How Do I Convince A Family Court Judge That My Ex Is A Bad Parent?

child custody

Concerns and differences about parenting are a frequent cause of separation and divorce.  Alternatively, concerns about changes in a spouse’s behaviour can lead to the end of the relationship and even mental health concerns.  Added to that is the fact that separations often occur when one spouse believes the other is a bad persons, which can lead to concerns about what the children are learning from the example being set by that parent.  All of these concerns can mean that when parents separate, one or both of them can feel that it is best for the children if they have little contact with the other parent.


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15 - Family Court Step by Step - Part 2 - From First Appearance to the last appearance before trial

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However, moving out and taking the children, or otherwise acting unilaterally to prevent the children from seeing the other parent can get a parent into big trouble in Family Court.  If children are going to be denied post-separation contact with a parent, then invariably, the parents will be heading for Family Court – perhaps on an emergency motion to restrict or allow a parent to have parenting time.


Any parent going to Family Court on one of those motions has to convince the judge that he or she is right to get the order he or she wants for the kids.   Obviously, to get the desired order, a parent has to know how to be convincing on parenting issues while in Court before the judge.  Here are some tips on how to get the right parenting order including, where necessary, showing the judge that the other parent is a bad parent:

1.Family Court judges are not interested in how one parent feels about the other parent – even if that parent has been wronged.  Ontario (and Canadian) Family Law says that all a judge is consider is what is in the child’s best interest.  A parent who is focused on the children’s perspective and best tells the judge what the children need will be the parent who wins. The parent who appears focused on him or herself will lose in Family Court.

2.Parents have to base their case in evidence, not suspicions.  Judges don’t care what people think or what their concerns are – no matter how terrible one parent believes the other parent may be.  Judges only care what the evidence says.  They need to see proof.  Judges will not base a decision on suspicions unless there is some evidence those suspicions are correct.


3.If a parent has not screwed up yet, there is no basis on which a judge can say that he or she is a bad parent.  The only exception to this is where there is objective evidence (not just the other parent saying) that a parent has threatened to harm the children or has said things that sound like he or she might let the children be harmed.  Other than that, it is necessary to create an opportunity for a parent to make big parenting mistakes – but obviously in a way that the children can be protected from any real harm.  Than can require some careful planning, and perhaps some ideas from an excellent family lawyer.

4.Judges view parents who try to undermine a child’s relationship with the other parent as a bad parent.  They believe it shows poor judgment.  So, if there are texts, facebook posts, tweets, instant messages, emails or other evidence of a parent saying bad things about the other parent, or trying to undermine the children’s relationship with the other parent, that can convince a judge that the parent sending them is a bad parent. Judges can also view not doing enough to make a child go for parenting time with the other parent as an indication of bad parenting. 


5.Domestic violence, against any family member, is also a sign of bad parenting. Section 24(4) of the Children’s Law Reform Act specifically requires a judge to consider all forms of domestic violence when evaluating parenting.  However, judges will not like any party who makes false or exaggerated claims of domestic violence to get an advantage in Family Court.

6.Domestic violence is not the only form of conflict that harms children.  The evidence is clear that creating parental conflict in front of the kids actually does brain damage.   Creating or exposing children to parental conflict is bad parenting.

7.Finally, it is almost certain that a judge will view a parent who defies court orders, or will not cooperate with a parenting coordinator, as a bad parent.  But, again, a judge will not assume that a parent will breach a court order unless there is some evidence of the parent doing so in the past or there is clear of evidence of the parent’s intention to breach an Order (or defy a parenting coordinator).

The key to convincing a judge, even on an emergency motion for child custody, is to have evidence of a parents bad parenting and to express those concerns from the child’s perspective – how do the concerns negatively impact the child.   Once that is established, it is important to tell the judge, in light of the parenting concerns, what parenting arrangement is in the child’s best interest so the judge can order it.

Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law - 4th edition cover


You can get a lot more information about Ontario Family Law issues, including a comprehensive explanation of the Family Law related to parenting after separation, child support, and most other common family law issues by downloading this $9.99 Kindle eBook, Kobo eBook, or iBook for your iPad or iPhone or ordering it from Amazon as a paperback.

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However, if protecting the well-being of your children should always be your top priority.  To get the best advice, specific to your situation, you should speak to family lawyer.  Certified Specialist in Family Law, John Schuman, is known for his concern for children in separation and divorce and has won many child custody cases.  To contact John, call 416-446-5847, email him , or fill out the form below. You can use the same form to comment on this page.


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