Toronto Sun: Top Stories

April 12, 1998


CREDIT: By ROBERT FIFE -- Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA -- The Divorce Act is being used as a weapon to punish fathers, says the chairman of a parliamentary committee studying Canada's custody laws.

Sarnia Liberal MP Roger Gallaway says he's disturbed by stories from fathers who have told the committee about the financial and emotional hell they've been put through.

Women are able to get custody of their children and to limit access to fathers by claiming they're abusive without any proof, Gallaway said.

"The Divorce Act is suddenly becoming an instrument of the Criminal Code," said Gallaway, who notes many women make false allegations and judges let them get away with it.

"We cannot have the Divorce Act used as a weapon of choice. If any of these allegations are true, it most properly should be dealt with by the criminal courts."

Many fathers often face financial ruin to fight false allegations made by their former spouses in custody battles, he said.
"There are all kinds of evidence that these people are going through not only emotional hell, but they're also going through financial hell because they're trying to protect themselves," Gallaway said.

"We're hearing about men going bankrupt simply to defend themselves against allegations that are spurious."
He pointed to the case of Durham Region Rev. Dorian Baxter, who spent $75,000 to defend himself after his former wife alleged sexual abuse of the children. It turned out the allegations were false but he ended up bankrupt.

Gallaway said many women are able to get legal aid to fight for custody of their children while the fathers have to dip into their pockets.

"It's difficult to fight legal aid because you have finite resources and so they eventually just wear you down," he said.

Many men also have great difficulty seeing their kids and are forced to hire lawyers to enforce the access order.
Gallaway said it's important for the government to change the rules to prevent the courts from allowing men or women to make unfounded allegations in custody cases. They should only be admissible if there is a police record of the incidences, he said.

It's also necessary to speed up custody cases and to let non-custodial parents have a meaningful role in raising their kids, he said.

The committee is expected to table a report on custody law reforms by Nov. 30.

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