Halifax Daily News

Wednesday, May 12, 1999

Divorce `studied to death'

Delays in changes to federal laws frustrates N.S. activist

By CATHY NICOLL -- The Daily News

Changes to Canada's divorce laws are needed immediately, says Sean Cummings, director of Nova Scotia Shared Parenting Association.

At a news conference held yesterday at the association's Robie Street office, Cummings said his group is "committed to a concept of shared parenting and helping parents find peaceful solutions to divorce.''

He said the adversarial system is bad for parents and, more importantly, damaging to children.

Children have the right to be raised by both parents, he said, and that goal can be reached if parents "craft a post-divorce plan.''

Cummings said his group is disappointed by federal Justice Minister Anne McLellan's decision to recommend controversial proposals to Canada's divorce laws receive more study.

In December, a Senate-Commons committee recommended scrapping terms such as custody and access in favour of shared parenting, and making the system less combative and more focused on children.

"This issue has been studied to death. A committee of Parliament spent 12 months, heard from over 520 witnesses, and went to 15 cities in this country, and came up with 48 recommendations that have the ability to profoundly change the divorce laws in Canada,'' he said.

"We have had 30 years for the new divorce act, and we have three generations of adult children of divorce, like myself, who can tell you what it's like to grow up in that kind of hostile environment.''

Cummings's group is offering peer counselling to men and women who are going through a divorce. Next week, it will begin a 15-week divorce-education program to teach such skills as divorce management and mediation.

He said the course is intended to keep people out of the courts because once lawyers are introduced into the process, things turn nasty.

"Lawyers exacerbate the acrimony in the divorce process because lawyers are client-focused. Lawyers are not child-focused and lawyers are not solution-focused, and what children of divorce require is solutions,'' said Cummings.

"We're talking about dramatically restructuring the divorce system in Canada. This is about children's rights and about paren-tal responsibility.''

Cummings's group has applied to Ottawa for a $50,000 grant so it can hire an employee and buy more teaching supplies. He said the money could come from the $300 million Ottawa collects each year as a result of tax changes to child-support rules.

COPYRIGHT (1999) The Halifax Daily News