Most fathers who've been denied access to their kids by demented ex-wives give up the fight rather than bankrupting themselves in lengthy court battles.
A Toronto surgeon had the money -- and the persistence -- to keep going. He won sole custody of his three daughters because his ex-wife spent more than a decade brainwashing the children to hate him.
She was subsequently fined $35,000 for contempt for ignoring repeated orders to get counselling. And on Tuesday, an Ontario judge imposed an even harsher punishment, ordering her to pay more than $250,000 of her ex-husband's court costs.
The father's expenses were "a litigant's worst nightmare," declared Ontario Superior Court Justice Faye McWatt. "She has acted deceitfully and in bad faith throughout the litigation."
If the mother in this case had been jailed the first time she ignored court-ordered access, everyone would have been better off.
The mother would have learned the courts don't take kindly to breaches of court orders, the father would have been able to bond with his children much earlier and court resources could have been used for more worthwhile purposes.
It's a pleasant surprise that the mother was actually punished; better late than never. Still, the father likely faces a huge challenge winning over his kids. Reversing the damage done by a parent who spends years alienating the children from the other spouse is a long-term process.
These girls, now aged 14, 11 and 10, may forever be damaged by their mother's sick, selfish actions -- behaviour McWatt bluntly described as "emotional abuse."
The couple split up in 1999 but K.D., as the mother is known, denied A.L., her ex, virtually any access. At the same time, she was over-protective of the kids to the point of infantilizing them. The oldest child wasn't even toilet-trained at the age of five. The middle girl was still using a bottle at night when she was three.
One psychologist warned as early as 2000 that the children were at "significant risk" of being alienated from the father.
A.L. gave up fighting for access for about six years because his ex warned that if he pressured her, he wouldn't get anything. But it didn't matter what he did. He still didn't get to see his daughters.
He only saw them for two weekends between 2000 and 2006. Then K.D. wouldn't even allow him to speak to them.
For a while, there was still a bond between father and daughters. Early on, one daughter would hug him and warn: "Don't tell mommy I did this."
By 2006, though, the bond seemed broken. The oldest showed no affection, the middle daughter stopped looking at him and the youngest only spoke to him in a monotone.
It's been 11 years since the release of the parliamentary report on child custody and access, with its dozens of recommendations, including the proposal that the terms "custody and access" be replaced with "shared parenting" in the Divorce Act.
But that assumes both parents are reasonable. In this case, the mother is clearly a nutbar who used her kids as weapons against her ex. Jail might have taught her a lesson a lot sooner.
A.L. is "exhausted but very, very happy. He has his children," says his lawyer, Harold Niman.
"This kind of case will hopefully send a message to those people who think it's OK to undermine a relationship between the children and the other parent."