National Post

Thursday, December 10, 1998

Shared parenting priority
Report on Custody

Chris Cobb
Ottawa Citizen

The special parliamentary committee on custody and access released its final report yesterday urging the federal government to accept a new legal concept of shared parenting that would give mothers and fathers equal rights after divorce.

Landon Pearson, Liberal senator, and Roger Gallaway, Liberal MP -- both committee co-chairs -- said the report, For the Sake of the Children, had been written with children in mind. Its 48 recommendations are aimed at reducing the impact of divorce.

But Reform members on the committee said the report does not go far enough in furthering the access rights of grandparents, or in its proposed measures to prevent false allegations of abuse which can be influential in a court deciding who gets custody of a child.

While agreeing with the general thrust of the committee, NDP members wanted the final report to push the federal government to spend more money on legal aid and relieving family poverty.

Mr. Gallaway said the recommendation to eliminate the terms custody and access and replace them with "shared parenting" is the cornerstone of the committee's report.

"This is a profound shift in the law," he said. "Children are entitled to two parents after a divorce -- as they had pre-divorce."

The recommendation would not necessarily mean a 50-50 time share between parents but would, said Mr. Gallaway, eliminate many of the "games" that often happen in acrimonious separations and divorces. Shared parenting would give both parents equal rights in all major decisions in their children's lives.

The recommendations would require divorcing parents to develop a shared parenting plan and present it to a court for approval. Only in cases of proven abuse would a judge be able to grant sole custody to one parent.

Parents who agree on a shared parenting plan without legal intervention would not be affected by the recommendations.

Related Sites

Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access
Contains minutes of all meetings.

The Children's Voice
Advocates the dismantling of the adversarial system in Canadian family law.

Fathers Are Capable Too advocacy page.

Selected Statistics on Canadian Families and Family Law
November 1997 study compiled by the Department of Justice.

Joel Miller's Family Law Centre
A large Canadian-based site with comprehensive links to family law guidelines and legislation.

Status of Women Canada
Federal government agency mandated to promote gender equality.

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