Time for Canada to embrace equal shared parenting.


Subject: Re: [CEPC_Members] Law Times- Speaker’s Corner: Time for Canada to embrace equal shared parenting

Speaker’s Corner: Time for Canada to embrace equal shared parenting

Monday, 05 May 2014 08:00 | Written By Brian Ludmer | Print | Email

 

From the 1998 Senate special joint committee recommendations to the present, numerous reports and statements concerning the family law system have recognized the need for fundamental reform as it relates to contested custody cases.

Bill C-560, a private member’s bill proposed by Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, is a reasonable and balanced proposal to address the current broken system. Parliament will debate bill C-560 on May 7, followed by a second reading vote.

The principal change to the Divorce Act, with the goal of reducing incentives for bitter and expensive litigation over children, is the proposal for a rebuttable presumption that equal shared parenting would support the best interests of the children unless a party can establish that some other parenting plan would substantially enhance those interests.
Section 16(10) of the Divorce Act, as amended in 1985, calls for a consideration of maximum contact with both parents. However, experience with reported decisions to date has shown that the great majority of decisions are still following a primary and secondary parent model with secondary parent time-shares running from 16 per cent (alternate two-day weekends and some mid-week contact for a few hours) to 35 per cent (alternate three-day weekends and one mid-week overnight) after accounting for equal vacation time.
However, social science research overwhelmingly supports the more current understanding that children need, benefit from, and want two primary parent relationships after separation rather than one parent and someone they go to visit. Among the leading experts globally is Prof. Ed Kruk of the University of British Columbia. He recently published a book with a synthesis of the rationale for equal shared parenting and a listing of the leading global peer-reviewed research.

There’s wide acceptance that children deprived of meaningful relationships with one of their parents are at greater psychological risk even when they’re able to maintain relationships with the other parent and that shared time and parenting between two parents works. Shared custody agreements have also been shown to reduce parental conflict and increase co-operation over time.
Bill C-560 recognizes that the current effort to specify with precision a specific time-share between a primary and secondary parent isn’t logically or empirically justified. Custody litigation seeking to marginalize one parent has no discernible benefit when measured against the financial and emotional cost and the impact on the children of litigation.
Public opinion polls over many years have consistently shown up to 80-per-cent support for equal shared parenting across all demographics, regions, and political affiliations. Support among Canadian women is indistinguishable from men, and a global group called Leading Women for Shared Parenting is assisting in efforts in Canada and elsewhere. Perhaps this is because, according to Statistics Canada in 2012, the employment rate for women with children under six years old was 67.8 per cent (up from 31.4 per cent in 1976) and 79 per cent for women with children from six to 15 years old (up from 46.4 per cent in 1976).
Despite the development of both permissive and mandatory mediation, collaborative law organizations, and parent education programs, the family law courts remain overburdened with substantial backlogs due to child-related disputes. This problem, together with the associated costs to taxpayers and parents, has only gotten worse over the years. The cost of litigation has led to significant advantages for wealthier parents and those more able to represent themselves.

The opposition to equal shared parenting frequently comes from divorce industry professionals who might have difficulty reviewing bill C-560 objectively since one of the main goals and likely effects of the Divorce Act amendment is to reduce the current plague of custody litigation. However, many studies identify the very existence of the custody litigation itself as the primary concern regarding the effect of divorce on children.
In response to the active discussion in the media and on behalf of several shared parenting organizations, I prepared a document on the myths and facts about bill C-560 that dispels the rhetoric and confusion put forth in opposition to it.

In addition to the public support and strong social sciences empirical support, there are several key facts to consider:
Bill C-560 will foster settlements and reduce litigation due to the requirement that a parent seeking primary parent status must establish that disproportionate parenting time will substantially enhance the best interests of the children, a principle that remains the focus under bill C-560.
Bill C-560 focuses on the right of the child to know and love two primary parents in accordance with the leading research on the best outcomes for children of divorce and Canada’s commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Mediated, consensual or, if needed, adjudicated custom solutions are still available under bill C-560 where there is demonstrable merit in light of the unique aspects of the particular family. The proposed legislation does not impose a one-size-fits-all solution; it merely provides a starting point for adjudication based on what works for most children and then still allows for an examination of the unique aspects of a family to see if a disproportionate time-share is justifiable.
Decision-making powers can fall to one parent for good reason even though child time-share is equal or close to equal.

