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.
Equal Shared Parenting within child custody law is very much a thriving concept in Ontario. Superior Court Justice W.D. Newton has penned what I believe to be a very important decision: Balke v. O'Connor. Although it was decided on 24 April 2017, remarkably the case has received no further mention other than a brief summary in "Epstein's This Week in Family Law", 2017, Issue #35 (4 September 2017). The decision deserves to have a much wider swath and this blog post is a step in that direction.
Social policy drives child custody laws. . Until now, common "wisdom" has told us that kids are generally better off with one parent primarily; usually that has translated into maternal sole custody.
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.
"We need very clear direction from Parliament to signal to judges and lawyers (and the public) that equal time should be the starting point."