During a child custody dispute, parents are under a microscope. Everything they have done or said, and anything they have failed to do or say, could come up. Further, personal shortcomings can be used as a weapon by a vindictive ex.
In Part 1, I applauded the positive measures in this new government initiative - Bill C-78. Unfortunately, there are a number of serious deficits in this proposed reform of child custody legislation. I believe that there are tenable solutions available to signficantly improve Bill C-78.
Good Tune-up, But Still Driving With Square Wheels
Child Custody law needs reform! The Family Rights Movement in Canada has long been advocating for real change in our broken child custody system. In 2014, Bill C-560 was voted down at 2nd Reading in Parliament, even though the then ruling Conservative Party officially supported Equal Shared Parenting. Now, the majority Liberal Government has introduced Bill C-78. It is an admirable "first move". It is not enough.
I don't like Separation Agreements. Many would surely disagree. In my view, Separation Agreements are not always that easy to enforce. It is much better to have a court order, especially if you seek to enforce a parenting plan. While the provincial government has a government agency mandated to enforce support orders, no similar agency exists with respect to enforcing parenting provisions. So, I don't like Separation Agreements.
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.
I recently received some important feedback concerning a parental alienation case. The email was from the alienated child (now an adult). His point is that things are not always what they seem to be when we look only at a reported case decision. My response is that as adults we must be so very careful to never engage in behaviours that will damage a child. Here is our exchange (identifying details have been redacted):
The international treaty known as the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is part of the statutory framework in all Canadian jurisdictions as well as in over 75 countries. The Convention addresses the inter-jurisdictional legal conflicts when a parent or guardian removes a child from country "A" to country "B". Children wrongfully removed ought to have their residential status determined by the jurisdiction with which they have the closest connection. "Forum shopping" is discouraged.
As the temperature dips, the leaves fall, and the Halloween costumes are safely stored away, many begin to look forward to the Christmas season. You have made a shopping list for gifts and have pulled out your trusted recipe box and have begun to plan a delicious Christmas dinner. Perhaps you have lovingly brought out the box of ornaments in anticipation of decorating your tree. So what does all this have to do with child custody and child access?