Do You Know Their Needs?

Q & A by John T. Syrtash & Ronald V. Zaldin  (of Garfin Zeidenberg  LLP)

I am currently in a custody dispute with my wife concerning our two sons. My wife lied to the court about me abusing her and the children in order to gain temporary custody of the children. I have more than enough evidence to prove that she intentionally misled the Court. How likely is the court to find her in contempt (and reverse her order for sole temporary cus-tody based upon her lies)? What is the best ap-proach to force the court to hold her account-able for her false statements?

There is no question that perjury is a criminal offence, but spouses are very rarely prosecuted in matrimonial disputes. Moreover, it is only “contempt” if your wife has disobeyed a Court order. She may be guilty of perjury, but such findings are very very rare. The more she lies, however, the more she loses credibility in the custody dispute. But disproving her false statements does not necessarily prove that you are the superior parent. You must now demon-strate to the Court your intimate understand-ing, bonding, close relationship to and skill and knowledge of the children’s needs. Warring parents often lose sight of what judges look for. What evidence can you offer the Court that you understand your children’s needs, and, not just offer evidence of mom’s faults and lies?
After a few decades in the business a few rules of thumb have evolved that you may wish to consider if you find yourself at odds with the other parent in a parenting dispute:

  1. Do not take out your frustrations, anger and loneliness on your kids. Separation is a very difficult time (for them, especially). Do not use your child as a sounding board. The child is not your therapist or friend. You are there to help him/her cope, not the other way around.
  2. If your child wants to give you news about the other parent, it may be because the child has an agenda of his/her own, to “play” one parent against the other, or, to be more favored over a sibling, whatever. The truth may only resemble what the child says. More importantly you
  3. If you have a financial or other type of dispute with your ex, try not to use your child as a weapon. So if you have an access visit planned and your ex misses a support payment, don’t cancel the other parent’s access visit that weekend. Similarly, if you’ve just had your support payment garnisheed, don’t cancel your weekend visit because of your anger with your spouse. You are only hurting your child.
  4. If you can’t stand the sound of your spouse’s voice anymore, let alone have a reasonable discussion, then discuss the child’s schedule, schooling and health issues, with your spouse, by email. If email breaks down, try out Our Family Wizard, an online communications tool for separated parents, which is monitored.
  5. Unsure how to handle birthday parties, vacations, obtaining a written consent for travel etc. or conflicting schedules? If you have a very hos-tile relationship, you may wish to jointly retain a “Parenting Coordinator” who will act as referee (and you and your spouse split that cost). Sometimes the Parenting Coordinator will file a report with the court if authorized to do so in the agreement signed at the outset.
  6. Are your children stressed out by the separation? Different community organizations have special programs designed for kids going through separation. For instance, the United Way in Toronto runs the “Families in Transition” program. Jewish Family & Child Services and some YMCA’s have similar programmes. You should also contact the children’s teacher, principal and guidance counsellor to alert them to these stresses.
  7. The most important rule is, what are your children’s needs, not your own –this should be your guiding principle and your number one priority.

Mr. Syrtash and Mr. Zaldin are both co-counsel to Garfin Zeidenberg LLP,
Suite 800, 5255 Yonge Street (at Norton) just north of Mel Lastman Square,
Civic Centre Subway station, Toronto, ON M5G 1E6.

John Syrtash can be reached at (416) 642-5410, Cell (416) 886-0359.
Ronald V. Zaldin can be reached at (416) 642-5415
Mr. Syrtash has been practising Family Law for 35 years, Mr. Zaldin for 39 years.

Garfin Zeidenberg LLP, John Syrtash, Ronald V. Zaldin or the newspaper/publication in which this is appearing are not liable for any consequences arising from anyone’s reliance on this material, which is presented as general information and not as a legal opinion.

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