Canadian Family Law System Decimates Families

Canada’s system of family law is decimating us, one family at a time. With nearly 40% of Canadian marriages ending in divorce, our next government needs to stop the bleeding: financially and emotionally.

Our adversarial court system pits husband against wife in a dangerous game that all too often spirals out of control, taking whole families down and destroying children’s lives in the process.

Custody cases are among the worst. Separating parents, usually fathers, are caught in a black vortex, fighting for the ability to remain an active part of their children’s lives, sparring with mothers who too frequently use their hurt and anger to marginalize, even alienate their partners from their children.

To date, our governments have refused to make the changes that most jurisdictions in North America have already adopted: a move to a presumption of joint custody where parents continue to participate in their children’s lives on a level playing field. With a rebuttable presumption of joint custody as the law of the land, a significant group of potential family law litigants could bypass the court system.

Regrettably, our system does neither parent any favours. With lawyer’s fees in the tens of thousands of dollars, many Canadians wander alone into family court like sheep to the slaughter.

Legal aid for family law in Canada is almost non-existent, while refugees and criminal thugs, even terrorists, feast on the public purse.

What Canadians face is a shortage of judges and court staff, who gamely try to administer an underfunded bureaucracy that cannot meet their needs, a process where the battle lines are drawn before they get there. The beginning of their long wait for justice.

Legislators, law reformers, judges, and lawyers have long recognized that court is no place to resolve family law disputes. Ontario’s Law Commission released a report in September 2010 entitled “Voices From a Broken Family Law Justice System” decrying longer trials and increasing court and legal fees that are crippling a system that cannot deal with the intense emotional fallout of personal disputes.

In a recent family law case, Bruni v. Bruni 2010 ONSC 6568 Mr. Justice Joseph Quinn of Ontario began his Reasons for Judgment with a feigned cry for help: “Paging Dr. Freud, Paging Dr. Freud”, a provocative introduction to a bizarre family law case that was ill-suited for court intervention. Justice Quinn referred to the “roulette of family law”.

My solution? Take family law out of court and move it to Family Centres with a one-stop shopping approach. Provide education, counsellors, child development professionals, mediators, arbitrators, divorce coaches, parenting coordinators and financial experts. These services should not be free but should be paid for by those who access the programs on a sliding scale commensurate with their family income. For the poor and working poor legal aid should be provided.

For those cases that will never settle without judicial intervention, appoint highly experienced judges who want to be there, as opposed to judges who find family law work a grind they would rather avoid.

Is there a political party that will heed the cries of millions of Canadians?


14 thoughts on “Canadian Family Law System Decimates Families

  1. Sounds like you maybe talking therapuetic jurisprudence rhetoric.

    Perhaps, obviously speaking from the anti divorce mind set whom believe children of divorce have more problems than children of non divorced families. Divorce rates have not increased in the last ten years to my knowledge. It does not matter whether divorce is bad for children or not. If problems where to increase among children of divorce – does not mean its relevant. Possibly children of divorce could be more well adjusted. It could be that joint custody coparenting is quite unstable. Courts are not social networking forums. Courts are for those people that cannot workout their differences fairly in a civil manner. Thats how you keep your legal expenses down. After all who wants to live with a person you don’t like. Divorce works for those people including children. How about mediation outside of the court system?


  2. Found you through the article on today. Couldn’t agree more. I’m currently in the middle of separation hell after months of trying to get mediation or some other way of working out a fair agreement for my ex, myself and our 2 children. The last place I want to be is in the courts but for whatever reason she is convinced that there is no solution except for opposing lawyers and court. Cause “that’s the way it’s been forever.” It never crossed my mind that we’d have anything beside joint custody until I received the surprise that she was claiming sole custody. The children live with her and she has been slowly driving a wedge between the children and myself and then claims that I’m not spending time or responsive to the needs of the children and is trying to use them to claim “we want mom to make all the decisions for us because dad doesn’t care about us.” It’s a HORRIBLE place to be in. The playing field is not level and to have joint custody, which should be an automatic right (there are some obvious exceptions), but now it will cost me thousands and a court decision (if we can’t negotiate it) to regain it. Not to mention the huge wedge that is now between my children and myself.

