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Calgary Parental Alienation Lawyers handle high conflict child custody disputes that reach a toxic level. Top lawyers know immediate court action is needed in these heartbreaking cases. MacLean Law’s Calgary Parental Alienation Lawyers know that not every case where a child is reluctant to spend time with a parent is parental alienation. But when parental alienation occurs whether mild to severe the child’s very future and current healthy existence is jeopardized. An alienating parent who is an excellent parent in all other respects is not a fit parent. If you suspect alienation is occurring or you are falsely accused of alienating achild from the other parent then immediate legal advice and representation is needed. Call Western Canada’s largest family law firm toll free at 1-877-602-9900 and our Calgary office at 1-403-444-5503.

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Calgary Parental Alienation Lawyers Help A Child have a Healthy Bond With Both Parents

So what is parental alienation and what is parental estrangement?

Our Vancouver and Calgary Parental Alienation Lawyers help parents and Courts deal with this heartbreaking issue and help parents realize their role in disputed parenting time cases where a child seemingly rejects a parent or favours one parent. Obviously, the goal is to have the child have a healthy relationship with both of their parents. In the video below Lorne N. MacLean, QC explains the difficult issue and solutions.

Recent Case Helps Explain Strategies Calgary Parental Alienation Lawyers Can Use To Deal With Alienation and To Ensure There Is A Real Basis For Finding Parental Alienation

In a recent BC decision a BC Chambers Judge took prompt action to enrol the family and the child in a Vancouver based parent and child reunification program. The judge reviewed the law that says a Court must be careful in assessing parental alienation cases and directing any program of therapy or change of custody.

[40]         In Williamson v. Williamson, 2016 BCCA 87, our Court of Appeal had occasion to address the concept of alienation and the process by which the Court can and should intervene. Williamson stands for the following propositions:

  • Where variation is sought of custody or parenting arrangements pursuant to s. 17 of the Divorce Actor s. 47 of the Family Law Act, the court must first determine whether a “material change in circumstances” has occurred since the making of the prior order i.e. a change that has altered the child’s needs or the ability of the parents to meet those needs in a fundamental way. It is only after this threshold is met that the judge should embark on any fresh inquiry into the best interests of the child;
  • Alienation is a serious allegation and must be proved by appropriate admissible evidence including proper expert evidence supporting not only any finding of alienation but also the proposed remedial responses;
  • Where a program of remediation is ordered, the court must continue to exercise its supervisory role respecting the best interests of the children and the conduct of their parents which, at the very least, must include a requirement for timely reports to the court respecting the progress of the remediation program and its effect upon the children and the parents.

[41]         The overarching message in Williamson is that the court ought not to rush to judgment in alienation cases and that there must be a careful consideration of the alternative remedies having appropriate regard to both the short and long-term well-being of the children involved.

Calgary Parental Alienation Lawyers Say One Judge Needs To Take Charge

[42]         While the court ought not rush to judgment, it must also not hesitate to “take charge” of high conflict family cases involving allegations of alienation. In A.A. v. S.N.A., 2009 BCSC 387 Madam Justice Martinson made the following comments which I emphatically endorse:

[77] It is imperative in high conflict family cases generally, and certainly in cases involving allegations of alienation like this one, that one member of the Court take charge of the case. Having a single judge hear cases is required by s. 14 of the Supreme Court Act:

(1) All proceedings in the court and all business arising from those proceedings, if practicable and convenient, must be heard, determined and disposed of before a single judge.

(2) All proceedings subsequent to the hearing or trial including the final order, except as otherwise provided, and on a rehearing must, if practicable and convenient, be before the judge before whom the trial or hearing took place.

[78] The reasons for doing so for all cases are obvious. The judge will be familiar with the case so the litigants do not have to explain the situation over and over again. It avoids “judge shopping” to try to get a better result. It prevents inconsistent approaches. It saves legal and other costs. There will be times in dealing with some cases when it is not convenient or practical to do so.

Calgary Parental Alienation Lawyers Know Speedy Solutions Save Children From Damage

[79] However, in high conflict custody cases the stakes are particularly high; children can be seriously harmed by the ongoing acrimony and lack of a timely resolution. It should be only in rare circumstances that the court finds it inconvenient or impractical to have a single judge hear the applications in cases of this sort.

[80] It is common for these cases to come before the court numerous times before the trial takes place. The problems do not end with the trial judgment. After the trial, it is equally common to have one parent or both make repeated applications to the court, often trying to change the result at trial. Issues that have been decided at trial are re-argued. Highly contentious access problems arise. There are allegations of breaches of court orders. These problems can, if unchecked, go on for many months or even years. It is the trial judge who knows the situation; that judge, in my opinion, should deal with the matter as it continues to unfold, as envisioned by s. 14 of the Supreme Court Act.

[81] Unless a particular judge decides to become seized of a case, the applications can be heard by many different judges. I was the fifth judge to deal with this case after the Court of Appeal made its decision in June 2007. If a judge does become seized of a case, the applications normally must be dealt with on top of the judge’s regular workload, before or after normal court hours. This ad hoc approach is not effective. It does not give these important cases, and the children involved in them, the attention they deserve.

