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Equal shared parenting bill should be revived: Ludmer

It’s time to reignite debate and discussion around amending the Divorce Act to better support equal shared parenting in Ottawa, says Toronto family lawyer Brian Ludmer.

Bill C-560 failed in Parliament two years ago, but with a new government in power for a year, Ludmer, principal of LudmerLaw, believes the time is right to lobby politicians to support changes that would implement a rebuttable presumption of equal shared parenting.

“The premise of the current litigation environment is wrong,” Ludmer tells AdvocateDaily.com. “It seems to be a search for who will be the primary parent and who will be the secondary parent, rather than considering a starting point of two normal parents — each has qualities and faults, and they love their children equally.”

As it stands, Ludmer says there is an effort to “micromanage” the assessment of parenting to decide who is the better parent before awarding primary residence.

“There is no evidence-based support for that search for perfection,” he says. “The effort to come up with the precise — to the percentage — parenting plan that is supposedly optimal for the children is misplaced, expensive and traumatizes the family with all this litigation and drains the parents of resources for their children’s future.”

The private member’s 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 based on evidence that another parenting plan would substantially enhance those interests.

The bill was sponsored by the Canadian Equal Parenting Council and was defeated in 2014 with a vote of 80 in favour and 174 against.

Ludmer says in terms of lessons learned, “it was just too difficult for something this significant to proceed as a backbencher’s proposed bill.”

Now he wants to see a series of consultations and awareness-building in Ottawa to rebuild momentum.

“Public opinion polls have consistently supported equal-shared parenting across all demographics, by age, gender, religion and political affiliation,” he says. “Support was more than 80 per cent in poll after poll.”

Even if the courts are increasingly awarding equal parenting, Ludmer says there is too much uncertainty among many families, so a change in law is needed.

“The default should be we, the public, are not going to fund your litigation because you feel you need to be the primary caregiver, unless you have a really good reason that cannot be satisfied using some other tool — such as a parenting course, a nanny, a change in work schedule or other supports — and the only way to deal with this concern is with an unbalanced schedule,” he says.

“We’re all paying for it. This is a multi-billion dollar industry that sometimes does more harm than good. We should be looking to minimize litigation.”

 

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