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December 8, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Canadian Member of Parliament Maurice Vellacott has once again introduced a bill that would establish a presumption of equal parenting in child custody cases nationwide. Here’s his press release on the bill.

Mr. Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, CPC) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-560, An Act to amend the Divorce Act (equal parenting) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I am quite honoured in these few moments to be introducing a private member's bill which would direct the courts in regard to divorce to make equal shared parenting the presumptive arrangement in the best interest of the child except in proven cases of abuse or neglect.

Fifteen years ago, a joint House-Senate committee presented to Parliament a report entitled: “For the Sake of the Children”. That report urged Parliament to amend the Divorce Act to make equal shared parenting the normative determination by courts dealing with situations of divorce involving children.

This non-partisan recommendation from that joint House-Senate report was based on compelling research made available to the committee members. Over the past 15 years, the best research has continued to demonstrate far superior outcomes for children in general when both parents, mom and dad, are actively involved in their children's lives even if the parents divorce or separate.

Polling from the past several years demonstrates overwhelming support from Canadians for this equal shared parenting. There is in fact slightly more support among women than men for equal parenting. This strong support from almost 80% of Canadians exists across the country with the strongest regional support coming from Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

Canadians claiming to be Liberal and Bloc supporters expressed the strongest endorsement for equal shared parenting at 80.6% among Liberals and 82.9% among Bloc Québécois supporters, with the NDP and Conservatives just slightly under 80%.

A variety of countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Australia and various U.S. states have implemented equal parenting, joint custody, or shared parenting presumptive legislation which has resulted in lower court costs, less conflict and improved social outcomes for the children of divorce.

This bill is one of the most apolitical non-partisan pieces of legislation introduced in this current Parliament.

I look forward to strong support for this important piece of legislation from all members of Parliament who are committed to the best interest of our children.

Vellacott has introduced similar bills in the past and none has been permitted a vote by the full Parliament. But whatever the fate of Bill C-560, what Vellacott said in introducing it should be remembered by all.

First, not only is equal parenting established in the scientific literature to be best for kids, that literature has been growing. As Vellacott remarked, 15 years ago we knew that equal parenting conferred a number of benefits on children and their parents. Professor Edward Kruk of the University of British Columbia has been diligent in accumulating and summarizing the state of knowledge about shared parenting. So has Dr. Linda Nielsen who debunked a number of the myths enthusiastically perpetrated by the anti-dad crowd. In summary, not one of the claims made by those who would continue to deny fathers to children post-divorce holds up to scientific scrutiny.

The literature shows that children do better across a wide range of behavioral measures if they’re allowed to maintain meaningful relationships with both parents after they’ve split up. Children benefit emotionally and psychologically from equal parenting, they show improved educational outcomes and are more able to form lasting relationships than are their one-parent peers.

Most tellingly, parents in equal-parenting relationships following divorce report lower levels of conflict than do those victimized by our current “winner take all” system. That only makes sense. After all, when parents enter the divorce arena knowing that one will “win” and the other will be rendered barely an afterthought in his children’s lives, conflict is the inevitable result. And not just conflict, but the type of bitter, destructive hatred that makes those fortunate enough to avoid child custody litigation shake their heads in disbelief. By contrast, parents who can be pretty certain that neither will win or lose, that both will continue to play real roles in their children’s lives, have little need to go to the extremes that are such a routine part of family court cases.

And, as Dr. Kruk has shown, children have no desire to lose one parent just because Mom and Dad are going their separate ways. In the only study done of children’s preferences regarding parenting time, Fabricius found that they overwhelmingly opt for equal parenting time.

Vellacott pointed out that Canadians generally hold the same opinion as the kids. Surveys of Canadians over several years have shown that upwards of 80% of them would like to see equal parenting become the law of the land. Indeed, it seems there are only two major groups who oppose fathers having equal access to their children post-divorce – lawmakers and feminists. In 2007, the Canadian feminist organization, the National Association of Women in the Law produced a white paper opposing equal parenting on grounds that were by turns untrue and just plain weird.

The first argued that fathers only want access to their children so they won’t have to pay so much in child support. Needless to say, the NAWL produced no empirical back-up for the claim, probably because there’s not any. In addition, there’s significant evidence that fathers seek greater roles in their children’s lives for exactly the reason all of them are saying – that they identify strongly as fathers and find it emotionally wrenching to be kicked out of their children’s lives.

But the NAWL didn’t stop there. No, it went to great lengths to explain that women are oppressed by their role as mothers, that they work less, earn less, save less, etc. because of their parenting duties. That’s all very true, but what is also true is that it’s an argument in favor of shared parenting, not against it. As most people would readily see, if Dad spends more of his post-divorce time with his children, Mom spends less. That frees her to work more, earn more, advance more and save more, i.e. exactly what the NAWL claims to want.

So, it looks like the Canadian Parliament is listening to feminist anti-father ideologues but not to the Canadian people or the established science on equal parenting. For the good of all Canadians – men, women and children – that needs to change.

Families are the bedrock of any culture. Weak families spell trouble for any society and those of the English-speaking world at present are no exceptions. Future historians of us and our era will point to the break-up of families as one of the key components of “the decline of the West.” What will astonish them is the fact that we know the problems of what we’re doing all too well, and yet we’re doing it anyway.

We know the value of families, but for decades now we’ve done everything in our power to break them up. We laud single motherhood. We offer large cash incentives to women to divorce the fathers of their children. Unsurprisingly, they do just that. We know the value of fathers to children, but state legislatures and family courts admit of no outcome to child custody cases but the marginalization of fathers in children’s lives. We know the science on family structure and children’s welfare, but we ignore it, all the while hymning our fealty to the “best interests of the child.” We know that women earn less than men, to a great degree because they’re saddled with the majority of childcare following divorce, but we refuse to change our laws to let them catch up to men in earnings. We know that fathers passionately desire a greater role in childrearing, but we routinely kick them to the curb.

Those are a few of the things historians will note with amazement and wonder at the ability of their own times to respond constructively to the challenges that beset them. They’ll also note that there was no shortage of people in the late 20th and early 21st centuries who held the lamp of knowledge to guide all who were inclined to follow. They’ll write that Maurice Vellacott was one of those.

National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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