TORONTO – An Ontario judge issued a scathing and frustrated decision after two parents spent $500,000 in legal fees while battling for custody of their young daughter.
“How did this happen? How does this keep happening?” wrote Ontario Superior Court Justice Alex Pazaratz.
“What will it take to convince angry parents that nasty and aggressive litigation never turns out well?”
Pazaratz recently released his costs decision in a custody case decided last month. As he notes, mother Elieen Mayerle spent over $200,000 in legal fees, while father Davis Jackson spent $300,000, and was demanding Mayerle pay him for those costs.
Before issuing his decision, Pazaratz paused to “consider the overwhelming tragedy” of the case.
“These are nice, average people,” he wrote.” Of modest means (now considerably more modest). They drive old cars and probably pinch pennies shopping at Costco. And yet somehow, between them, they spent more than half a million dollars on lawyers.”
“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.”
Pazaratz was particular harsh on Mayerle, noting that she “rejected reasonable proposals” and “maintained a unilateral and inflexible attitude, despite the negative impact her behaviour was having on the child.”
The judgment finishes by referring to an email Jackson sent Mayerle back in 2012, “begging (her) to be reasonable” and warning her of the potentially disastrous financial impact of drawn-out litigation.
Once the harsh words were dispensed with, Pazaratz came down hard on Mayerle, ordering her to reimburse Jackson to the tune of $192,000.
He also included a message not just for parents, but all parties involved in contentious custody cases.
“All of this could have been avoided,” Pazaratz said. “All of this should have been avoided. Courts have an obligation to deliver that message, so parents will stop pretending that hard-ball custody litigation is ‘for the sake of the child.’”