Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Good Divorce

During a marriage both parents are implied equals. There is no gender bias. Suddenly the marriage ends and the mom is given the children physical custody in over 90% of cases. Judges give bread crumbs to dads through a "joint custody" order which means he is very less than equal, but somehow has more say than the dad relegated to visitor status. In most families both mom and dad work and in most studies the amount of time both parents spend with children is close to equal. Edward Kruk, PhD from UBC, unlike Pamela Cross who is not a scientist but makes a living from Divorce, is an expert on custody, shows a parent needs at least a 40% time with a child to maintain a bond. Anything less causes a deterioration. When that occurs it can be emotionally abusive to children and friction can increase between spouses.

The title of the piece will throw you off as it is an oxymoron. There can be less frictional divorces and ones that have two parents who know the best thing for the children is to have two fit parents in their lives but what is available to try and save these marriages. We have non-experts like Feminist Pamela Cross who is ideologically predisposed to favour a women's perspective, regardless of the merits. She is not a custody expert but makes her living on the lucrative business of family divorce. She offers no citations for her comments and they are not true if one actually does research. The average litigated contested divorce runs about $25,000.00 per client for the Family Law lawyer. They do not want shared parenting on economic grounds let alone any other predispositions or bias'.

Pamela Cross is an ideologically driven Victim Feminist Lawyer who believes the 3rd wave feminist construct that men are abusers - women are victims. She has a vested interest in the current very adversarial very sexist approach to custody in Family Law (FLAW). Cross is quoted as follows: "Entrenching the notion of shared parenting in law is dangerous because it doesn't take into account each family's unique circumstances and makes it more difficult for abused women to move on from controlling or violent ex-partners, says Pamela Cross, director of the National Association of Women and the Law.

It can also be harmful to children, she says. "More and more research is showing that kids actually need the stability and security of saying, `This is my home,' as opposed to `These are my homes,'" Cross says."

Lets deconstruct what Cross is saying. Even though DV is pretty much equal and studies show women initiate the disputes more often than men Cross wants us to believe it is a male abuser - female benign status quo. Her views are ideologically driven not scientific. It is the current 3rd wave feminist credo. We read about no shortage of female violence and just saw the Oshawa woman being charged with attempted murder on her 6 year old daughter. See here In the USA and Australia the most dangerous place for a child is with a single mother. The safest place for children is an intact marriage.

Judges will have discretion and if a parent is unfit that will be taken into consideration. The feminists like to reach for these canards and she is regurgitating the lines from her "Sisters" in Australia that have no basis in fact. It is a desperate attempt to use lies in order to continue the gender discrimination currently in place.

The notion children need one house is nonsense and she gives no citation for this observation. It is important for the parents to live close to one another and to try and keep the same friends and school. That kind of stability can occur with cooperating parents and a helpful support system.

I submitted this observation to the Star's comments sections as well but they appear to be avoiding publishing anything contrary to what Cross has stated so far.

"Pamela Cross has stated her opinion on shared parenting but does not appear to have any evidence of a credible nature. Can the Star provide the studies with which she seems so certain. I am unaware of them. In fact I would suggest these opinions are wrong based on my own research which I can provide to the author. I would recommend when someone is requested to provide comments and an allusion is made they may be qualified as some sort of expert they also provide the studies from which they draw their conclusions. To suggest shared parenting is dangerous is a canard. To suggest it is harmful to children is not supported by social science. In fact the opposite is true."

The current budget for women's issues in Ontario at Minister Deb Matthews disposal is $208,000,000.00. This is for a single gender only. This includes tax supported dollars to DV shelters and other support services. It is common knowledge in the divorce community these shelters have an indoctrination process (the polite term is "intake"). The type of information flow from the shelter to the client is based on 3rd wave Victim Feminism (sometimes called, Gender and Lifeboat Feminism). The shelter will tell the woman she is a victim (lets treat the client with negatives all the better to develop co-dependency), and she is not only a victim of her male partner (even though Lesbian DV is higher) but the far reaching Patriarchy.

