Collaborative Abbotsford Divorce
I saw an amazing parenting order at the Abbotsford Provincial Courthouse this week. Every Tuesday is remand day, when they bring in all the separated parents, usually just a half dozen or a dozen dads to be attacked by the Court – to be quickly and cheaply processed. Mom’s don’t need to show up for child support enforcement. Even if a parent sues the Director of British Columbia’s Family Maintenance Enforcement Agency or the Canadian government, as in a Charter Challenge, and these big players lose their case, they can never be charged costs in provincial court. Usually, parents who try to sue Canada are told they are in the wrong court. Last summer, the Honourable Mr. Justice Pearlman said he has some sympathy for parents getting shunted between the provincial and supreme courts and never getting a hearing.
But this Tuesday a mom and dad came to provincial court together. They stood up together and mom spoke first. “Your Honour, we have just come from the Family Justice Centre where we created our separation agreement. We don’t have anything in writing but we were told to come here anyway and ask you to create a court order.”
His Honour said that was fine, what would they like in their order?
Mom continued, “Your Honour, we have similar incomes and there will not be any exchange of child support.”
His Honour said, “OK.”
Then Dad spoke, “Your Honour, we have been sharing parenting time a week and a week, and we would like an order to continue and for flexibility in the schedule as agreed between us.”
His Honour hesitated on this second suggestion and asked, “Have you been able to do this without arguing and without calling the police?” but ordered it so after both Mom and Dad answered yes.
His Honour smiled and stated, “I guess we’re done.”
Mom spoke and said, “Yes, Your Honour, those are the orders, but one of our children needs orthodontic care and we are sharing the cost. Could we have an order for that as well?”
His Honour was happy to create the order, and explained that the registry staff would type the order up for them, although the court had such a backlog they would not be able to pick the order up that day. He also explained that they could obtain a divorce order from the Supreme Court. Then the Judge thanked them for being so reasonable and they left.
The judge never saw their financial statements or their parenting plan as neither were in dispute. As more reasonable divorces become the norm in our courts, the high conflict cases will stand out even more as tragic abuse.
This is how I imagine the Abbotsford Court Registry will type up these basic orders:
THIS COURT ORDERS:
1. That the Court is satisfied that John Doe and Jane Smith are guardians of the Children, Joseph Smith, born April 13, 1995 and Jillian Smith, born June 24, 1997.
2. John Doe and Jane Smith shall have the parenting responsibilities outlined in Section 41 of the Family Law Act.
3. John Doe and Jane Smith shall each parent equally on alternating weeks. Any changes to this basic schedule will be as agreed upon by the parties.
4. The parties shall each share equally the cost of orthodontic care for the Child, Joseph Smith.
A Clerk of the Court for Judge J.J. Begbie
A Judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia
Canada’s Equal Shared Parenting Bill C-560
Canadian Bar Association quoted in Parliament As Against Equal Parenting Time
It makes sense that private member’s Bill C-560 is not as powerful as one of the Prime Minister’s 3 omnibus bills that have been forced through the political process. But I was surprised to learn that our Minister of Justice, Peter MacKay, is against our equal shared parenting bill. For me, this was like hearing that cowardly former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was against equal parenting in 2003, 30 days before he left office. No one dares to be against equal parenting until they don’t have to face an election. If Peter MacKay intends to run in the 2015 election, I will remind you all then that he was on the wrong side of history already, encouraging chaos and conflict in divorce just a year before. If our Justice Minister objects to equality, the only alternative appears to be ongoing chaos. This would seem to be a bad thing for a Minister of Justice – or any politician. Maybe we can argue that children of divorce are victims of crime – robbed of loving parents. Less than 60 hours per week or 36% parenting time is the worst possible outcome for children with willing, fit parents. While Peter MacKay will not stand with Canadians and fight for our children and families, he has promised his Victims Rights Bill will pass within the next few days.
The Canadian Bar Association’s opposition to equal shared parenting means less. The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and most other labour unions are against equal shared parenting as well, but there are many individual teachers, lawyers, principals and judges, including Canada’s Chief judge who are not only in support of family law reform, but who have personally been through the devastation of our present divorce system. Lawyers more than any other group have made the most profit from divorce conflict. It’s clear the Attorney General of Canada is more concerned about money than about the safety of our children. The next parliamentary debate of Canada’s Equal Shared Parenting Bill C-560 is May 5th.