Response to Bill C-41

National Shared Parenting Association

National Shared Parenting Association
c/o: Box 4586
Regina, Saskatchewan
S4P 3Y3
306-789-1359

February 18, 1997

Dear Non-Custodial Parents/Friends:

We are a non-custodial support group, recently turned support/lobby group, that have been in existence here in Regina for approximately 10 months. Our former name was Weekend Dads.

Recently, we have come to two fundamental conclusions about the rights of children and their respective non-custodial parents:

1.) Lack of Children's Rights to Form a Meaningful Bond with the Non-custodial parent...

The children of non-custodial parents were lacking rights to form meaningful, bonding relationships with their non-custodial parents, due to the courts basing custody and access decisions on traditional maternal (nurturing/care-giving) and paternal (bread-winner) roles of men and women, and precedence (where the mother gets sole custody the majority of the time, or the children's principal residence is with their mother). The "standard" court-ordered access schedule is visitation every second weekend. This ruling has transformed non-custodial parents (usually fathers) into being more like "uncles" or "grandparents" to their own children.

Myth: It's too disruptive to have children go from one parent's house to the other.

Fact: Modern socio-psychological research supports the principal that the most important thing to a child in our world, is for them to know that they are loved, respected, cared for and can depend on both parents.

Example 1): Disruption

It's disruptive to send your children to school in the morning, have them return at lunch, send them back to school for the afternoon and have them return home at the end of the afternoon, and do this 5 days a week. Of course this is ridiculous to say this is disruptive because there is a great benefit of sending your children to school...they receive an education. This holds true with spending equal time (or as close to equal as possible) with both mother and father. The children benefit, immensely from frequent interaction with both parents. Often times, children wind up being looked after by babysitters arranged by the custodial parent, as opposed to having the opportunity to be with the non-custodial parent. Common sense and current professional testimony can attest that the necessary relationship building cannot transpire if non-custodial parent and children see each other only every second weekend. This is crucial to the mental health of our children.

Example 2: Neglect

When a non-custodial parent is still living at home with their spouse and children, but manages to see the children about every second weekend, because he/she is busy with his/her career, entertains clients or friends, and golfs quite a bit, he or she would be deemed somewhat neglectful to their children by most of society. Is there any difference to the children when the courts order access every second weekend after divorce? The children internalize the fact that the non-custodial parent does not see them as much as once done and needed by the children. They begin to wonder, "why doesn't dad come around more? What's wrong with me? What did I do to disappoint dad?" Our children are growing up with unnecessary shame and blame and have lower self-esteems than children who grow up with both parents taking an active role in parenting them.

Solution: Presumptive Joint Custody

There are 15 States in the U.S., as well as the United Kingdom and Australia that have implemented the presumptive joint custody law, with much success. The federal government is well aware that this principal should be seriously considered for implementation here in Canada, but special interest groups and the Canadian Barr Association are not in favor of this plan. These groups want the biases to continue in favor of custodial parents (usually the mother) and for the adversarial legal system to remain in place during the divorce process.

According to many professionals, such as Ross Finney, Edward Kruk and the federal government itself (1993 report), custody of children should be presumed to be "joint" from the onset. This would greatly diminish the need for harsh litigation fighting over who gets the children, for the parent who does is guaranteed support money, often larger property settlements (the matrimonial home, furnishings, etc.) and control. With the absence of fighting over the children, the "best interests of the children" can actually be considered, without a price-tag on their heads. The details of the amount of time each parent spends with the children would be worked out in the "text" of each individual agreement, depending on the circumstances accordingly.

2.) Unfair Bias Regarding Child Support Guidelines...

Non-custodial parents are unfairly penalized in respect to the new Child Support Guideline tables (Bill C-41). With the recent events in Ottawa and Liberal Senator Anne Cools, the unfair biases against non-custodial parents have become quite evident. The result will be that non-custodial parents will be transferring some of their income to the custodial parent, over and above what it costs to raise our children, and the non-custodial parent will have less disposable income to spend on the children, due to not being able to claim child support payments as an income tax deduction. Allan Rock says the additional $400-$500 million will go to toward child-poverty programs. Although child poverty programs are a great idea, why should non-custodial parents shoulder a larger portion of this program than the rest of the country?

Proposal

A.) All the non-custodial, fathers' groups, any child advocacy groups and even women's' groups band together under one common association, called the National Shared Parenting Association.

From our discussions with non-custodial parent groups across the country, we all have the same or similar concerns: to have the opportunity to parent our children and to be treated fairly by the court systems in relation to custody, access and child support

Purpose of the National Shared Parenting Association

"To provide a credible, unified voice in the name of children's rights to be parented and supported by both parents in a fair and equitable manner, that is truly in their best interest."

As the above statement reads, we stress the needs and rights of the children. If we do this openly and honestly, we as non-custodial parents will also benefit by eradicating the unjust biases in our justice system relating to custody/access and child support.

Political/Media Clout

If nothing more than only a name at first, politicians and the media alike, will be more interested in dealing with a "national" association, representing the common, unified voice of hundreds of thousands, even millions of non-custodial parents throughout the country from coast to coast. Each group, be it in Victoria, Regina, Toronto, or Halifax could keep it's present local name and describe themselves as a member of the National Shared Parenting Association, or if they chose, could simply change their name to the National Shared Parenting Association, Regina Division (or Calgary, etc.).

