Monday, December 21, 1998Letters
The most recent contribution by John Collison to the debate on child custody, while making some good points, leaves me confused (Divorce Report Does a Number on Marriage, Dec. 17).
As a rule, women do more of the child-rearing, which is why they end up getting the children more often than men. If those are the facts, many fathers will give up custody and avoid a fruitless court battle. The supposed "pro-female bias of courts," apparently a coalition of traditional male judges who grew up believing child-rearing was the mother's job, and modern feminists, is often a myth.
The bitterness of fathers who end up losing in an adversarial situation is understandable. They are not looking for an easy way out of marriage. If women are more involved in bringing up their children, the role of the father may be almost as great, and forcing courts to render black and white decisions is unfair. It is unclear why sticking to this unfair process is desirable.
Thomas von Ledebur, Regina.
I grew up the child of an unsuccessful marriage that dragged on for years before ending in a bitter divorce. I recall it as a fierce combat in which the children were used as necessary tactical weapons by my mother against my father to collect overdue alimony. My parents' long-simmering hatred and confusion -- when it finally erupted -- distorted our adolescence; the end result was the usual catalogue of teenage misadventure. I have often wondered how different life might have been and how much suffering might have been avoided had they parted company before revenge had coloured all their dealings.
In the intervening years, I have watched as friends and neighbours have chosen to end their marriages while remaining loving and dedicated parents. While it would be disingenuous to claim the children are unaffected, it is clear that what they sense and value most are love and understanding. Whether that love comes from two individual parents operating for their common good or whether it issues from an Ozzie and Harriet-style marriage, is beside the point. This much is certain however: It is better to have two separate, caring individuals than Ozzie and Harriet, legally bound to some matrimonial version of hell, taking out their frustrations on their kids.
John Bourgeois, Toronto.
Mr. Collison seems to think that if we shackle men to women by awarding custody and support with the legal bias that now exists, men will behave in a more "civilized" manner overall. Well, here's news: Most men really care for their children, and want the best for them, even if they can't get along with their former wives. Women regularly use access to bargain for money (going so far as to falsely accuse fathers of abuse), and the courts now often assist them.
The objective of many groups who made representations to the special parliamentary committee on custody and access was to restore the balance in the eyes of the law. Despite Mr. Collison's wishes, we're not going to outlaw divorce or separation. Children are better off with two parents (even divorced parents) than one.
The law should encourage both parents to be involved with their children (more than just monetarily), and the committee's report is a good start.
Kevyn Nightingale, Toronto.
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