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Equal shared parenting shouldn’t be default position

A defeated private member's bill that would establish equal shared parenting as the default position in custody disputes is best left off the law books, Toronto-area family lawyer Nicolle Kopping-Pavars tells Law Times.

“I’m against anything that sets things in stone. It gives power to [a] position that doesn’t always work,” says Kopping-Pavars, principal of NKP Law

“In some cases, it’s an excellent place to start. In others, it’s a terrible place to start. It’s best to have a discussion and see what the family needs.”

The article reports that Bill C-560, which was originally defeated in 2014, is being redrafted. It says the groups supporting the move to introduce an amended bill have also identified some members of Parliament and the Ontario provincial legislature to act as sponsors.

The legal news outlet also cites a poll, commissioned by the Canadian Association for Equality, that found: 35 per cent of Canadians strongly support the creation of a presumption of equal parenting in child custody cases in federal and provincial legislation, 35 per cent somewhat support it, nine per cent somewhat oppose it and four per cent strongly oppose it. 

Kopping-Pavars, who is an agent for Ontario’s Office of the Children’s Lawyer, comes to the argument from a completely non-litigious point of view, says Law Times. She tries to avoid litigation through negotiation, mediation and collaboration. In her work, a “positional statement” is unhelpful.

“I understand that the wheels of justice turn slowly and the status quo starts prevailing, but starting with a blanket provision is not always best. Sometimes, when there are very different parenting styles, kids struggle,” she says. 

“In a peacemaking process, these emotions and points of view can come to the table. Some parents feel if they don’t get 50-50 custody they are less of a parent. 

“Sometimes, all they need is to hear the other parent say, ‘I acknowledge you as a parent.’ Sometimes, they want an apology. The court doesn’t allow these gems to come into the courtroom because lawyers won’t allow it.”           

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