Viewpoint—Divorce and the Non-Custodial Parent

Live each day as if your life had just begun.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Unfortunately in Canada, in a divorce or separation where there are children, the non-custodial parent is usually the father. Although for many years, shared or equal parenting has been a popular suggestion, most divorce court judges still order sole custody of the children to the mother.

When the Minister of Justice Mark MacGuigan introduced the words “best interests of the child” as part of his 1984 position document Divorce Law in Canada; Proposals for Change, he stated: “A child should have maximum access to both parents. Whatever the parent’s reasons for divorce, the child has an interest in maintaining a normal relationship with each parent… any animosity the parents might feel for each other should not be allowed to interfere with this interest … the court should consider the best interests of the child, particularly the child’s interest in having maximum access to both parents.”

It is most unfortunate that successive Ministers of Justice ignored his words and that this failure contributed to many situations of what is sometimes considered to be a form of child abuse that occurs after divorce or separation of partners when the children are denied ongoing continuing access to the non-custodial parent and the extended family. Too often,
members of the justice system only paid and continue to pay lip service to the phrase “in the
best interests of the child.”