Gender Neutrality

The association is to be gender-neutral. Although most non-custodial parents are men and the association would contain many men's support groups, there are also women who are non-custodial parents. There are also aunts, grandmothers and others who don't see their nieces, nephews and grandchildren and whom have a vested interest in seeing fairness within our divorce laws. There has been too much division within the genders, which has caused a greater rift between men and women during and post-divorce. We recognize the need to work with women in order that the best interests of our children can be accommodated. This approach will reap greater results than any militant approach that has been adopted by other interest groups in the past. Society simply would not tolerate men demanding their rights, even if our cries are valid. It will be evident that we want to fight with no-one and will work with everyone toward the best interests of our children. If we take this approach, no-one can argue with our cause and we will succeed.

B) The National Shared Parenting Association Convention

Purpose of Convention

1.To give members of the National Shared Parenting Association meet together to "network" and share ideas
2.To "bond" the groups together across the country
3.To hear professional speakers and authorities on divorce, custody and access issues
4.To increase awareness through media coverage of this formulation and solidification of our new national association (Note: we have included copies of a recent MacLean's article and recent Globe and Mail article that refer to our efforts and the convention.). In addition to these articles, we have done radio interviews with the CBC, Montreal, Vancouver, and Kelowna stations. We have done local interviews with a local CTV affiliate and are talking with the local CBC. The CBC National News has told us they want to do a story on the National Shared Parenting Association when we are close to and conducting our convention. As we write this letter, we have received a call from Andrew Duffey of the Southam News Group (Ottawa) who is preparing a story to be printed nationally in within their chain of newspapers, and who has asked us for our opinion of Bill C-41. I'm sure you've all seen articles in your local medias or may have even contributed to stories yourselves. The Globe and Mail and MacLean's has told us they too will run a story leading up to and to report on our convention. The key is that the media are poised to cover our efforts and seem to be doing so in a favorable way. This gives us a tremendous advantage to put pressure on the government to actually do what's in the best interest of our children in a fair and equitable way.

Time is of the essence. We need to hold this convention soon. We're looking at the second or third week of April. We don't have to have a "top-notch" function, but participation is a must. We in Regina have been organized for only a short few months and invite any more established group out there, be it Vancouver, Calgary or Toronto, to carry the ball. The larger centres have a greater population base to choose from and it would make more sense to hold a convention in a larger centre than Regina. Hotel banquet space and meeting rooms could be donated in return for excellent media coverage, room rental opportunities and the other meal/beverage sales that would transpire from the volume of guests. We could contact the major airlines and ask for a discount for all the National Shared Parent Association members. The chances are, that a hotel and airlines, once properly "schooled" on our efforts and realize the extent of media coverage that would happen, someone will help in our efforts. If this fails, we could charge a small admittance fee ($5 or so), to help pay for the space. If no other group out there feels you are capable, we will have the conference in Regina. We have a draft of a "schedule of events" compiled already that we would be happy to share or implement ourselves.

Suggested Conference Content

Education on
i) aspects of poverty after divorce - making the transition
ii) The new roles of mothers and fathers in today's world
iii) Shared Parenting/Joint custody
iv) the interests of the children

Education on
i) living as a custodial parent
ii) living as a non-custodial parent with limited access

Child Support Payment Issues
i) the custodial parent's concerns
ii) the non-custodial parent's concerns

Note: Education needs to be stressed as the most important aspect of the convention/speaker's content. We need to educate people and dispel any myths out there in relation to exactly what is in the children's best interest. At the same time, we need to "market" the concept that we are working with both men and women for the best interest of our children. We need to always stress the benefits to our children, recognize the oppression to women that has attributed to over-compensation by our justice system and society.

We've spoken with many potential speakers, such as the Department of Justice, Ross Finney, Edward Kruk, psychologists and others, and feel booking interesting and credible speakers, at no charge, should not be a problem, due to the national attention and exposure this event will garner. Just think about how powerful it will be to have a round table discussion with non-custodial parents, custodial parents and psychologists while the rest of the audience listens in. Or we could have an adult child that was raised in a single parent home who wasn't able to see their non-custodial parent, and have him or her to tell their "story" and what impact that had in their life.

The National Shared Parenting Association is an organization that we can all benefit by. There are no fees, there is no commitment from you, there are no risks...What the National Shared Parenting Association can offer us is BENEFITS. Benefits of strength, unity and credibility. All we need from you is a "nod" and we will place the name of your organization on a list of members. We all will be the administrators of this association until we elect a board to do so, perhaps at the convention. Please send us your ideas that we've presented here. Tell your membership about the association and try to find out how many people from your local organization would be able to attend the convention. Also please feel free to volunteer your city as a location for the convention. If you have any other ideas or comments, please don't hesitate to share them with us. We will in return contact you all via the internet, fax, mail, or telephone to solidify plans very soon. Please contact us this week, by faxing (306) 543-8077 with your comments.

We have a golden opportunity to actually make social reform in a short period of time if we market our efforts in an intelligent manner and take advantage of the media coverage that is waiting for us to move. The entire country is watching and is tired of seeing children used as pawns during marital divorce. Let's band together toward our common goal and disprove the small group that opposes our honest efforts.

Sincerely,

Len Andrychuck, Wayne Morsky, George Seitz, Randy Liberet
National Shared Parenting Association

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