This, in the Victim Feminist world view, is equivalent to these large megalithic criminal organizations James Bond fights so valiantly against. Who remembers SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). Think of the Patriarchy in those terms, according to the feminist mantra, to get an idea of what the client faces at a shelter. These heroin workers at the shelter will try and exorcise the Patriarchy out of the client and - are you waiting for this - "EMPOWER" her out of the marriage and into single motherhood with all its attendant negative social outcomes, especially for children. They will refer the client to Lawyers like Pamela Cross who may gain financially from her relationship with the shelter industry. Surely she doesn't do it pro bono? And this symbiosis is only the tip of the iceberg. Tax dollars flow inside a closed loop of "believers" and like a parasitic force they feed off one another to the detriment of children.

When time permits I will deconstruct a typical shelter, its ideological base, its indoctrination process, its lack of accountability for tax payer money, the lack of financial and operational audits, and get some focus on the relationships of people like Cross and the Academics who get sole source contracts to write up pseudo-scientific baffle gab to reinforce the ideology.

DV is a serious issue but it is a single gender approach not helpful in reconstructing marriages but very helpful in conflict multiplication. Check out the model of the Calgary Counselling Centre to see what a holistic family approach might be to get very early intervention in deteriorating marriages, especially if the spouses are being abusive toward one another. Wouldn't it be better to spend tax dollars for families rather than a single gender approach which is solving nothing and creating further dependencies on the Nanny state?

Kristin and Leonard show what two parents can do to give balance, love, support and substance to their children despite their differences. What a positive example.MJM

Ex-spouses Leonard Margison and Kristin Titus worked out an arrangement to share equally in raising sons Joshua, left, and Shawn.
Rethinking custody: Putting children first
October 04, 2009

Living Reporter

Shawn Margison was just 7 when the strain of his parents' separation played itself out centre stage as he sang with his Grade 1 class at what's normally a happy family event, spring concert.

"The minute he caught sight of his dad in the gym, he just started bawling," says Newcastle resident Kristin Titus, who had had sole custody of Shawn and his younger brother, Joshua, since separating from her husband two years earlier.

"He just kept singing and crying with this smile on his face. People were looking at me, trying to figure out what was wrong."

Titus knew immediately. She had seen this coming for months.

"It was just destroying my kids not having their dad around," she says.

After the concert, Titus urged her ex, Leonard Margison, to take the boys out for an ice cream and some time at a park. Later that night, over coffee at Titus's kitchen table, the couple mapped out a radically new life for their sons.

For the past nine years, Titus and Margison have shared equally in raising Shawn and Joshua under two separate roofs.

One week, the children are at their mother's well-worn bungalow on the semi-rural outskirts of Newcastle, east of Oshawa. There they have friends, two dogs and a sprawling property where they can roast marshmallows over a bonfire.

The next week, they have a different set of friends, a big extended family and the latest high-tech gadgets – from PlayStation 3 to a 42-inch flat-screen TV – in a subdivision in nearby Courtice, where they live with their dad in a neat, split-level house where Shawn likes to blast out heavy metal on his guitar.

"At first it took a little getting used to," Shawn says. "Sometimes I would forget my bag or my guitar or skateboard, but my parents would drive me to pick them up. It's actually a lot simpler than it looks."

The ex-spouses now have new partners, but they confer regularly on issues affecting the kids. And it's a quick commute to school from both houses – although Shawn, 16, recently decided to live with his father full-time while Joshua, 14, continues to come and go.

"Living like this doesn't really affect me," says Joshua. "I have friends in both places and my parents will drive us anywhere we want to go. I get to see both my parents. I can't say it has a down side at all."

In Australia, where drastic divorce reforms in 2006 are aimed at making shared parenting the new norm, Shawn and Joshua might be considered "shuttle" or "ping-pong" kids. There debate is raging over whether the state has actually done more harm than good by, in essence, outlawing the age-old notion that Mom should get sole custody and Dad every second weekend with the kids.

The notion of "shared parenting" has been on the back burner in Canada since it was recommended in 1998 as part of Ottawa's landmark "For the Sake of the Children" report.

But things have been heating up recently thanks to Bill C-422, a private member's bill which stands almost no chance of becoming law yet has unleashed new debate about what should take precedence after a relationship fails – the best interests of the children or the rights of their parents.

What shocked Titus, 36, and her ex, 44, was how difficult it was to get a lawyer to help redraft their custody and support-payment agreement – and a judge to okay it.

"I went to six different lawyers who basically all told me if I had the kids, I could take Len for all he was worth," recalls Titus. "I just kept asking them, `How is that going to be good for my kids?'"