Bill C-560 is an urgently needed, balanced response to a significant social problem that is familiar to anyone with exposure to child custody litigation. The public overwhelmingly supports the equal shared parenting solution. Parliament will soon speak on the issue.


Brian Ludmer of LudmerLaw is a business and family law practitioner and was among the drafters of bill C-560.
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Barbara Kay: Stephen Harper’s last chance to make life fairer for suffering fathers


Barbara Kay: Stephen Harper’s last chance to make life fairer for suffering fathers

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Barbara Kay | May 26, 2014 | Last Updated: May 23 4:52 PM ET
More from Barbara Kay | @BarbaraRKay

In litigation, although lip service is paid by law associations to the “best interests” of the child, make no mistake: lawyers work to advance their clients’ wishes, not the children’s.http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/05/26/barbara-kay-stephen-harpers-last-chance-to-make-life-fairer-for-suffering-fathers/

Peter J. Thompson/National PostIn litigation, although lip service is paid by law associations to the “best interests” of the child, make no mistake: lawyers work to advance their clients’ wishes, not the children’s.

Tomorrow, May 27, will feature the conclusion of parliamentary debate on Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott’s private member’s Bill C-560, which proposes an amendment to Canada’s Divorce Act that would protect children’s right, in the absence of proven neglect or abuse, to love and be loved equally by both parents after separation.

Our now-superannuated paradigm — one primary, one secondary parent — is based on the flawed assumption that judges can somehow arrive at the “right” distribution of parenting time. Current social science overwhelmingly deems this an impossible task. Litigation necessarily triangulates the children into their parents’ divorce, encouraging drawn-out, financially crippling and emotionally devastating scenarios from which nobody but lawyers profit. It is an unethical and counterproductive model most Canadians firmly deplore.

All informed critics give our system a failing grade. No other alternative proposed over three decades has proven effective. Mediation has not reduced bitter custody litigation. Neither have collaborative lawyers, costs sanctions, parenting education or any other initiatives. Why? Because litigation remains the ace up the sleeve of the less collaborative parent. Sociological research tells us that what children want after separation is two parents, not one parent and a visitor. But once in litigation, although lip service is paid by law associations to the “best interests” of the child, make no mistake: Lawyers work to advance their clients’ wishes, not the children’s.

Related

If the bill were to make it to the Justice Committee of the House of Commons for further study and review, parents, social scientists and others who understand these issues far better than our elected representatives would have an opportunity to speak to the issue. But from a reliable government source, I am informed that cabinet ministers have been instructed to vote against Bill C-560, which will vitiate the substantial number of caucus votes in favour. This decision would be an unconscionable insult to Mr. Vellacott and a repudiation of the party’s erstwhile platform position. Add the mass NDP nays and the paucity of free-vote yays from Liberals, and a good and necessary reform will founder.

If I thought the bill were failing on its merits after a thorough public airing and debate, I could accept it with grace. But there has been no public debate, and I know from discussions with intelligent people — even those who claim to grasp the principles involved — that misconceptions about equal shared parenting as a default abound. One such friend said he disagreed with the bill because “I think mothers should have a larger role in parenting after separation.” He apparently thought the bill would force all parents to hew to the equal-time model. On the contrary: collaborative parents could make any arrangement they liked. The default would avoid litigation in high-conflict cases.

A document called “Myths and Facts” to correct such misconceptions was circulated to everyone in Parliament. It fully responds to every concern raised by the opposition. But it seems very few MPs have read it.

If mothers were the main victims of our failing system, would this bill not have passed by acclamation many years ago?

The fact that 30 cabinet ministers, many (most?) of whom are not really familiar with the parameters of the proposals, can shoot down this excellent, deeply researched and judicious principle — one approved of by 80% of Canadians — without an opportunity to inform themselves thoroughly on what it actually means, is cruelly arbitrary and unjustified by any reasonable criterion.

It is also personally embittering. I am familiar with hundreds of personal stories of literally ruined lives, tales of children anguished by forced separation from beloved parents because the “winner” took “all.” The “losers” are virtually all dads. Can we speak plainly here? If mothers were the main victims of our failing system, would this bill not have passed by acclamation many years ago? Why are politicians so afraid of ideologues? They don’t represent Canadian women, a majority of whom want to see gender fairness entrenched in family law.

Tomorrow will be the last chance for the Conservative government to do the right thing. I call upon the Prime Minister to allow his ministers a free vote in accordance with their individual conscience, and to send Bill C-560 to committee for the meaningful consideration it deserves.

