“It takes a community (village) to raise a child.” African proverb
Divorce in Canada
Divorce and family breakups have become everyday occurrences in Canadian society, with stats showing that four in ten first marriages end in divorce. Many Canadian children fall victim to Canada’s federal Divorce Act and how the Courts can interpret and define “in the best interests of the child.”
In the past, Canada’s Divorce Act has enforced the primary care principle, where one parent is awarded sole custody of a child to the exclusion of the other parent. This method often excludes one spouse’s parents and, therefore, the child’s grandparents. Even the terminology in the Divorce Act is unfriendly. Custody is a formal word for imprisonment. Access is the word often used for an inmate’s privilege to see a lawyer.
Adversaries in divorce
In essence, when divorce occurs, society offers no healing rituals. Instead, we dishonour the parties through an adversarial process that requires couples to prepare affidavits that publicly humiliate and blame each other. Family members, friends and neighbours are pressured to take sides, causing permanent rifts. Children are treated as scarce resources to be divided like chattels.
Research has shown that children want to be sure each parent will be able to share a relationship with them. Even when parents continue to see their children on an agreed schedule, the adversarial process sometimes does irreparable harm to the family. Add grandparents to this equation and we have a justice system that is not acting in the best interests of the children. Grandparents may be very concerned and wish to ensure that their grandchildren have reassurance and unconditional love at such a difficult time, yet grandparents are denied the right to ask the courts for access to help their grandchildren.
In spite of the hard work by CGRA members over the years, and even where there has been a success with new provincial legislation recognizing grandparents, the family courts seldom show this recognition in decisions. The courts still seem bent on the term sole custody. This predilection divides families and hurts the non-custodial parent and the children.