CBC News

New divorce law seeks to resolve child custody disputes

Last Updated Tue Dec 10 04:56:24 2002
CBC News

OTTAWA--Ottawa is expected to propose changes to the Divorce Act on Tuesday that will encourage divorcing parents to resolve disputes over their children.

Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said the proposed amendments to Canada's divorce laws are intended to stop couples from fighting over their children.

The amendments would remove the terms "custody" and "access" from the law, replacing them with the newer concept of "parental responsibility."

"People are asking the government to move with a new philosophy and a new dynamic, as well. Something less adversarial," said Cauchon.

Cauchon said the changes would encourage the parents to seek mediation and counselling to resolve custody disputes.

Critics of the current divorce law say custody and access orders make winners and losers out of divorcing parents – with the father often ending up the loser.

Under the new law, focusing on parental responsibility, judges will have to identify the best interests of the children, to consider the children's preferences and their physical and emotional needs.

Cauchon is expected to announce funding for the new mediation and counselling services proposed in the amendments.

"Some people are saying programs are key when people, when families are facing a crisis," said Cauchon.

Cauchon rejected calls from critics for a more radical change to Canada's divorce laws.

A special parliamentary committee on child custody recommended that "shared parenting" is the only concept that would ensure both parents play a significant role in their children's lives after a divorce.

Written by CBC News Online staff

Copyright 2002 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation