An Eye for an Eye: False Accusations by one Parent Against the Other in Family Law Proceedings

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There are multiple possible outcomes and effects that may come from a parent making false accusations/allegations against the other parent, and none are positive for the accusing parent. These outcomes may range from increased costs against the accusing parent to having the Ministry for Child and Family Development become involved with the family, and the accusing parent may potentially lose their parenting time.

False accusations by one parent against another, or against professionals employed in the process of the proceedings, may reflect poorly on the accusing parent’s ability to parent their child. Making false accusations has been a factor demonstrating the accusing parent’s inability to act in the child’s best interests, which is the only relevant factor when the Court is considering how to allocate parenting responsibilities and parenting time (previously known as custody). Making untrue and harmful accusations against the other parent has been found by the Court as evidence that the accusing parent is attempting to alienate the child from the other parent, an act that cannot be considered to be in the child’s best interest. Parental alienation may occur when one parent tries to get a child to hate or be fearful of the other parent. In trying to make the other parent look bad through untrue statements or accusations, the accusing parent is more likely to be hurting their own case and showing to the court that they are unable to behave in their child’s best interests. In the vast majority of cases, the child’s best interest includes fostering a positive relationship with both parents. When a parent shows they will go to extreme lengths to hurt the other parent, it demonstrates to the Court that the accusing parent is unable to put their child’s needs before their own.

When a parent makes false accusations or allegations against the other parent, the Ministry of Child and Family Development may have to become involved with the family. Depending on the nature of the false accusations/allegations, there may be serious disruptions to the child’s life. The Ministry may stay involved if they determine that the accusing parent is attempting to alienate the child from the other parent, and it may be found that the accusing parent is partaking in family violence by trying to weaponize the court process or Ministry against the other parent or the child. This kind of behaviour is not in the best interests of the child, and the accusing parent may have their parenting time supervised, restricted, or removed until they can show they can genuinely act in the best interests of the child.

The accusing parent may also have special costs awarded against them based on their conduct during the family law proceedings, which includes whether they have made false accusations against the other parent, and the nature and severity of those accusations. Generally, when a matter is brought to court, the successful party is entitled to costs. Costs awarded at Court are not intended to completely cover the legal costs of the successful party but to provide a set-off. Costs are generally set in accordance with the Tariff scale and may be increased or decreased slightly based on the complexity of the matter. In certain extreme circumstances, an unsuccessful party may be forced to pay what was previously known as solicitor-client costs, now known as special costs.

Special costs are awarded when the conduct of a party was so egregious that the courts finds that the successful party should be indemnified for all or most of their legal fees in lieu of using the Tariff scale. False accusations and allegations in many cases are likely to fall into this category, especially when there is a pattern of behaviour by the accusing parent. In other words, if a party to lawsuit conducts themselves in a way that earns the rebuke of the Court, they may be paying for both their own and the other party’s legal fees. False accusations by parents in family law proceedings have been found to be a factor the court may take into account when awarding special costs. Considering the steep costs of taking a matter to trial, this can cost the accusing parent tens of thousands of dollars just in paying for the other parent’s costs, in addition to their own costs.

To summarize, false accusations and allegations may hurt the accused parent, will almost certainly hurt the child in question, and will likely to have a profound negative effect on the parent making the false accusations/allegations. The falsely accusing parent may have special costs awarded against them, and they may lose parenting time and responsibilities with their child. They may have to be supervised when spending time with their child, or not be able to see their child at all. Parents must be able to show that they can and will act in the child’s best interest, and false accusations and allegations against the other parent (or against professionals employed during the family law proceedings such as counsellors, doctors, and ministry employees) demonstrates a parent’s inability to put the needs of their child before their own.