    We need new ways of thinking and your approach/thoughts of “one-stop shopping” for all the resources needed would be a great first step. The system we have today is very broken and vultures are taking advantage of those who are suffering through it.

    I hope that someone is out there reading your words and willing to make the changes, but I’m doubtful if the majority of the “vultures” would give up their lucrative cash flow to put a system in place that would benefit 40% of the couples who have to go through this.

    1. Been there, experienced that. The legal system will not help you. You’ll need prayer and strength from Someone bigger to get thru this and to be there for your kids. God bless.

  3. Even though presumptive joint custody and shared parenting are core policies of the Conservatives and the Greens, and even though all parties supported shared parenting in the 1998 “For the Sake of the Children” report, no party in this election dares to speak the words that must not be politically spoken:”family law reform”.

    Both Harper and Ignatief support shared parenting, and a poll of MPs found that a majority support it.With a reported 80% divorce rate among MPs, they certainly understand the problem, so why the political constipation on this topic?

    Maurice Vellacott MP(C) introduced private member’s bill C-422 (Shared Parenting) incorporating best elements of “For the Sake of the Children” with the highly successful Australian reforms- very much what Georgialee Lang is recommending, and very much where the UK is headed with its reforms- and yet the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) immediately panned the reforms…as they did 10 years ago.

    What is the superior luddite knowledge of the CBA that it goes against all settled social science, UN Human Rights Declarations, and progress in all western democracies? Every lawyer is obliged to counsel their clients on the realities of the system, and in an informal sample of 205 lawyers, 98% agreed the system was broken,horribly biased, and destructive to the state…and yet the CBA takes a contrary position to its membership. The CBA stands as a monument to corrosive institutional self-interest and the dangers of giving it monopoly powers in the exercise of law.

    Family Law is only the tip of the iceberg of a much deeper malaise in the rule of law as the sine qua non of the social contract. For now, let’s get the law out of family law by indeed adopting compulsory mediation/arbitration and pushing for the return of civil trial juries. The “best interests of the child” are too important to be entrusted to any single individual, even a judge suitably attired in ideologies du jour.

  4. I am in awe, I have finally heard from a family lawyer who gets it. All too often our system pits parents into a boxing ring with the children in the front row. I do worry about the future generation and what they will become, when parents who can’t agree on a parenting plan it means there is fundemental problems with their future relationship that will affect their parenting skills later on. Courts will not deal with this and only deal with monetary issues. The real issue is getting parents to move forward and parent these children; the fighting will not end with the Court decision and each parent will pit the children against each other. All too many times, I see children loose total respect for their non-custodial parent. What kind of message are we laying for the future generations of this Country, and how will they interact with their future spouses & children. The system is broken, it needs to be fixed, money is better spent on getting parents who can’t agree in a program that will educate and defuse the anger that they feel toward each other and move on to parent their children then the money that is being spent on lawyers in a adversarial system that benefits no-one.

  5. Very refreshing article. Shared parenting is a good thing for women too in the long term. As I know only too well. I was a child of parental alienation, and parental abduction too as our mom moved us out of the country and we weren’t even allowed to tell our dad about it. I still remember my sisters crying. Strangely enough, with her constant barrage of negativity about him we eventually blamed our dad for his absence. It took me until my 40’s to recognize how pervasive and harmful that parental alienation was. Payback is a bitch. Though my mother was always proud of the pro-feminist father she raised me to be, now she has to go through the agony of seeing me be systematically pried from my children’s lives by the same system and sensibilities that allowed her to do the same. As a result she sees her grand kids only occasionally, when during the marriage she often was their baby sitter. I love both my parents, and don’t fault them for doing the best they could, but growing up without the regular presence of a father was pretty hard. Checking research from the American Psychological Society, the Canadian Psychological Society, and other reputable organizations, the social science is pretty clear on this one. Shared parenting is best. Why is it taking the legal system so long? Unfortunately perhaps it’s because women organize and unite behind feminist lobbies far better than men organize and unite behind father’s rights. Perhaps when men start asking for directions when they’re lost there will be shared parenting.