[82] In my respectful view, an institutional response is required which identifies these cases early and ensures that they are dealt with by one judge who has experience in and an interest in family law. The importance of effective case management in high conflict cases is supported by judges, legal academics, medical professionals, and lawyers.

[83] For example, Justice David Aston, when he was Senior Family Judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, spoke of the importance of case management in all high conflict cases in “High Conflict Families: A Sampling of Ideas and Strategies for Judges” (Paper presented to the National Judicial Institute’s High Conflict Custody Cases Seminar, July 2006) [unpublished]:

Case management by the same judge can be critically important in dealing with high conflict cases. Mental illness or personality disorders are commonly a component of high conflict cases. The illness or disorder is often not immediately apparent. Familiarity with the “problem” litigant promotes an understanding (sometimes even a more sympathetic understanding!) of that litigant.

[84] Professor Nick Bala, Dr. Barbara Jo Fidler, Dan Goldberg, and Claire Houston speak about the importance of case management in the alienation context in Nicholas Bala, et al., “Alienated Children and Parental Separation: Legal Responses in Canada’s Family Courts” (2007) 33 Queen’s L.J. 79 at 136:

It is important for judges to take control of alienation cases, to limit the possibility of manipulating the court process by the parents, and to ensure a firm and quick response to violations of court orders. These are cases for which judicial case management is especially appropriate. Given the need for timely assessment and intervention, judges should ensure that assessments are completed in a reasonable time (say 90-120 days).Further, cases that cannot be settled should be brought to trial as soon as possible after completion of the assessment, so that it does not become stale and require an update.

[85] This view is reinforced in chapter 7 of Barbara Jo Fidler et al., Challenging Issues in Child Custody Disputes: A Guide for Legal and Health Professionals (Toronto: Carswell, 2008), where the authors emphasize the importance of early identification, case management, and post-judgment control.

[86] Phil Epstein Q.C. and Lene Madsen, in their Family Law Newsletter, Epstein and Madsen’s This Week in Family Law, have recently commented on two alienation cases, emphasizing how these cases must be identified early and dealt with immediately. In “Epstein and Madsen’s This Week in Family Law” Fam. L. NWS. 2008-24 (17 June 2008), they commented on L. (J.K.) v. S. (N.C.), 54 R.F.L. (6th) 74 (Ont. S.C.J.):

There is an important lesson here. Courts must respond more quickly to the alienation issue. The longer it goes on, the more difficult it is to overcome the effects of alienation. Alienation cases are almost always high conflict matrimonial cases. We need a system where we can stream out the high conflict cases and deal with them immediately. The alienation in this case was evidence from early 2005, but the trial did not take place until late 2007. By that time, very significant damage had been done to the child and to the relationship.

[87] In “Epstein and Madsen’s This Week in Family Law” Fam. L. NWS. 2009-09 (3 March 2009), they discuss an extreme case of alienation in which the trial judge changed custody: L. (A.G.) v. D (K.B.), 2009 CarswellOnt188 (S.C.J.). They fully supported the decision of the trial judge, but said:

What we do deplore is that it took almost 14 years for the issue to be resolved in this case. We have the feeling that if the family justice system had taken hold of this case 10 years ago, the damage caused by the mother would have dramatically lessoned, as would the trauma of moving the children from one parent to another. This case is yet another showing that what we really need is a way of streaming out high-conflict cases and dealing with them on an expedited basis. Alienation cases should be at the top of that streaming list.

[45]         In the present case, it is important to note that the expert evidence is being provided by the expert specifically appointed by the court under s. 211 of the Family Law Act to assess the needs of the child and the ability of the parents to meet those needs. No challenge is made to the qualifications of Dr. England, (who has been acknowledged as an expert witness in this court on many occasions), nor was there any serious challenge to the admissibility of the evidence in accordance with the criteria outlined in White Burgess Langille Inman v. Abbott and Haliburton Co., 2015 SCC 23. Dr. England was not subpoenaed to court for cross-examination at the hearing of the application, nor was any competing expert testimony proffered by the parties.

[47]         In the present case, I have no hesitation in finding that:

  1. a material change in circumstances has occurred;
  2. alienation has been proved by compelling and admissible lay and expert evidence; and
  3. it is necessary in the circumstances for the Court to immediately intervene and impose a remedial response that is subject to on ongoing supervision by the Court.

Our top rated Vancouver and Calgary Parental Alienation Lawyers handle high conflict child custody disputes that strike at the very core of parenting capacity.

Our Calgary Parental Alienation Lawyers handle high conflict child parenting disputes that have reached a toxic level where immediate and firm legal action is needed.

Calgary Parental Alienation Lawyers know that a parent who alienates is not a proper parent to raise the child. A parent who undermines the healthy relationship of a child with the other parent attacks the very core of a child’s healthy development.

If you are involved in one of these cases, do not delay in taking steps to protect your child from parental alienation studies show it often gets worse rather than better.

Call us now to meet with us at any of our 7 offices across Western  Canada in Calgary, or Vancouver, Surrey, Kelowna, Fort St John and Richmond BC and Winnipeg Alberta at 1-877-602-9900.