February 13, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
For the first time in years, Maurice Vellacott’s shared parenting bill before the Canadian Parliament will be voted on. Every year, Vellacott sponsors shared parenting legislation, but the members of Parliament aren’t allowed to vote on it for reasons that escape me. But now they will be. Here’s the press release on the matter, in its entirety:
OTTAWA – MP Maurice Vellacott just got word this morning that his equal, shared parenting bill, C-560, will be allowed to be voted on at second reading and thereafter.
In view of public support and the diligent work done in crafting this bill by numerous groups and lawyers, Vellacott is optimistic that the federal Divorce Act can be amended for the sake of the children involved.
Bill C-560 amends the Divorce Act to make equal shared parenting a rebuttable presumption in cases of marital breakup involving children, except in cases of proven abuse or neglect.
Aside from proven abuse or neglect, over three quarters of Canadians want equal shared parenting to be the presumption in our courts when marriages unfortunately break down.
Polling has shown that 78% of Canadians support equal shared parenting, with a high of 86% support in the province of Quebec. More women than men support equal shared parenting, at 78.3%. Among supporters of major political parties, about 78% of Conservatives support equal shared parenting, 76% of the NDP and 80% of Liberals.
“This bill is very important in bringing Canadian legislation in line with what the best research says about the best interests of children,” said Vellacott. With limited exceptions, children generally demonstrate superior outcomes when both parents – mom AND dad – are actively involved in their children’s lives, even if the parents divorce or separate.
This bill also reflects the spirit of recommendations made over 14 years ago in a Joint House-Senate committee report presented to Parliament entitled “For the Sake of the Children.”
A couple of observations. First, Vellacott is saying what I’ve been saying for years and what is obvious – that current law doesn’t reflect our understanding of what promotes child well-being. One of the weirdest aspects of public policy anywhere is the spectacle of family court judges intoning the mantra of “the best interests of the child” without having the slightest idea of how to achieve that.
In the U.K., we know for a fact that the Judicial College – the entity that trains judges – makes no effort to educate family judges on the social science of family structure and child well-being. Indeed, their media liaison was downright indignant at the notion that judges should be expected to know something about the science of matters they’re asked to decide daily.
The same is true throughout the English-speaking world; judges who rule on what they imagine to be the best interests of children know little beyond their own biases about the matter. It’s amazing, but true. The simultaneous arrogance and ignorance of family court judges is almost more than the mind can cope with. I’m reminded of what Judge Lynda Munro said about an expert witness in the case of Doe vs. Roe that I wrote about at length recently. She said,”His possessed certitude and lack of compunction about impugning every other professional in this case based upon slim or no evidence is illustrative of the uninhibited value he places on his own opinions, however ill-informed.”
Remove the words “and lack of compunction about impugning every other professional” and insert “regarding the best interests of the child” and you have a pretty good description of what family judges routinely do. They’re absolutely certain about their ability to divine children’s interests despite their complete ignorance of the social science on that subject.
The second point the press release made that I’d like to emphasize is that 14 years ago the Canadian government commissioned and received a study of family courts and children’s outcomes in child custody cases. It found overwhelming support for shared custody among parents of both sexes and children. It also found that children’s outcomes would be enhanced with greater contact with their fathers and that, therefore, Canadian law should be amended to ensure that fathers and children don’t lose contact with each other.
That report, entitled “For the Sake of the Children,” was immediately consigned to the waste bin of history. Or it would have been had not pesky shared parenting advocates kept its memory alive.
Vellacott of course is one of those advocates. His bill represents the repeatedly stated desires of large majorities of Canadians that their elected “representatives” have so far seen fit to entirely ignore. But they won’t be able to hide any longer. The bill is coming to a vote and each member of Parliament will be forced to declare him/herself. The results should be illuminating.
Now, cynic that I am, I have to wonder why the bill has suddenly been allowed a vote. My guess is that opponents of shared parenting have counted the likely votes for and against and concluded that they have nothing to fear, that the bill will be defeated.
But I could be wrong. So all Canadians should contact their MPs and tell them to vote in favor of C-560. Canadians demand it; their children need it.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved? Here’s how:
Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.
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