Still more to do on issue of shared parenting: Ludmer
By Tony Poland, AdvocateDaily.com Associate Editor
“There is slow progress in the actual decided cases in that direction, but it’s spotty, and it’s inconsistent, and it can depend on which province you are in, whether you are in an urban centre or a more rural forum where there’s less diversity amongst judges,” says Ludmer, principal of LudmerLaw.
“Right now, it would be hard to advise anybody as to what the chance of them getting an equal parenting result would be. But there are favourable trends.”
He tells the station that “more frequently than not children are in the primary care of their mother, and a father would tend to see them one day and overnight during the week and then the alternate weekend Friday to Monday.”
“Mental health literature would strongly suggest it doesn’t produce optimal child outcomes,” says Ludmer, who is an advisory board member to the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization and the International Support Network for Alienated Families, as well as a co-founder of Lawyers for Shared Parenting.
He says he knows from “studies that span decades that kids do better when they come out of childhood with two bonded primary parental relationships instead of one primary parent and one you go to visit from time-to-time.”
“We’re looking at the child’s self-confidence, resilience, and emotional regulation,” Ludmer says. “Childhood is where you establish that foundation of skill sets, and confidence with emotional regulation being one of the key ones, and where you just learn values and how to get along and how to succeed.
“When you have those different perspectives, skill sets and differing values and interests, it’s a richer environment for the children and they also have what’s called 'social capital' in that they have a really good, deep and broad relationship with each parent that will survive their busy years, their late teens, their early adulthood as they are building their own life.”
He tells CHQR that “contact with each of their parents starts to get to be lighter, shorter, more sporadic” over the years.
“You rely on those bonds of affection built during childhood, so if you miss out on that opportunity or you’re more tangential during childhood then you don’t have that base that will carry you through the lifetime because, after all, these relationships are built to last a lifetime,” he says.
He says shared parenting will not always work, “which is why the statutory change to the Divorce Act that my groups and I have been advocating doesn’t impose it as the answer in every case.”
“It’s a starting point because of its benefits, and then you examine any broader issues,” he says. “Situations where it may not work include, for example, one of the parents is an investment banker, and they travel on assignments all the time. Somebody works shifts, and they don’t really have the support structure to take care of the children on the off time. Somebody has an alcohol problem.
“So there’s always going to be situations where it’s not ideal, and you have to craft a custom parenting plan, but the idea is that for the vast majority of situations it is the best outcome.”
He says there is “no empirical evidence” to suggest a 65-35 split is better than a 50-50 split when it comes to child custody.
Ludmer says he supports a custody plan that would see younger children stay with one parent on Monday and Tuesday, then go to the other parent on Wednesday and Thursday. The children would then return to the first parent on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then reverse the schedule the next week.
“Younger children seem to be able to handle the transitions better. They don’t experience the sense of disruption,” he says. “At some point in the elementary school years a weekly transition seems to work better, and there still may be contact with the non-residential parent in the off-week, a dinner and sometimes there will an overnight breaking up the other weeks, so you’re never away too long.”
For older children, “something as simple as a Monday to Monday week with pickup and return from school” would work, Ludmer says.
“So you have the child for a week, and you drop them off at school Monday morning, and you get them back the following Monday,” he says. “And of course both parents are welcome at all the kids’ activities. That’s what happens during the school year, and all vacation time would be divided.”
In the end, shared parenting makes sense for children in most cases, Ludmer says.
“Separation is a loss in and of itself to the children, and we want to avoid a second loss by marginalization of the relationship with one of the two parents.”