Toronto Sun

Friday, July 27, 2001

Divorce gone awry

By Heather Bird -- Toronto Sun

It was sad, but not surprising, to hear about the Cobourg man whose five-year-old son was allegedly snatched by his mother during the course of a heated custody dispute. When it comes to situations like these, the only thing surprising is that they don't occur more often.

This is not to take anything away from Bill March's alleged ordeal. Frankly, a child psychologist probably couldn't conjure a more traumatic situation for the little boy. Wee Jonathan was reportedly forcibly ripped from the back of March's car after a man leaned inside and threatened to kill his dad. When March got out to confront his attacker, the man alledgedly used a wooden pole to beat him to the ground. And then, while March lay on the driveway stunned and bleeding, the man apparently snatched the car keys from the ignition before roaring away with the lad. A Canada-wide warrant has been issued for March's estranged wife and her boyfriend.


That was Sunday and while Jonathan hadn't yet been located as of last night, Cobourg police Det. Sgt. Dave Cromlash seems pretty confident that it will only be a matter of time. There have been sightings, he says, from Brockville to Mississauga.

My friends who are divorced, particularly those with kids, say it does funny things to people. Every parent knows that one day, their babies will grow up and leave them. What divorce does is force people to confront that years earlier than they're ready.

Divorce means not being able to see your children every day. (In some cases, it means not being able to speak to them as some custody agreements spell out precisely how many phone calls are allowed.) It means not having a say in how your children are parented in the other household. And it definitely removes any control over who a new step-parent might be.

No wonder people go crazy. It takes a rational mind to leap over the emotional objections that go along with relinquishing contact with your children and, in some cases, giving them over to the care of strangers.

The Marches did not have a custody agreement in place when Jonathan went missing. And although Bill March might not see things quite this way at this precise moment, if what he reported is true, this turn of events has almost guaranteed he will emerge as the custodial parent.


"The judges take a really dim view of people who just snatch kids," says family law attorney Lawrie Pawlitza. "We all hear about stories of people whose children are kidnapped and not seen again. The reality is that it's fairly rare."

If true, March will almost certainly be granted interim custody as soon as he can get before a judge, says Pawlitza.

"It's sort of a no-brainer, really." And it's hard to make a child disappear forever, she says, particularly if you're relying on a little one to never divulge personal information.

Given the alarm that's been raised, Det.-Sgt. Cromlash is pretty confident that Jonathan is still in Canada. The car was last seen on Tuesday and since then, customs has been on full alert.

The sad part for the boy's mother, is that when the courts finish with her, it may turn out she'll probably never again have an unsupervised visit with her young son.

That's when, not if, they get around to it. They'll find Jonathan, sooner rather than later. They nearly always do.

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.