Best Interests of the Children?
A call for Analysis and Proof of Promises of Bill C-41 before implementation
The constituency: in 1991 there were 603,000 lone parent families headed by women and about 170,000 lone parent families headed by men. With an average of 1.5 children per family this means about 1.2 million Canadian children are growing up in families lacking the substantial presence of one parent. Statistics Canada does not even recognize the existence of co-parenting (shared custody) families, nor does federal or provincial family skills training programmes. Yet this post separation shared parenting model is unquestionably the most satisfactory from the child's point of view and the most financially self-sufficient from the point of view of society.
The House of Commons has made a commitment to eliminating child poverty by the year 2000.
Yet, after divorce, government policy and court bias continues to prefer the lone-parent, usually
mother-only model, which produces a higher and worsening rate of child poverty and disadvantage
than the intact model or the co-parenting model. It must be noted that the models of more state
involvement and less parental involvement, that of orphanages, state-run homes and residential
schools, produce substantially more disadvantaged children than lone parent families.
Thus, two parents are better than one, and zero parents or the state as parent, is worst of all.
In the movie "Sophie's Choice", a mother is required to choose between her children. In Canada, the State-run Court system often acts in the role of the Auschwitz commandant and makes the "Sophie's Choice" of choosing which parent will be exterminated from the life of the child.
In 87% of the cases, sole custody is awarded to one parent.
The questions need to be asked:
Bill C-41 is likely to increase child poverty if they are living in any of the following families:
(In fact the only family type which stands to significantly benefit from C-41 taxes is the high-income custodial parent, the family type least in need.)
Courts make decisions purportedly on "Best Interests of Children" but the effect of court decisions in the area of custody, access and support has not been studied by Justice.
Money is not a substitute for mom and dad: C-41 assumes that the first and foremost measure of a child's best interests is money to one parent. Kids benefit from both parents involved in their lives in ways that cannot be replicated with money.
Example of Quebec orphanages, orphanages in Newfoundland, Alfred Ont, and native residential schools show that state and churches with almost unlimited cash resources do a poorer job of raising children than parents, even impoverished parents.
Children prefer their own parents, even if impoverished or imperfect, over those who raise kids for pay.
Idea: from England children can intervene in divorce, saying that their interests are in having the family stay together. Can we apply this to Canada?
Friendly Parent Rule: Best Interests of Children is in keeping contact with both parents. Therefore judges should consider which parent will encourage and preserve this contact with the other parent.
Not in kids best interests to lose one parent. It is in the best interests of children to deal with access to both parents first, rather than as an afterthought to support and tax collection.
Support more likely to be paid if parenting is shared.
Support more likely to be paid if contact retained with other parent.
Judges don't follow "best interests" ... e.g. Thibaudeau case one judge said that mothers win
custody because of "immutable characteristics, not because of merit.". This judge argued that kids'
standard of living is inseparable to that of the custodial parent. The majority of judges of the
Supreme Court accepted this analysis.
Thus kids are disadvantaged by living with custodial mothers. This shows that judges are biased against placing the child with the parent more likely to keep them out of poverty. The Supreme Court Thibaudeau decision may show judges are making decisions not on the legislated requirement of "Best Interests of the Child".
Children's best interest is to have both parents treated with respect by courts and government. Therefore abusive, sexist and deliberately offensive statements such as "deadbeat dad" should be treated the same as racist epithets and the persons responsible removed from positions of responsibility and denied state funding or support. It is not in the child's best interest to have one of his or her parents denigrated by media, politicians or courts.
Not in child's interest to have custodial parent paying support. Therefore, requiring alimony or spousal support to be paid by custodial parent should be banned since this deprives custodial parent of tax credit and exemptions which financially disadvantages the child and the custodial parent.
C-41's increase in taxes on separated families is not in the child's best interests. The federal government expects to make an additional $240 million yearly from separated families. Provincial taxes (averaging 50% of federal income tax) plus surtaxes will bring the total to about $400 million. Some of this will be returned to poorer families, but very little to separated families. Furthermore, this benefit will only help for the time the child is with one parent. Therefore, children of separated families will be disadvantaged by C-41.
We recommend that Justice Canada study and enforce "Best interests of Child" as viewed from the child: i.e. retaining sufficient contact with both parents, mediation rather than confrontation, equal responsibility by both parents for financial and emotional support. Judges should be educated about damage to children caused by loss of parent, particularly the father.
Bring back requirement of proving "fault" to divorce, but in a modified way, not dealing with support or separation, but the child. Children often blame themselves for divorce when it is parents' fault. If a parent who abandoned the marriage, sought a new relationship elsewhere or failed to live up to their obligation was required to accept blame and apologize to the child, perhaps children would be less damaged in divorce. In many cases, perhaps most, both parents are to blame and both should apologize to children at an appropriate age.
Alternatives to Adversarial System:
Most cultures have a village or community mediation approach to family problems which involves grand-parents and extended family. Courts need a family equivalent of "healing circles".
Report prepared by
Single Fathers' Network and FatherCraft Canada,
73 Eccles Street, Ottawa K1R 6S5
Tel: (613) 238-3208 Fax: (613)238-3491