National Post

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Monday, August 23, 1999

Study seeks men who won custody of their children
Donna Laframboise
National Post

Are you a father who has won child custody in court? If so, your story could net you a cool $1,000.

The Men's Divorce Centre, a Toronto-based organization that sells 800 educational packages to divorcing males from coast to coast each month, has launched a study into custodial fathers and the family court system.

Although many people believe the courts treat fathers and mothers equally, spokesperson Greg Kershaw says his group sees such a starkly different picture that it is offering $5,000 in order to locate fathers who won sole custody even though their former spouse was an equally competent parent.

"We all know of mothers who have won custody of their children where the father was not a bad father. What we're looking for, if any exist in Canada, are situations in which both parents are decent people, but the court awarded sole final custody to the father."

The first five fathers who meet the centre's list of criteria -- which include the children being under age 12 and the mother being free of mental illness, addictions and criminal behaviour -- will qualify for a $1,000 honorarium.

Divorced males are encouraged to request an application form via the centre's toll-free phone number, 1-877-273-2587.

Bonnie Diamond, executive director of the National Association of Women and the Law, is unimpressed by the initiative. "You could hardly call that a study," she told the National Post. "We deal with substantive issues, and I really don't care to comment."

Kershaw says that "during last year's child custody and access public hearings, we heard all kinds of estimates of how often fathers who fight for custody actually achieve it. The numbers were all over the map, but no one seems to have any empirical evidence.

"We'd like to know more about the circumstances of the fathers who have been viewed as capable parents by the courts."

The Men's Divorce Centre, which donates a portion of its sales to fathers' rights groups, sells divorcing men a package that includes four videotapes and five manuals with titles such as "How to save on legal costs," "Child custody disputes: what's realistic, what's not" and "The secrets of hiring, firing and managing your lawyer."

It hopes to release the names of the prize winners, as well as the results of its survey, later this year.

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