5 Big Lies About Shared Parenting

_DSC4179 - Version 2Canada’s MP’s will continue their debate on Saskatchewan MP Maurice Vellacott’ s private member’s bill C-560 on shared parenting on May 27, 2014, with a vote expected to follow days later.

Recent polls from Nanos confirm that 80% of Canadians want a change in the way custodial decisions are made and the chaos in our family courts has united parents, lawyers, and judges to insist on real reforms to eliminate the soul-destroying financial and emotional devastation wreaking havoc among Canadian families who dare step a foot into the litigation pond.

So the passage of the bill should be a fait accompli, nest-ce pas? Not so fast….

It appears that both Liberals and New Democrats have changed their views on shared parenting since the 1998 Joint House of Commons/Senate Report entitled “For the Sake of the Children”, a much-heralded report commissioned during Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s tenure, where politicians of all stripes recommended that shared parenting be implemented to enable divorced parents and their children to maintain a close and continuous relationship after marriage breakdown.

That was then and this is now, and today the Conservatives alone stand to support an initiative whose time is well over due. You ask, if Canadians support shared parenting why wouldn’t their political leaders follow suit?

That puzzles me too because the psychological literature in the 1990’s regarding custody, access, and parenting was rife with findings that favoured a maternal preference, while today those old wives’ tales and custody myths have been demolished by cutting-edge, international research, such as American Dr. Richard Warshak’s 2014 treatise on shared parenting that has garnered the written support of another hundred experts in the field.

So what kool-aid are they drinking? It appears that many of the political naysayers are guzzling the views of the Canadian Bar Association, who purport to represent the views of Canada’s lawyers, who I say, have got it wrong. So what is the truth about shared parenting?

1. Shared Parenting Means Giving Up the Best Interests of the Child Test. NOT TRUE

-A rebuttable presumption of shared parenting does not abandon an examination of what is in a child’s best interests, it merely codifies the position that both parents, if fit, have a shared responsibility to parent their child.

2. Shared Parenting Focuses on Parental Rights Rather Than Children’s Rights. NOT TRUE

– Shared parenting permits children to have a real relationship with each parent, which is their right and a parent’s obligation.

3. Shared Parenting is Strictly a Men’s Rights Issue. NOT TRUE

-While men have been the primary victims of our custody laws, women are also affected as parents, grandparents, partners of parents and supporters of a fair and just system of family law. An American- based group “Leading Women for Shared Parenting” with international membership, voices women’s concerns about outdated custody assumptions.

4. Shared Parenting is Not What Children Want, They Want One Home. NOT TRUE

-Renowned American psychologist and parenting expert, Dr. Joan Kelly, dismisses the myth that kids want to live with one parent and highlights the negative consequences of one-parent homes.

5. Shared Parenting Only Works for Older Children and Teens. NOT TRUE

-Dr. Warshak’s research shows that the misguided notion that children under six-years-old are too young to have overnights with both parents has done a frightening disservice to children and parents alike.

If we had implemented the recommendations from 1998, Canada could have led the way down a path that is being adopted by multiple countries and many jurisdictions in the United States. Will we allow our lawmakers to miss the boat a second time? I hope not.

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12 thoughts on “5 Big Lies About Shared Parenting

  1. Each family and each situation is unique… ‘one law fits all’ will not work… must be ‘case by case’ approach with judges having sufficiently wide discression in making decisions

    1. The presumption of equal parenting is ” rebuttable ” that means circumstances can change the judgement so that the parenting is only made equal where appropriate. The reason for starting in the middle and THEN working towards either mom or dad rather than “case by case” is that it makes judges more accountable, because they currently make wrong judgements at times. It makes judges give reasons for not sharing parenting, which will be positive since they should have reasons if they aren’t giving shared parenting to parents. Accountability is good! 🙂

    2. I have worked as an attorney in “Family Law” for 27 years and I can tell you the problem is that the “best interests of the child” standard is completely unmanageable simply because it is so vague and it gives judges the power to impose their personal opinion upon a family with virtually no meaningful recourse by appeal. This standard has given rise to an industry of self-important evaluators who weigh in on which arrangement is best when they are merely intellectualizing the issue and engaging in confirmatory bias. Of course, a lucrative divorce industry is the inevitable result so everyone can spin their self-serving opinions in the litigation process. I say encode a strong shared parenting law and eliminate the “best interests ” non-standard. Precious parent/ child bonds are being broken every day by this absurd system.

    1. VK, I am very troubled by your comments in that they are so limited in scope. I agree families are unique and not all cases are to be treated the same. In some cases, such as abuse or Parental Alienation, one parent may be better suited than the other. This could be either parent- father or mother. I disagree with your assertion that a judge is best suited to decide custody within the current system. In criminal law there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. That does not apply in Family Law where simple accusations- without any burden of proof- are enough to influence a judges ‘discretion.’

      Bill C-560 does not attempt to set a “one law fits all’ approach any more than the current system does. What it does implement is a presumption or starting point of shared parenting between BOTH parents. This would be ideal in most cases and go a long way to dissuade unnecessary conflict over custody and access. It would promote more cooperation between parents and therefore be less a burden on the courts. This is what the Canadian Bar Association is likely most concerned about after all Family Law is a billion dollar industry. This is another issue.

      The Family Law system in Canada needs to reflect the increased role of BOTH parents in actively raising their children- particularly after a marriage has dissolved. Other nations abroad have already recognized that it is in the best interests of children to have two healthy, loving parents significantly involved in their upbringing. Bill C-560 will ensure this as starting point.

    2. Vicky I really take offense to your comment. Have you ever been a mother “kept” away from you child wrongly? I think not. Therefore, you can make such ignorant comments.

  2. VK I agree that every family is different but the social science literature is now consistent that children need both parents and Disneyland mom or dad will not cut it…my view of shared parenting does not mean 50/50 equal time, but sufficient sharing of time to ensure a full relationship with both mom and dad….appreciate your comments !

  3. I’m a separated father. I have no record of abuse. I pass my Vulnerable Sector Screening for volunteer work. I’ve had minimal contact with my children for four years because the boyfriends of my ex-wife don’t like me. The less my children see me, the more they hear negatives about me, hence the more the bond is broken. “Support Shared Parenting.” I’m a good father but I’m denied opportunities to parent my children.

  4. a child trust is fragile. more one my child called crying upset i not come. i did not know or layers work on access. young children love to be with some one who loves them. Shopping for food can be made fun, stop look at cows. sing on car. a child want to share friends i found eat dinner with child at school allot of fun. distance can impact as at start cheap the very costly by sure to consider monitor the cost of travel so change not devastate sustainability.

  5. The Justice System we have now is not working for the children. The Best Interest of the Child is just 6 words that a judge says to make him/her self feel better, without any knowledge of what really goes on the homes of the children. Call your MP and ask for their vote for this bill.

  6. Agree completely. Shared parenting is better than single parenting. Don’t forget the money. Have you seen the judges sunshine list, do you know the taxpayer money being spent on Family Court Services? Custody matters are costing tax payers millions. I would suggest more than 90% of these litigated custody wars are unnecessary and it’s costing taxpayers huge money. The problem is the Divorce Act needs amending which is Federal and the costs to tax payers to run court houses is Provincial. Please write to your MP to support Bill C-560. Even if you don’t have kids, will never divorce, this affects you, you are paying taxes to host custody battles between 2 good parents.

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