When we think of issues concerning custody and access to children, it’s natural to think about the conflict between two parents. However, issues around access can also occur between one parent and a child. A recent decision from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench illustrates an example of a mother’s attempt to have the courts impose reunification with her son.
A Troubled Relationship
The son was about to turn 18, and he had been living independently, removed from his mother’s care. At the time of the hearing the son was living on his own with the assistance of Child and Family Services (“CFS”). The mother’s application asked the Court to compel the son to “immediately commence counselling and reunification counselling,” adding that the son suffers from a brain injury, PTSD, ADHD, and depression. The mother took the position that CFS was alienating her from the son.
Meanwhile, the son said he opposed any contact with the mother, adding he was happier and healthier without his mother’s involvement in his life.
The Court agreed to hear the motion, stating that on its face, the application represented a last-ditch effort by a concerned and desperate parent to get help for her child before he reached adulthood.
The Evidence Paints a More Complete Picture
The Court was able to review a number of emails sent between the mother and the child. They contained threats and seemingly unfounded allegations that CFS was trying to alienate the son from the mother. The Court found that the messages contained vulgar abuse, attempts to attack the child’s basic agency and self-conception, and efforts to gaslight the child by asserting he was mentally ill for deviating from his mother’s perception of reality. The Court further found that the mother had attempted to manipulate her son with the promise of money and gifts as well as threats of litigation and police involvement. Ultimately, the contents of the communications were fundamentally about the mother and her wishes rather than what was best for her child.
The Court found that the emails provided “a complete explanation for why (the son) wants nothing to do with his mother.” The Court also found that the mother was an unreliable reporter of the facts, and likely believed her own narrative that she was a good parent. However, the Court was not impressed that the mother withheld some of the email communications which later came out through the son’s legal counsel.
Despite the mother’s stance that her son required treatment, the Court found that he was not in need of it, or at least should not be compelled to seek it. The Court found that the son had improved academically since leaving his mother’s care and had improved his confidence and had matured on his own. In fact, the Court added that the son “is to be commended for his academic accomplishments and for the strength and maturity required to live independently at a young age.”
The Court dismissed the mother’s application and went so far as to issue the following caution:
The Court cautions any professionals, agencies, and institutions, such as the police, healthcare providers, or the courts, to whom the mother may look for intervention in her relationship with BP in the future, to act with care and circumspection to ensure that they do not unwittingly participate in derailing this young man from the path of health and success that he appears to be on.
At HMC Lawyers, our Family Team has a track record of successfully negotiating and mediating family law matters on behalf of our clients. Although we are capable advocates in the courtroom, we know that the best outcome is more often achieved through finding a solution that is mutually beneficial to you and your ex, and in coming to that solution amicably. For advice about child custody and access matters, contact us online or call 1-800-480-3534.