NATIONAL SHARED PARENTING ASSOCIATION

INITIATIVE 1997

Mission Statement: Helping parents co-operate to provide a loving, challenging, learning environment in which children realize their personal best.

The following initiative has been established by the collaboration of many children’s, men’s and parents’ groups and individuals, including family crisis organizations, throughout Canada. It was because of this concerted effort, driven by love and caring for our children, that we established the National Shared Parenting Association to represent the best interests of children in social, political and legal reform concerning separation and divorce.

Our goal is to provide a better future for children and their parents by placing an emphasis on positive resolution of parental separation to ensure that childrens’ rights to lasting and meaningful relationships with both parents is protected and enforced by law.

It is obvious that the present legal separation process unecessarily harms all family members involved. The results of this are seen daily in increased stress and negative impacts on all families in dissolution who have gone through the traditional adversarial court system.

Currently, the bias against fathers, non-custodial parents and extended family is clear in all areas of legal processes and community services involved in family crisis situations. These include endless legal aid support for women, draconian maintenance enforcement laws, allowing legitimacy to false abuse accusations and the imbalance in present custody and access agreements that are essentially unenforcable. These increase difficulties for those already in crisis and ultimately hurt children.

It is the children of divorce who truly suffer when their parents are in conflict. Therefore, we believe that mediation, councelling and case management approaches to separation of parents be implemented prior to allowing entry into the adversarial legal process.

In summary, we need the support of every parent, relative and extended family member who loves and cares about their children to get involved and assist us in ensuring the development of better methods of dealing with family breakup in order to provide our children with a better future.

WHY YOU SHOULD SUPPORT OUR INITIATIVE

1. The changes proposed by the NSPA enhance parents’ abilities to resolve problems in a positive and constructive fashion because of better procedures for dealing with family separation and crisis. The positive impact on our children is undeniable when we provide the means to have two parents to love and be loved by.

2. Our purpose is to strengthen and maintain positive outcomes in times of family crisis for all family members by implementing procedures to resolve differences in an environment that is conducive to constructive change, rather than further destruction.

3. These changes will result in substantial savings to families and taxpayers by providing successful and positive outcomes for children achieved through equitable approaches to separation and divorce. It is far less expensive, in both financial and personal costs, for all family members to engage in methods that encourage positive communication and relationship building during separation. The safety, security and stability, both physical and emotional, of our children will be ensured through mediation and councelling focused on their best interests.

“PARENTS MAY SEPARATE, BUT CHILDEN ARE FOR LIFE”

HELP US MAKE LIFE BETTER FOR OUR CHILDREN

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NATIONAL SHARED PARENTING ASSOCIATION

INITIATIVE 1997

A. ASSUMPTION OF JOINT CUSTODY

After a relationship breakdown, there must be an automatic assumption of joint custody covering all aspects of the separation. Through the use of case managers, all family members can be assisted through this crisis period by having support services including counselling, mediation and a mandatory parent separation program. All of these steps must be taken prior to entry into the adversarial court system.

B. ACCESS ENFORCEMENT EQUAL TO MAINTENANCE ENFORCEMENT

There must be a program initiated for enforcement of access equivalent to present maintenance enforcement policies with the addition of mediated resolution of problems prior to the use of legal action. All efforts must be expended to reduce conflict and assist all family members to achieve a positive outcome. The process must be balanced, respect everyone concerned, and focus on the safety, security and stability of the children. The same rules, penalties and enforcement should be applicable to both parents.

C. ACCOUNTABILITY FOR FALSE ACCUSATIONS OF CHILD ABUSE

Any person who knowingly makes or aids a false accusation of child abuse must be subject to criminal prosecution. In addition, any parent who makes false accusations of child abuse must face the possibility of losing custody of their child(ren). At present, 85% of these allegations made during divorce proceedings prove to be false, but the negative impact on the innocent and children is lifelong. There is at present no effective penalty to stop those who make and support these false claims, nor accountability for the destruction they cause.

D. PROGRAMS FOR FATHERS AND CHILDREN

There must be programs developed to assist extended family members, fathers and children during separation and divorce proceedings with particular focus on ensuring lasting positive relationships. At present, there are no resources allocated to assist fathers and their children during and after divorce that specialize in dealing with the impact on them resulting from this crisis in their lives.

E. LEGAL AID LIMITATIONS AND ACCOUNTABILITY OF USERS

All those who use legal aid must be made accountable and responsible for their actions, including following all court orders. At present, custodial parents using legal aid can ignore or defy court orders with impunity and force the non-custodial parent into an endless process of litigation until financially ruined. The children of divorce are properly deserving of these resources, not the legal system. Family separation mediators with court sanctioned authorities must be utilized in legal aid cases to oversee the adversarial legal framework at all levels of proceedings and focus upon successful problem solving in a constructive manner. There is no financial gain or loss for one parent with joint-custody.

F. DEFINITION AND INTERPRETATION OF EXISTING FAMILY LAW

The premises, rules and processes of the present legal system used in divorce are antiquated, expensive and increase conflict for all family members. There needs to be a simple, yet comprehensive, language developed that is designed to encourage and support positive outcomes for all family members in this devastating situation. The system must allow for the average person to understand and participate in the various components of separation with minimal need for legal interpretation. The majority of those who have completed, or are currently experiencing, separation do not comprehend the intricacies of the present process. A user friendly system coupled with educational assistance and case management would allow for the support and peaceful resolution of problems instead of adding stress to an already overburdened family by a process they do not understand.

* we accept that in some instances of severe family problems additional support and alternatives might be required until family members reach a minimum level of ability to co-operate, and that in cases of criminal actions ongoing contact with family members may be precluded.

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