The collision between children's interests and fathers' rights = Pamela Cross

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martin dufresne
The collision between children's interests and fathers' rights = Pamela Cross

(From Pamela's blog)
The collision between children's best interests and fathers' "rights"

If the first article in the Toronto Star series on post-separation parenting (running October 3 - 7) is an illustration of what is to come, it appears the Star has decided to take an unapologetically sympathetic position towards fathers that does not reflect the reality of many Canadian families, in particular those where there has been violence.

The article begins with the provocative headline: "Why fathers can't catch a break," and proceeds to detail stories about men who are not spending as much time with their children as they would like to after the parents' relationship ends because, they claim, the courts show favoritism towards mothers.

While these stories, which anyone who is interested can read at length on any of a number of fathers' rights websites, tell dramatic, emotional tales about fathers torn from their children because of the actions of vindictive, lying mothers who want to alienate their children from the father while also bankrupting him by seeking exorbitant child and spousal support awards, the facts tell a very different story.

Unfortunately, those facts are mostly missing from this article. The author, Sue Pigg, has chosen to interview professionals who, almost without exception, seem to accept at face value the contention of fathers' rights advocates, despite the lack of empirical evidence to support their position.

For instance, Australian law professor Patrick Parkinson is quoted in the article as saying: "There has been a significant change in fathers' attitudes towards parenting after separation." He also readily admits, of men's pre-separation parenting, that: "They're still not doing nearly as much as women," but does not seem to think this is relevant to determining appropriate custody arrangements for children.

Indeed, where fathers have been active, engaged parents before separation, and where there are no abuse-related issues, they should continue to be active, engaged parents after separation, and most often they do. This is what is in the best interests of the children -- the criterion used across Canada when courts become involved in custody and access disputes. There is no question about this.

There is also little doubt that some fathers are more involved with their children than they were a generation ago. My daughter and her partner are an excellent example of this. In the eight years since their first son was born, they have variously both worked part time so one of them could always be at home with the kids or have taken turns working full time. My grandsons have the privilege of seeing both their mother and their father as nurturing caregivers and as workers outside the home.

In the unfortunate (and unanticipated!) event that their relationship should end, it would be best for the children to spend as much time as possible with each parent and that my daughter and her partner work hard to communicate positively about child-related decisions, to attend key events in their children's lives together and otherwise to ensure the children benefit from having two involved, caring parents.

However, my daughter's family is not typical. In the vast majority of families, women continue to be the primary caregivers for children and to do most of the housework. According to data gathered in the 2005 General Social Survey, women spend 4.3 hours per day compared to men's 2.5 on unpaid housework and child care. This at a time when more and more women, especially those with young children, are employed outside the home: by 2004, 65% of women with children under the age of 3 were working, a figure which is more than double the employment rate for women in this category just 30 years before. (...)

Please read full article. Pamela was quoted by a panelist yesterday at a conference organized to mark the 25th anniversary of SOS Violence Conjugale, Quebec's emergency line 24/7 support service for victims of domestic violence. She is a force to be reckoned with, especially with Bill C-422 coming down the tube to make shared parenting a presumption and paternal child support a thing of the past.