Viewpoint-Shared parenting

In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer. Albert Camus

Shared parenting and why it works

BC lawyer Gerard Culhane, who was instrumental in our early days, wrote the children after divorcefollowing in support of the efforts and the mission of the Canadian Grandparents Rights Association. “Our view of the getting and raising of children is based on our individual experience and that of any number of Canadians over several generations from which anyone can reach a reasonable conclusion as to what works and what does not.

“Getting and raising children is an amateur activity, and the rules that people live by, are those they have been told by others who have done it, and by social and spiritual influence. It seems to us that this has produced the Canada we know, so it must be a satisfactory way to do it. How exactly has this been done? We can see that unions intending to produce children are expected to be based on a genuinely serious intention to unite permanently by two persons, who can together raise children, and who can be models for any of the children they are likely to produce. The union is established in a very public way by ceremony as well as legal, moral, and spiritual influence.

Stability and children

“To further reinforce and support this institution, many specific discriminations are affected by our society conferring benefits, privileges, and protections to this union. Certainly if anyone is to talk about making any aspect of our society child-centered we can see that all these traditional arrangements are intended to produce a continuous, stable and secure environment for the rearing of children. It doesn’t mean they work or are right.

“Having spent over 20 years working and listening to grandparents with their struggles, and seeing the futility of positive change in any near future, I realize that those who were in a position to make a positive change had their agenda, and recognizing grandparents and their strength in the family was not part of it.

“In 1997 the federal government struck a Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on Custody and Access. This was in response to an incredible public outcry from non-custodial fathers, and mothers, grandparents and family members fed up and frustrated with the federal government’s lack of action. This Special Committee toured Canada for a year, holding meetings for any and all who wished to speak to the issue.”

Nancy Wooldridge, President and Founder of CGRA, presented CGRA’s statement to the Joint Committee in Vancouver in April 1998. CGRA Director Gerard Culhane, wrote the statement. Both Gerard Culhane and Nancy Wooldridge understood exactly what was happening to Canadian families, and Gerard Culhane’s words should be remembered.

The courts often decide, without any history or proof of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, to award sole custody to one parent for convenience or ease of parenting. They do this in a number of provinces. The court is, in a sense, enabling the custodial parent to follow a solitary path. This path may create victims. The custodial parent, who may be in anger or despair after a relationship breakdown or coping with the life changes involved—may find themselves starting on the path of parental alienation even when they have no intention of doing so.

Problems with sole custody

The simple act of appointing a sole custodial parent, even with the best intentions, can lead to  conditions that end in victimization. This is considered one of the problems with sole custody and it’s why a number of groups have worked to change the legislation and court practice.

Reference/more information: How the legislation varies across Canada.

In a custody battle, the non-custodial parent (and his or her parents/the grandparents) may be adversaries. And someone has to be on the losing ‘side’. After, the loser may be subject to the decisions, schedule, whims, and needs of the custodial parent. Although Parental Alienation may not be the conscious goal, it becomes a side effect due to the nature of the role imbalance in decision-making.

Unless parents can maintain a continuous, friendly, and supportive relationship,  lack of access may occur. The deliberate attempt by the custodial parent to alienate the child from the other parent is known as Parental Alienation. However, this also may occur unintentionally, even in less contentious relationships, and often starts unwittingly with relationship breakdown. It is more likely when one parent is put in authority in the sole decision-making role, and it’s why many groups are in favour of joint or shared custody and shared parental responsibilities.

Grandparents’ problems with sole custody

There have been many attempts to introduce bills in the House of Commons that would recognize grandparents as a necessary part of the family, and, therefore, give them standing in the courts at the time of a divorce, Standing means the right to speak. But these attempts fell upon deaf ears. Grandparents learned that they must wait, sometimes over many years, until saner heads prevailed in the hope that they could resume contact. In fact, many have died during their long wait, never to see their grandchildren again.