  6. I’m surprised by the incredible number of custody cases driven by section 7 expenses and child support payments. The full-time parent uses the child as a pawn to get more money from the part-time parent. Typically, it’s the woman who is the full-time parent but now always.

    The amount of money that is awarded to the custodial parent when the other parent is a middle to high income earner is criminal. This amount of money is incentive to stay in court forever.

    The money does not help children. Rather they are spoiled, receive limited attention, are poorly behaved, know little about societal responsibilities and have limited skills for their age group. In other words, feuding parents make the worst role models. And greedy parents are even worse. The best part is these children learn from the feuding style from their parents and replicate this behavior when they are older.

    What I read in the article above is about immaturity. But one of the core reasons most people are in court is about money. Greed is the incentive.

    I’m a woman and have supported women’s rights. But I’ve learned that women are as greedy and narcissistic as the traditional depiction of divorced men. I believe that children are the new form of prostitution. Have a child with a rich man and you’re set for at least 22 years! Have two or three and a woman is collecting a second full-time income for many years to come! (I use the female as an example but most of the cases I watch are women pursuing men in court. I imagine there are some greedy guys out there who pursue women but women appear to be in the majority because they typically get custody).

    My ex and I went our separate ways amicably. There’s no money. I pay for the child 100% on my own and decided this was best because I didn’t want to be in court fighting all the time. My kid is well behaved, emotionally balanced, respectful, kind, understands consequences, etc. He’s normal. Children from a significant number of divorced households, especially medium- to high-income, are not normal. By not normal, I mean they do not have good behavior and proper parenting. The role of parenting is dominated by the pursuit of money. Money replaces parenting.

    The solution to family law needs more balance than out-of-court negotiations and counseling. That may be a place to start but the reality is that the real incentive needs to be removed. There should be a ceiling to how much a custodial parent can get from the non-custodial parent. You’d see far fewer people fighting in court if there was a ceiling.

    The irony is really simple. The future generations of children will not have children because of the unfairness (custody is more like a shackle than a joy). I know my 15 year old said to me tonight — My friends parents are always in court fighting over money. The dad always loses. The poor guy just battles the stupidest things about money with the mom. My friend even said she’s just a pawn to get money from her dad. I don’t think I’ll have kids.” Does this concern me? You bet.

    The problem is far more complex than outlined here. But, humans are only motivated by seven things — the seven deadly sins. And one of these sins is greed! Remove these seven sins from the incentive and I bet you any money, you’ll have a lot fewer adversarial custodial encounters in court! Begin with greed and then look for out-of-court solutions.

    Don’t be surprised if men of the future don’t have children. Actions of the past and present will impact decisions of the future.

  7. I couldn’t agree more with you! Speaking as a father who has had my family destroyed by this joke of a system with no end in sight. Mind you I find the main issue to be the gender biased judges and the parasitic lawyers who prey off the misery and feed it

  8. Yes. Family law is an absolute catastrophe for children and families in Canada.

    “No fault” divorce which would be better termed “unilateral”, since only one of the participants to the marriage contract can dissolve it easily and at any time.

    The parent who finds the contract really has no integrity then faces the reality of child support, spousal support, legal fees, and loss of the children; the latter is the cruelest twist, as the law is harsh in supporting payments, but blind to parent’s rights to see their own children.

    Parental alienation syndrome has been excluded from the DSM for political reasons.

    The end result of all this?
    Two generations now of children raised without a father.

    Those responsible for this situation have participated in a crime against humanity.

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