Disputes over child custody and access tend to consume inordinate amounts of court time, parents' scarce financial resources and these disputes cause parents and children untold harm on many levels. Such organizations as the Canadian Equal Parenting Council, Lawyers for Shared Parenting, and Leading Women for Shared Parenting amongst others, were in the forefront of the Canadian 2013-2014 campaign in support of a private member's Bill (C-560) that would have legislated a rebuttable presumption in favour equal shared parenting.
Many Conservative Party back benchers voted in favour at 2nd Reading in Parliament, as did Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May. Even though this measure was part of the Conservative Party Policy Platform, former Prime Minister Harper directed his cabinet and cabinet secretaries to vote against. The Liberals and the N.D.P. needed no prodding to unanimously vote against this private member's bill. Passing 2nd Reading would have simply allowed the Bill to go to committee for further study. We have a new Liberal Government now. Surely it is long overdue for Parliament to just consider the concept of Equal Shared Parenting in a non-partisan and unbiased manner.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is a very influential interjurisdictional body composed of representatives from most European nations' legislatures. The Assembly can hold national leaders to public account and as part of its wide ranging mandate, can recommend legislative best practices to its members. Canada, in fact, gained Observer Status in 1997. Very recently, this august body has come down full force in favour equal shared parenting. Canada ought to pay attention.
The International Council on Shared Parenting (ICSP), at its December 2015 2nd International Conference on Shared Parenting in Bonn, Germany, called upon the member states of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to fully adopt the Council of Europe Resolution of October 2, 2015. In particular, ICSP drew attention to the following provisions: 5.5. Introduce into their laws the principle of shared residence following a separation. 5.9. Encourage and develop mediation within the framework of judicial proceedings in family cases involving children. [For a more detailed report on the ICSP Conference, click here.] I have previously commented in this Blog about the importance of moving forward with a rebuttable presumption in favour of equal shared parenting.
The latest international research, as reported at the ICSP 2nd International Conference on Shared Parenting, along with other academic developments all convincingly demonstrate that the world wide inexorable transition to equal shared parenting is quickly gaining momentum. Exciting research presented included the following:
(1) High conflict shared parenting kids did better in school than children in sole custody with low-conflict parents.
(2) Shared parenting decreases the rate of first-time domestic violence after the separation or divorce of couples who never had this problem in the past.
(3) Shared parenting can help prevent parental alienation and is a potential remedy for existing situations of parental alienation in separated families.
All of the above findings run counter to "conventional" wisdom. Of course there are many other benefits to equal shared parenting and to having a legislated presumption that would mandate this manner of parenting in most situations.
It is time for Canada's Parliament and legislatures to reconsider equal shared parenting. The benefits for Canada's children are obvious. Committee hearings approached with an open mind will demonstrate that it is time to adopt a new approach to child custody and access cases.