April 15, 2014
The London-Middlesex Children’s Aid Society (CAS) will appeal court decisions in which it was slammed for acting “in bad faith” during a marathon custody battle and was billed $1.4 million for court costs.
The agency also stands by its decision to seek child protection from the father of three children — a decision that was dismissed by a judge after an unprecedented 154-day divorce and custody battle trial that was spread over three years — executive director Jane Fitzgerald said Monday.
“We don’t make these decisions lightly and we take into consideration the opinions of other professionals and in this case we did so,” said Fitzgerald, referring to consultations with police, women’s groups and school officials.
“We stand by our decision to seek a child protection application in this matter.”
Last week, Superior Court Justice John Harper slapped the CAS with a $1.4-million court bill and had harsh words for the agency, saying it failed to properly investigate a mother’s version of events in a divorce and custody battle, even when three children tried to alert authorities of the woman’s violence, alcoholism and manipulation.
Fitzgerald said the society was compelled to respond to the accusations.
“Quite frankly, we are concerned the public would think we are making serious decisions about a child and family without doing our diligence,” she said.
She said length of the custody trial was “unprecedented in our experience” and CAS evidence only took 15 of the 154 days.
The original decision dismissing the CAS protection order was handed down in September. At that point, the agency filed a notice of appeal, but was waiting to see the cost of the court bill — in case it was small.
“One of our considerations is that we are not adding in additional costs,” Fitzgerald said.
But the notice was filed in the “wrong court,” she said, so lawyers are preparing a new notice of appeal.
Monday afternoon, the CAS issued a news release saying it was “deeply concerned” with Harper’s decision.
“The most recent judgment regarding court costs is equally stunning and unprecedented,” the statement said.
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- 154-day divorce and custody battle trial was spread over three years, “unprecedented” in family law cases, CAS says.
- The CAS child protection application was dismissed.
- Custody of children was awarded to father.
- Judge found CAS “acted in bad faith,” did not properly investigate mother’s claims. (CAS disputes this and says it investigated thoroughly and stands by its decisions.)
- CAS ordered to pay $1.4 million in court costs.
Related Source: London-Middlesex Children’s Aid Society slapped with record court costs of $1.4 million