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CUSTODY AND ACCESS - Contempt - Punishment

Monday, September 30, 2019 @ 9:06 AM  


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Appeal by the mother from a finding of contempt, a fine of $2,500, and a cost award of $15,297 imposed against her. The parties’ child resided primarily with the mother in Ontario. A 2014 order awarded the father access during Christmas and summer vacation and granted him videoconference times with the child. The order also required the parties to keep each other informed of the child’s address and contact information. The father was unable to arrange summer access in 2015 because the mother failed to respond to his communications requesting access and the father did not know the mother’s address in Ontario. The mother admitted at the contempt hearing that she was in contempt of the obligation to provide her address to the father. The judge found her in contempt for failing to provide her address and contact information and found her not guilty of contempt with respect to the videoconferencing provision.

HELD: Appeal allowed in part. The judge’s finding of contempt relating to the mother’s obligation to provide her contact information was set aside. The judge made no error in adopting the mother’s concession that she was in contempt for failing to provide her address and finding her in contempt on that basis. The judge erred, however, in stating she was guilty of contempt on the expanded basis of failing to provide her contact information. Everyone treated the failure to provide her address as the sole basis for the alleged and admitted contempt with respect to that portion of the order. The fine of $2,500 for the breach was not unfit. The mother failed to provide her address knowing it would prevent the father from having access with his daughter. She never apologized or expressed any remorse. The costs awarded were not excessive, considering that the father was required to file significant evidence and incur substantial throw away costs due to the delays and adjournments caused by the mother’s conduct. The mother demonstrated no error on the part of the judge in making this highly discretionary decision.

Sleigh v. McLean, [2019] N.S.J. No. 364, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, E. Van den Eynden, M.J. Hamilton and J.E. Scanlan JJ.A., August 27, 2019. TLD-September302019003