Real source of parent poverty is Canada's legal system

The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Thursday, August 16, 2007

Re: Cut your crippling fees, Gomery tells lawyers, Aug. 9.

Letter-writer Glenn Cheriton says the high cost of divorce must be addressed by the justice system.

Rod MacIvor, The Ottawa Citizen


The problem of civil courts being out of reach of most Canadians is much worse than portrayed by Justice John Gomery in the Citizen article.

I would argue that much of the problems of exorbitant costs and arbitrary civil procedures are driven by the perverse incentives and adversarial ideology of family law.

Research by Calgary's Institute for Law and the Family shows 24 per cent of divorces are "high conflict," which they defined as four or more court actions in two years. Using the figures in the article, I calculate that less than one per cent of parents would have enough income left over in a conflicted divorce, after child support, taxes and legal fees to equal what he or she would receive as a parent on welfare.

Those conflicted divorce parents (actually parents who simply don't want to be cut out of their children's lives) pay more in legal fees than all divorced parents pay in child support. The real source of child poverty is parent poverty. The real source of parent poverty, at least in divorce, is a huge, costly, arbitrary and unnecessary legal profession and other vested interests. I calculate the GST alone on legal fees in excess of $100 million per year, so the federal government uses parents and children as a cash crop. Additionally, parents pay up to $1 in income tax for every dollar spent on legal fees.

Some Supreme Court justices pretend to care about court costs for parents but are the same ones who decide that parents are owed no duty of care by child-welfare authorities -- i.e., that parents have no rights, only responsibilities and state employees have no responsibilities to parents.

Virtually the only groups who can afford the adversarial civil legal system in Canada are big corporations and those with access to state funds, such as child-welfare authorities. In Canada, we don't have rule of law, we have rule of lawyers.

Glenn Cheriton,