What she saw as a "bias" in family law toward mothers so frustrated Titus, she joined the advocacy groups Fathers-4-Justice and the Canadian Equal Parenting Council to fight for change and now sits on their executives.

"Most of the men I know start out searching for shared custody," she says. "They give up that fight somewhere along the way either because their money has been exhausted (on lawyers), they're seeing what the court fight is doing to their children, or it's just killing them. Their lawyers tell them, `Don't even bother. You won't get it.'"

Ontario family court judge Harvey Brownstone says it's imperative that he and his colleagues – whom he describes as "strangers" asked to decide a child's future because the parents can't – try to "maximize each parent's time with the child.

"But it has to be practical," he continues.

"Children have to be able to endure the toing and froing that can be disruptive if they go to school. I often see parents who say, `I want the child every second day,' but one lives in Oshawa and one lives in Mississauga."

Entrenching the notion of shared parenting in law is dangerous because it doesn't take into account each family's unique circumstances and makes it more difficult for abused women to move on from controlling or violent ex-partners, says Pamela Cross, director of the National Association of Women and the Law.

It can also be harmful to children, she says. "More and more research is showing that kids actually need the stability and security of saying, `This is my home,' as opposed to `These are my homes,'" Cross says.

Australia began reviewing its laws around divorce and separation after a 2003 national survey showed 36 per cent of the 1,000 separated men in the study hadn't seen their children in the last year. Eighty per cent of those estranged fathers indicated they wanted to see their kids but couldn't because of factors ranging from conflict with their ex, to distance, lack of money or the remarriage of one or both partners, says Patrick Parkinson, a University of Sydney law professor and one of the architects of Australia's reforms.

Before the reforms, less than 5 per cent of Australian men shared custody with their ex-partners. In the last three years, shared parenting arrangements have virtually doubled, and mid-week overnight visits have become the new norm in Australia, Parkinson said.

There's no doubt the reforms are working: There's already been an 18 per cent drop in family court filings, especially around custody and access issues, says Parkinson. But there have also been a handful of "manic" decisions from judges, he acknowledges.

One of the most extreme cases is Rosa v. Rosa. It involves a couple who had moved to an Outback mining town with their 5-year-old daughter so the husband could take a job as a mining engineer. Six months later, after the husband declared the marriage over, the wife moved back to Sydney with the child. Last May a family court judge ordered her to return to the remote town and share custody with her ex, even though she protested that she would be cut off from family and only be able to afford a trailer.

There have also been a couple of "horrific" shared custody judgments involving young children, such as the 4-year-old girl who was being forced to fly 1,200 kilometres every three weeks between her mother and father's house. While the child's father said his daughter was weathering the unusual commute fine, it was costing her parents about $20,000 a year.

"I thought everyone would use their common sense," says Parkinson, who says the legislation, which is now undergoing a major review, clearly needs amending to exclude preschoolers from shared custody and long commutes.

Michael Green is an Australian criminal lawyer and divorced dad who pushed for shared parenting in that country – except where abuse, addictions or other factors make one parent unfit.

"I hear good reports from lots of people that their kids are happier and the fighting (in family court) has settled down between the parents," says Green, former president of the Shared Parenting Council of Australia.

Green expects to see shared parenting climb over time, although acknowledges there are many men who are more comfortable having their ex-wives as the primary caregivers.

While few statistics exist on family law issues in Canada, lawyers in Ontario say they have seen a significant jump in shared parenting arrangements among ex-partners.

Ontario's family court judges – sensitive to fathers' protests of unfair treatment – appear to have made significant strides in granting joint custody, but the term is really a misnomer. It gives dads some say in key issues like their children's education and medical treatment, but the kids tend to live with Mom and "visit" Dad every second weekend and one night during the week.

Shawn and Joshua's father acknowledges that his sons would be doing just that if it hadn't been for that tearful school concert.

"It was devastating for me not to have a family life anymore," says Margison. "Having them every second weekend almost felt worse. I had to cram everything I possibly could into that two days, and it was just too much – or not enough.

"This has added a lot to my life. I really feel complete now watching my children grow up."

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The work of Fathers 4 Justice and the Pain of Fathers ~ Activism in the UK

Equal and Shared Parenting ~ The Movie