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Covid 19 and Family Law Reform

Covid-19 demands parent and child centred reforms based on equal shared parenting. 

Glenn Cheriton wrote this blog post.  Glenn is President of the Canadian Equal Parenting Council.

Separating and divorcing parents in Ontario are facing more delays to a family court system already backlogged, Suspension of most court sittings means further delays Some parents reported waiting years for custody trial dates. Now COVID-19 pandemic delays threaten to practically end some parents' hopes to parent their children.

An article in the Canadian Bar Association magazine "National" here admits that the Covid virus situation is being misused by some parents to sabotage court orders, frustrate agreements and deny children's rights to parenting by the other parents.

Parents have complained to the Canadian Equal Parenting Council that the shutdown of courts and social distancing measures are being misused by the other parent to sabotage equal shared parenting orders, to frustrate court ordered child exchanges, to gain procedural advantages, and to coerce and control another parent.

Systems of family law which advantage the uncooperative, litigious or sabotaging parent or encourage adversarial procedural trickery do harm to children and abuse the other parent. Most often the uncooperative, manipulative parent seeks sole custody. A caring and cooperative parent will want an equal shared parenting solution.

Governments need to change the adversarial family law system to a conflict resolution system, and remove the adversarial incentives, the "sharp practice" incentives and procedural trickery. The focus on procedures rather than on the social science which shows that kids need, and benefit from, both parents is why government governance is failing at this important task.

Former Ontario AG Chris Bentley says, the... "Problem is too much process- forms and steps- making it slow and unaffordable. {Unified Family Court is] buried in it. Streamline [the] process."

Parents would add to make process clearer, simpler, less costly, more accessible to parents, less lawyer involvement with starting points and incentives for consensual, parent-made agreements.

In 1906, Roscoe Pound criticized the civil justice system for being overly fixated on procedure, overly adversarial, too expensive, too long and too out of date. The same complaints were in the 2014 Cromwell Supreme Court study of accessibility failings of family law. If the Covid-19 crisis and society shutdown is not sufficient to pressure governments and courts to do the right thing promptly then our children are condemned by a harmful system to suffering and disadvantage.

The family law system is a bigger threat to children than Covid-19. Any politician, civil servant, judge, lawyer or court employee who is not part of the solution is part of the problem. The alternative to the existing system is equal shared parenting, working in other jurisdictions. Parents need to demand this change now to law and practice to ensure a future for Ontario's children.

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