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.