National Post

bkay@videotron.ca

Ending the feudal family law system is the aim of C-560 in Canada


Scott Brison,

We urge you to vote for family equality on May 27th. Vote for Bill C-560.

Live Free,
Connie Brauer
1061 Mines Rd. RR2
Falmouth, NS B0P 1L0
Phone, 902 791 0958
Email, cbrauer@eastlink.ca

From: ‘Glenn at Cheriton.ca’ glenn@cheriton.ca [CEPC_Members]

Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 6:43 PM

To: CEPC_Members@yahoogroups.com

Cc: EPOC_NEWS@yahoogroups.com

Subject: [CEPC_Members] Contact your MP before May 27th to end the feudal family law system and vote for Bill C-560

Ending the feudal family law system is the aim of C-560

The foundation of British law is the “Magna Carta” which for the first time, effectively restrained the judgment or discretion of the king.

Parents across Canada have organized to reform family law with latest efforts resulting in a bill in Parliament, C560, expected to get a second reading in May, 2014.

In April, 2013, Supreme Court Judge Thomas Cromwell released a report, commissioned by the Chief Justice, which called for a complete overhaul of family courts, bemoaned the failure of 30 years of “reforms” controlled by the legal profession, and slammed family law for inaccessibility, dismal outcomes and creating disrespect for the legal system. The report called for “consensual decisions” by parents.

Bill C560 aims to implement selected best practices from other jurisdictions to encourage parents to make such “consensual decisions”, to reduce conflict and costly legal battles, and also to ensure that both parents have the option of equal time with their children unless proven unfit.

These reforms are long overdue: A joint Senate-Commons report accepted by Parliament recommended shared parenting and equality of parents in 48 reforms in 1998. Every single recommendation was blocked by legal profession vested interests, who make billions of dollars from the current adversarial system.

When legal profession advocate Nicholas Bala says the system needs more “resources” – he means more money. Thus the choice is clear: either taxpayers pour further dollars into the current dysfunctional system, or we implement a selection of practices which have reduced costs to parents and children in other jurisdictions. Those practices make up Bill C560.       

Advocates of the current sole custody system don’t seem to be able to avoid making two claims: that more money to the existing “stakeholders” will fix the system and promoting unfounded prejudicial stereotypes against fathers. The Supreme Court report dismissed the first claim, so let’s examine one of the unfounded stereotypes:

Claims that large number of abusive fathers are gaining custody are belied by research which consistently shows that children are safer with fathers than with sole maternal custody. Social science also shows that joint custody or equal parenting reduces both conflict and abuse outcomes.

It is time to move beyond simplistic gender stereotypes and do what social science overwhelmingly shows is in children’s best interest: keep both parents unless clear proof of unfitness.

To argue over which is more disadvantaged, the “winners” or the “losers” of child custody cases is pointless: let us agree that a child who goes into family courts with two fit parents and ends up with only one is the real loser. Let us agree that legal and other adversarial professionals who exploit that process to line their pockets are the winners, pious claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

Bill C560 is a good initiative to reduce legal incentives to remove a fit parent without substantial evidence. In his book, “Equal Parenting Presumption”, custody expert Edward Kruk shows that at least 40% time sharing (preferably 50%) is the key to making real reforms work and improving outcomes for children and parents. Equal time as the starting point means both parents need not fear arbitrary loss of their kids and in practice most often work out their own parenting plan (which need not be 50/50).

A key point of Bill C560 is to define “best interests of the child” as keeping both parents unless one is proven unfit.

The last reforms parents successfully pushed for (1986) included the “friendly parent rule” which was supposed to presume joint custody by giving preference to the parent who would most encourage parenting by the other parent. Judges generally “read out” this provision of the Divorce Act, inserting the presumption that existence of conflict meant they could exercise judicial discretion and order sole custody. Worse, judges often presume that removing the parent seeking joint custody or equal parenting will stop conflict. It is a feudal system when the decision maker has complete discretion/decision rights without any responsibility for the outcomes. Social science research shows that sole custody generates conflict and disadvantages children, yet judges claim this is in “best interests of the child.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Parents say that outcomes from the adversarial system have not perceptibly changed over the last several decades. Vested interests oppose changes since they make money from adversarial divorce and sole custody.

Bill C-560 brings long overdue non-adversarial reforms to a broken system. It should be supported by all members of Parliament as such reforms are supported by over 80% of the Canadian public.

