A former couple fought themselves all the way to financial ruin because they could not agree on a child custody arrangement. iStock.
“How does this happen? How does this keep happening?”
With these frustrated words, Hamilton, Ont. Judge Alex Pazaratz spoke angrily about the legal fees in a case that took over three years to resolve and culminated in a long 36-day trial.
A former couple fought themselves all the way to financial ruin because a custody arrangement for their child couldn’t be worked out, although it was the mother who refused many a settlement offer.
Months before the case even began in 2012, the father sent her an email imploring her to settle their dispute without involving the courts.
He wrote: “We are both reasonable people and I really think we can work this out without spending 40 to 50 thousand dollars a piece in lawyer fees only to have a judge tell us something we could arrange ourselves. Please I’m begging you to be reasonable.”
Well, she wasn’t and the end result was the mother losing custody of her daughter and combined legal fees of $500,000, despite both parents being of modest means.
As to the ridiculous amount of money the mother and father squandered in fighting for custody, Pazaratz commented: “No matter what costs order I make, the financial ruin cannot be undone. They’ll never recover. Their eight year old daughter’s future has been squandered.”
The mother’s “unreasonable behaviour” was cited by Pazaratz, including refusing to settle, stalking and driving behind the father after he picked up his daughter, manipulating and fabricating evidence, and attempting to distance the child from her father. She was ordered to pay $192,000 to the father.
At the sobering conclusion of the judgment, Pazaratz told the parties: “All of this could have been avoided. All of this should have been avoided.”
One can only imagine the headshake that must have accompanied his words.