Andy Hayher

If only he'd been nice to FluffyIn Chomos v. Hamilton, a decision penned by Justice Pazaratz of the Ontario Superior Court, we learn that “Fluffy” is a white stuffed animal that the two-year old child had been attached to since she was seven months old. Despite the clear attachment, the father went out of his way to take Fluffy away from the child during visits. In fact, at one point relegating the stuffed animal to the trunk. Fluffy becomes central to the narrative, and Justice Pazaratz noted the following incidents between the Fluffy and the father:

  1. The father refused to allow the child to take Fluffy on a visit. He threw Fluffy into the mother’s face saying “I have my own stuffed animals;”
  2. The child was suffering separation anxiety and the mother advised that that child would bring Fluffy because she found the stuffed animal reassuring. When the father came to pick the child up, he threw Fluffy on the driveway and drove away. The child was hysterical as she was being placed in the car;

In 2015 the parties went to court and ultimately negotiated a resolution of the Fluffy issue. As Justice Pazaratz opines in his decision “Pause for a moment to let that sink in: They went to court to negotiate the Fluffy resolution.” The father finally agreed to allow Fluffy accompany the child on visits. However, Fluffy’s saga does not end there. The father commenced a new routine. At the start of the visit he would allow Fluffy to accompany the child. As soon as they got into the car he would shove Fluffy in the trunk and drive away. Fluffy stayed in the trunk for the duration of the visit. However, as Justice Pazaratz put it, “things got even worse for Fluffy.” The mother testified at Trial that whenever Fluffy came back from a visit it gave off a noxious odor like it have been dipped in Vicks VapoRub. When she confronted the father about the odor, he denied it and said she was fabricating a complaint. Eventually the mother stopped sending Fluffy.

Justice Pazaratz commented: “I have no idea why the Respondent [father] allowed Fluffy to turn into such a major and unwinnable competition. He does not like the Applicant [mother]. I get it. He doesn’t like Grace [child] wearing the Applicant’s clothes. So the child has to change into his clothes as soon as she gets into his car. I get that too. It’s quite apparent that every step in this parental turf war, the father sought to imprint his “brand” on the child, and eradicate any reminder of the mother. But Fluffy was just… Fluffy. Just a harmless little toy of no consequence to anyone… except a vulnerable two year old caught up in  the middle of a bitter custody dispute. Would it have killed him to just let the child hang on to her toy? Was it really necessary to make his daughter cry, just to flex his need for control?..”

The Trial Justice’s post script is an interesting one:

If only he’d been nice to Fluffy.

If only he’d been nice to the Applicant.

If only the Respondent had remembered the two magic words of custody cases.

Be nice.

The Court went on to offer some advice to the father: Stop acting like you hate your ex more than you love your child. Justice Pazaratz went on to find that neither joint custody or parallel parenting were appropriate given the level of conflict. He found that the father may be a wonderful father, however, he was a terrible separated parent.

This is a case that warring parents should read and heed carefully.