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May 11, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

As I mentioned in my post on Grant Brown’s thorough take-down of Canadian family court bias against fathers and children, there’s actually something Canadians can do about it. Specifically, they can demand that their members of Parliament vote for Maurice Vellacott’s shared parenting bill, C-560. It’s coming up for a second reading soon.

I’ve blogged about C-560 before here. But now there’s a document put out by Lawyers for Shared Parenting, the Canadian Equal Parenting Council and others that should be vital to the passage of C-560. It’s entitled “Myths versus Facts Regarding Bill C-560,” and should be completely read and understood by anyone seeking an understanding not only of C-560, but of any shared parenting legislation. The simple truth is that the anti-father forces have certain arguments they make time and again. They never come up with anything new, strongly suggesting they have nothing new to offer. And for them, there’s a real problem with that – they’ve got no new arguments and their old ones have been repeatedly shown to be without merit.

So the “Myths versus Facts” document comes to us in a handy format. It’s meant to educate members of Parliament, the press and anyone else who’s interested, and it does a good job of just that. On the left of each page there’s a column for “Myths” and on the right the facts debunking each one. So some of the myths appear thus:

Bill C-560 is focused on the rights of parents as opposed to the current law, which is focused on the best interests of children.

Bill C-560 attempts to impose a “one size fits all” solution, ignoring the uniqueness of each family, which should be left to Judicial discretion.

Imposing a presumption is too radical a change to the existing law and other approaches to enhancing maximum contact for the children to both parents should be pursued instead.

Children benefit from having one primary parent and one home after separation.

And their rebuttals thus:

The current adversarial litigation system of settling child-related disputes is focused on parental rights and is irreparably broken, with Courts clogged with bitter, divisive and financially devastating custody litigation between parents fighting over children like property. Previous initiatives such as mandatory mediation, parenting education, collaborative law and costs awards have failed to solve the problem

Bill C-560 will foster settlements and reduce litigation due to the requirement that a parent seeking primary parent status must establish that the best interests of the children (which remains the focus under Bill C-560) are substantially enhanced by disproportionate parenting time. Studies have consistently shown that it is the very existence of the custody litigation itself that causes most harm to children, parents and taxpayers

Bill C-560 focuses on the right of the child to know and love two primary parents in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Custom solutions are available under Bill C-560 where there is demonstrable merit in light of the unique aspects of the particular family

The latest definitive social science understanding is that children need to continue to have two primary parents after separation. See the list at the end of this document

The Canadian public strongly supports this initiative, with support ranging between 70% and 80% of the public measured across all demographics, regions and political affiliations. Judicial decisions under the existing legislation have failed to progress in line with the social sciences understanding of children’s needs and the voice of the Canadian public

Me? I’d just say that maintaining both parents actively involved in a child’s life is, with rare exceptions, in the child’s best interests per se. That’s what the social science demonstrates, so any court system that keeps one parent out of his child’s life is itself bad for kids. I understand that judges repeat the mantra of the best interests of children as they’re required to do by existing law, but the overwhelming weight of social science shows that the routine family court practice harms children. So the idea that equal parenting is all about the parents is nothing but a shady dodge by the anti-dad crowd. It’s a weak excuse for the status quo.

Likewise, the “equal parenting is a one-size-fits-all” scheme is so much nonsense. In the first place, no shared parenting bill I’ve ever seen, including Vellacott’s, prevents parents from deciding on their own what balance of parental access works best for them. And of course no shared parenting bill ignores things like domestic violence, child abuse or any other indicator of parental unfitness. Vellacott’s bill, like all the others applies only to fit parents.

Of course, if the recent data out of Nebraska are any indication, the vast majority of divorcing parents are fully capable of parenting their children after divorce. Indeed, the Nebraska data show that fewer than 10% of divorcing parents even claimed the other wasn’t fit, and of course far fewer than that actually proved the allegation.

Plus, no bill I’ve ever seen imposes a rigid 50/50 split on parenting time. What’s meant by “equal” parenting time is usually somewhere in the 35%-65% to 50%-50% range. Most bills stipulate that, without the agreement of the parent receiving less time, 35% or 40% is the minimum to be ordered.

The great irony of the “one size fits all” claim is that it’s the current system that meets the definition. After all, with 90% of parental custody going to mothers, how much more uniform can it get?

Apart from judges’ almost total ignorance of the social science on family structure and children’s well-being, perhaps the strangest aspect of our current system of allocating custody is its dogged determination to find one parent fit to parent almost all the time and the other parent fit only to pick up the scraps.

Judges go to inordinate lengths to distinguish between parents, so the slightest detriment can result in the complete loss of a parent to a child. It’s so bizarre it brings to mind the medieval debate about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin – utterly uninformed by science and in any case, completely trivial.

So we find parents like Dr. Francis Joseph kicked out of his daughter’s life for presenting evidence at trial that his ex-wife attempted to alienate their daughter from him. Really. To the judge, that offer of evidence of maternal wrongdoing, backed up by expert testimony, constituted an attempt to “control” her. Somehow that amounts to just cause to remove a father from his daughter’s life. Yes, the judge admitted that Dr. Joseph was an entirely fit and loving parent, deeply loved by his little girl, but for the paltriest “reason” imaginable, she’ll now see little of him.

We see this time and again. Judges see their duty as giving primary custody to one parent and consigning the other to the nether world of visitor status. In some cases, precedent requires them to do so, but in many others, it doesn’t. It’s just how they do things. But it means the loss of a parent to a child who long ago formed the most elemental attachments to that parent of which a human is capable. Unsurprisingly, when the court wields its pen to sever that attachment, the child is damaged, often irreparably.  Remember, it’s all in the child’s best interests.

In most cases, it doesn’t need to happen. Judges can simply order greater parenting time for fathers than they do. If C-560 passes, their jobs will be much easier in the vast majority of cases. If parents are fit and don’t have an agreement on parenting time, then equal parenting it is. In most cases, I suspect, parents will work it out on their own. But whatever the actual effects of C-560, it’ll preserve the ties between fathers and children as well as those between mothers and children. No longer will judges have to split hairs in figuring out whom to oust from a child’s life.

Most importantly, children will not lose a parent just because the parents lose each other.

What’s not to like?

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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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