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Letters: March 21, 2011

|Written By Law Times
A FATHER’S PERSPECTIVE ON JOINT CUSTODY

[span style="color: #000000;"]The real problem in family law is the beliefs expressed by some lawyers that predominate in the family courts. Such views (see [a href="http://www.lawtimesnews.com/201102078228/Headline-News/Debate-fires-up-over-presumption-of-joint-custody"]

“Debate fires up over presumption of joint custody,”[/span][/a] Law Times, Feb. 7) are wrong and discriminatory. But those who discriminate never see what they do as discrimination.

I’ve faced that sort of discrimination. Despite that fact, I am one of those lucky dads who won custody. I overcame unbelievable difficulties in the legal system due to the same sorts of attitudes by lawyers, professionals, and judges.

This led me to found Fathers Resources International, become a law clerk, and lead the side of the debate for the presumption of shared parenting as executive director of the National Shared Parenting Association during joint committee hearings on child custody and access 13 years ago.

Today, our kids have grown up. Unlike some lawyers, I’d never refer to my ex as an assistant parent. That’s hateful and disrespectful. Despite any adult disagreement we might have had, she will always be Mom and I will always be Dad.

I chose not to be angry about what happened but instead took the high road. Anything less would have been shameful when measured through the eyes of our children. I set a higher standard as a parent in the hopes that the children would learn from my example.

Fortunately, they did. It was the greatest gift I could ever give them as a parent to heal their broken hearts. As adults today, they are well-adjusted, happy, and productive.

Those who see the rights of women and children as bound to each other as opposed to having separate identities are promulgating a position that is hateful.

They are driving a wedge of hate between parents. Shame on lawyers who spread such beliefs. They harm children when they are most vulnerable and need their parents to make peace, not go to war.

Despite the concerns, my bet is that things will be business as usual because that’s the prevalent perspective in family law even though feminism raised boys to become men like myself who assist their children by being involved, caring, and sensitive to their need for our love, guidance, and attention.

How sad it is that our most educated and privileged members of society just don’t get it. That’s why I carry on my work with fathers for whom there are no services in Ontario when the legal system insists on waging war for profit.

This is what I know to be true:

•    Parenting is all about love. The family court too often escalates hate for profit; encourages expediency over solid investigation; and involves a tired judicial attitude that we cannot legislate human conduct when in fact that’s the basis of the law.

•    We don’t need more or revised Family Law Rules, procedural changes, new forms, additional money, revised statutes or added services. What we truly need is an attitude shift.

•    We’ve institutionalized child abuse. Kids today lose their right to love, security, and family. We say this is the best we can do. That’s because we forget that parenting is all about love and self-sacrifice rather than hate or the exploitation of vulnerable clients when ultimately so many of them cannot afford a lawyer or soon lose the ability to fund one.

That’s what’s true. The court dockets prove that. Yet we sweep that fact under the carpet while blaming anyone but ourselves along with our role in fostering this reality.

Yet judges say we need more money. Attorney General Chris Bentley says new procedures have improved the family court. Lawyers say only they can help.

All of them are deeply wrong.

We need to embrace that less is actually more by beginning with the right premise.

Having been an adult child of divorce, stepfather, divorced dad who raised the kids, reform activist, educator, law clerk, counsellor, and coach in family law, my suggestion is to consider that the ultimate best interests of the children is a home with two parents in love who provide security, guidance, and well-being.

That is the standard from which all others must be measured.

That is society’s duty to our children by parents, professionals, lawyers, legal organizations, judges, and legislators.

When parents can’t do that, they must do it in two homes. That’s their duty of care to their children.

It’s also society’s duty of care to foster and encourage that as the starting place in every discussion or decision. When any parent veers off this course, it is our duty to make it clear with every tool at our disposal that this will not be tolerated in Canada.

Finally, we must also end the fight over child support. Those who receive it are trustees. When we are awarded support, we must insist on transparency and accountability.

After all, dead people get as much in estates matters. Our children deserve that in the family court as their automatic right.

Anything less than acting according to the highest standards of adult conduct is institutionalized child abuse.

Danny Guspie,
executive director,
Fathers’ Resources International


HATEFUL DRIBBLE
I am offended by this article (see “Debate fires up over presumption of joint custody,” Law Times, Feb. 7).

Does Law Times advocate the opinion that dads are assistant parents and that trying to have a child for equal time is a ploy to get out of child support? What planet are you people from?

I will not be reading anything from your company or this author again. I hope you don’t publish this kind of hateful dribble anymore.
Liam Jones,
Aurora, Ont.
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