to China to be cared for by relatives. When the mother tried to have the girl’s visa extended, the father, having not seen his daughter in half a year, contacted police and alleged child abduction.

When police interviewed her, the mother told them that she had been abused by the father, against whom criminal charges were then brought. The Crown has since stayed those charges after the mother couldn’t be located to testify. The father also denies the abuse allegations and seeks the return of his daughter, who is now 11.

A family court ordered the mother to return her daughter to Canada, but the mother says that she didn’t have the physical or financial means to follow the order. Consequently, she was jailed, and her 275th day of imprisonment was July 30. If her daughter is brought back to Canada, then sole custody would likely go to the father.

It remains to be seen whether the Crown will reconsider criminal charges against the father, now that the mother is available to stand as a witness in the case against him.

Through their lawyer, the woman’s family has asked the Crown to release her “immediately.”

While this sort of extreme case is relatively rare, any parent with child custody concerns may benefit from sound legal guidance in establishing a custody arrangement that works for everyone involved.

Readers in Calgary may want to follow this story as it progresses.

Source: Cambridge Times, “Ontario attorney general asked to probe ‘extreme’ custody case,” Jim Rankin, July 30, 2014

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