Parents and supporters of these reforms should can call their federal MP and ask he or she to vote in favour of C-560. You can call in to radio or contact other media and make the point that your MP ran on the shared parenting policy in the last election and that your vote in the next election depends on how they vote May 27th for second reading.

Glenn Cheriton, President, Canadian Equal Parenting Council

p.s.  Here are some links to help you support equal parenting reforms:

http://canadianepc.org/donate

http://canadianepc.org/membership/advocate-signup/

__._,_.___


Posted by: “Glenn at Cheriton.ca” <Glenn@Cheriton.ca>


Originally posted on Occupy the Courts, The Civil Rights Movement For Equal Rights to our Children!:

http://www.crpa.ca.

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If anyone has experienced a problem with a child protection worker anywhere in Canada, your experience with the worker can now be publicly registered to inform other Canadians of your experience.   The registration website is at http://www.crpa.ca.  Currently registration forms are on line for child protection workers but registration forms for lawyers, judges and other family court related professionals will be put on line as they are developed.  The identity of those who submit names is kept confidential although you must open an account and request that your account be verified by someone from Canada Court Watch.  Verification will avoid child protection workers signing up and giving themselves recommendations to skew the results.  Search tools for the site will be activated as all bugs in the programming are worked out.

Vern Beck,

Canada Court Watch

Canadian Registry for Public Accountability

 

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Divorce and tax rules still maintain an uneasy balance | The Chronicle Herald


Divorce and tax rules still maintain an uneasy balance | The Chronicle Herald.

Divorce and tax rules still maintain an uneasy balance

December 16, 2011 – 6:17pm By ROGER HAINEAULT | FISCAL ENDEAVOURS

Sometimes the tax rules lag behind the reality of the situation. Once again, a glaring example of this was imparted to one of our clients this past week.

You might have heard that sometimes marriage leads to divorce. And often there are children involved. Back in the day, the most common situation when there was family breakdown, involved dad leaving the household while mom stayed in the matrimonial home caring for the kiddies. And he usually made some payment that represented a combination of alimony and child support.

The most basic principle of tax policy is that of balance. If one party is taking a tax deduction for some payment, the other party must be including that same payment into their tax calculation. Seems logical, right?

Someone drives for a living and deducts the cost of the gasoline he or she puts in their tank while the oil company includes that payment for that same gasoline in its sales revenues as taxable income.

Anyway, back to our stereotyped example. Dad would pay mom some agreed-upon amount every month and at the end of the year he took a tax deduction for it while she had to include it on her tax return.

The caveat was that the dad could not make any dependant claim for a child in which he was providing support for — in effect negating the opportunity to take a double deduction.

Then in 1995 the Supreme Court held in Thibaudeau v. Canada that including support as taxable income was not a violation of equality rights. The notion of the case was that Suzanne Thibaudeau found it unfair that her higher-income ex-spouse was entitled to deduct his payment to her (and incidentally enjoy a larger tax savings because of a greater marginal tax rate) while she had to support herself and the children at a lower income point and not even enjoy the full payment benefits since it was taxable and resulted in less net dollars to spend caring for the household.

In 1996, the federal government brought in a budget with a number of changes in this area that ultimately resulted in the system we enjoy today. Now support payments are neither deductible nor taxable.

But there is an unfair element.

Today, shared custody is the gold standard. Often we see the separated parents running households in the same neighbourhood with the children shuttling back and forth on a weekly basis, to minimize disruption to their lives. The Child Support Guidelines provide the parties with a mechanism to determine the support payment.

Take, for instance, Bill and Mary. Bill earns more than Mary and the guideline states that Bill should pay Mary $900 and Mary should pay Bill $700 a month. Their two children are in a shared custody arrangement where they live 50 per cent of the time in each household.

If one takes a moment to think about it, the cost of upbringing these children over the course of the year is for the most part split — half the food is consumed in each home and so on. The guideline dictates that Bill pay to Mary $200 a month — the differential.

Mary claims one of the children for the Amount for Eligible Dependant — a significant tax credit. The other child should be eligible to be claimed using the same rule by Bill, since effectively this is the most equitable position, and it’s not the same child being claimed twice.

But the rules do not allow for any personal dependant credits to be claimed for a child in which you make a support payment. Made sense when you were taking a tax deduction for that payment, but not today.

So Bill incurs an additional tax bill of almost $2,400, which realistically means a couple of hundred bucks a month less for the kiddies.

Roger Haineault is with Tax Filers here in HRM. His column appears Saturday.

(rhaineault@herald.ca)

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