National Post

Monday, November 23, 1998

Divorce court ignoring children, fathers: poll

Chris Cobb
Southam News

While federal lawmakers meet today to consider changes to Canada's Divorce Act, a new poll shows a large majority of Canadians feel the current custody system ignores the needs of children and fathers.

In a Southam News-Compas poll, 70% of respondents said the needs of children received too little attention by divorce courts. Another 25% said they receive the right amount of attention, and 5% said they don't receive enough.

Men and women respondents agreed completely with regard to children, the poll showed.

Another majority, 62%, said the needs of fathers received too little attention. Only 9% of respondents said men receive too much attention and 29% said it was about right.

Meanwhile, respondents were almost equally divided on the amount of attention mothers received by divorce courts. The poll found 29% of respondents felt mothers receive too much attention, 30% said they receive too little, and 42% said they receive the right amount.

Compas asked the question, "When married couples with children seek a divorce in divorce courts, do you think the needs of mothers receive too much, too little, or about the right amount of attention?"

The same question was asked about children and fathers.

A joint Senate-Commons committee on custody and access is scheduled to meet today to finalize its report on changes to the custody system.

The committee will recommend that shared parenting replace existing custodial and non-custodial arrangements. Under the recommendations, courts would recognize the legal right of children to develop relationships with both parents.

The poll results were in line with the committee's recommendations.

Two-thirds of respondents said family law should encourage and facilitate relationships between children and non-custodial parents.

Government should prevent parents from deliberately blocking another parent's access to their children, respondents said.

A vast majority of those surveyed, 80%, said it is "very important" for "children from divorced parents to maintain an ongoing relationship with the non-custodial parent, that is the parent in whose home they do not live."

Another 17% said an ongoing relationship is "somewhat important."

Younger adults held the strongest views on the question of non-custodial relationships. Among Canadians under 30 years old, 86% said it is "very important" to maintain a relationship with the non-custodial parent.

Pollster Conrad Winn said the result was significant because Canadians under 30 are more likely to be themselves children of divorce.

The Compas poll, conducted late last month, surveyed 500 Canadians -- a sample size considered accurate to within 4.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

The poll was conducted in conjunction with the Toronto-based National Foundation for Family Research and Education.

Copyright Southam Inc.