The bill, which Ludmer helped draft, called for changes to the Divorce Act, with the primary proposal being a rebuttable presumption that equal shared parenting would support the best interests of the children unless a parent can establish that another parenting plan would substantially enhance those interests.
The private member’s bill was defeated May 28, with a vote of 80 in favour and 174 against. It was sponsored by Maurice Vellacott, a Conservative MP for Saskatoon-Wanuskewin.
Ludmer, of LudmerLaw, says the news came as no surprise, as he had been informed in advance of the government’s position.
Despite positive meetings with Liberal Justice Critic Sean Casey and Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver, Ludmer says he suspects it was “too little, too late,” as positions had already been determined.
“The biggest difficulty we had was not having access to the cabinet early on,” says Ludmer. “Joe Oliver himself said the meeting was a real eye opener for him, but their agenda is so jammed that even if I had the most compelling case in the world, there was insufficient opportunity for the cabinet to revisit the issue.”
Public opinion polls have consistently shown up to 80-per-cent support for equal shared parenting across all demographics, regions, and political affiliations, says Ludmer, who has also prepared a myths and facts guideline related to equal shared parenting issues and Bill C-560.
In an interview with Law Times, Ludmer says, “The social science literature tells us that the closer you get to 50/50 and two primary parents, the better the outcomes."
In the article, Ludmer argues the existing approach often leads to needless litigation that’s bad for children.
“The most unfair criticism of Bill C-560 or frankly any similar legislation in any jurisdiction around the world is that it’s about parents’ rights rather than children’s rights. And it’s not. The current system is about parents’ rights," he tells the legal publication.
When it comes to next steps, Ludmer says education and awareness continue to be key factors.
“There has to be more education of the Parliamentarians,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. “We also know the public has to become more vocal about this. It’s time for the public to speak up, and they are to some extent – the government just isn’t listening intently enough. I also think the media has a role to play in articulating the issue and raising awareness.”
While the defeat was discouraging, Ludmer says there are positive elements to focus on.
“This is the furthest it’s ever gone, and we raised the level of awareness,” he says, noting equal shared parenting has been a regular discussion topic at conferences since the introduction of the bill.
“We want to keep the issue alive, and hopefully it will come back in the form of a government bill. It's my understanding that the government now has a heightened awareness of the need for divorce reform, and that the Department of Justice is working on a bill that will cover this topic in some fashion, and it will likely appear prior to the next election. We'll have to see what the government has in mind," says Ludmer.
"You have to try a rebuttable presumption of equal shared parenting if you truly want a meaningful reduction in custody litigation, for the sake of the children. You have to go this route.”