Canada's system of family law is decimating us, one family at a time. With nearly 40 per cent of Canadian marriages ending in divorce, our next government needs to stop the bleeding - financial and emotional.
Custody cases are among the worst. Separating parents, usually fathers, are caught in a black vortex, fighting for the ability to remain an active part of their children's lives, sparring with mothers who too frequently use their hurt and anger to marginalize, even alienate, their partners from their children.
To date, our governments have refused to make the changes that most jurisdictions in North America have already adopted: a move to a presumption of joint custody in which parents continue to participate in their children's lives on a level playing field. With a rebuttable presumption of joint custody as the law of the land, a significant group of potential family law litigants could bypass the court system.
Regrettably, our system does neither parent any favours. With lawyer's fees in the tens of thousands of dollars, many Canadians wander alone into family court like sheep to the slaughter.
Legal aid for family law in Canada is almost non-existent, while refugees and criminal thugs, even terrorists, feast from the public purse.
What Canadians face is a shortage of judges and court staff, who gamely try to administer an underfunded bureaucracy that cannot meet their needs, and a process where the battle lines are drawn before they get there -- the beginning of their long wait for justice.
Legislators, law reformers, judges and lawyers have long recognized that court is no place to resolve family law disputes. Ontario's Law Commission released a report last September, entitled Voices From a Broken Family Law Justice System, decrying longer trials and increasing court and legal fees that are crippling a system that cannot deal with the intense emotional fallout of personal disputes.
In a recent family law case, Bruni v. Bruni 2010 ONSC 6568, Justice Joseph Quinn of Ontario began his Reasons for Judgment with a feigned cry for help: "Paging Dr. Freud, Paging Dr. Freud," a provocative introduction to a bizarre family law case that was ill-suited for court intervention. Justice Quinn referred to the "roulette of family law."
The case took seven days of court time over a period of several months, not unusual since judges are routinely overbooked. Much of the evidence had nothing to do with the two legal issues: a claim to set aside a separation agreement and an allegation that Ms. Bruni had alienated the children from their father. The level of vitriol stunned Justice Quinn, who refused to set aside the agreement and admonished the parties for their childish, bordering on criminal, behaviour. Justice Quinn took the brave step of denying Ms. Bruni spousal support as a rebuke for the wedge she had driven between the children and their father.
Take family law out of court and move it to Family Centres with a one-stop shopping approach. Provide education, counsellors, child-development professionals, mediators, arbitrators, divorce coaches, parenting co-ordinators and financial experts.
These services should not be free, but should be paid for by those who access the programs on a sliding scale commensurate with their family income. For the poor and working poor, legal aid should be provided.
For those cases that will never settle without judicial intervention, appoint highly experienced judges who want to be there, as opposed to judges who find family law work a grind they would rather avoid.
Is there a political party that will heed the cries of millions of Canadians?
Georgialee Lang is a Vancouver lawyer and arbitrator named in Best Lawyers in Canada. She blogs at lawdiva.wordpress.com. Her website is georgialeelang.com. This piece is part of canada.com's Real Agenda project.
Commentary by the OttawaMensCentre.com
It's very easy and politically correct for a deadbeat lazy judge to simply
admonish the parties for not getting along.
The root cause of the 100 Billion dollar fraud called Family Law has several root causes that NONE of out politicians has the guts to state.
First, Canada needs a Legal Presumption of Equal Parenting to replace the Male Sharia Law, that means men have virtually no legal rights and if they litigate, dead beat judges will use every weapon at their disposal to "end the litigation" in the favour of the mother, judges, most judges assume there is a halo around her head while he has horns and dangerous.
Second, our judiciary is out of control we have an "underbelly of the judiciary" that unlike the "saints of the judiciary", have extreme personality disorders, a pathological hatred of men and in particular self represented litigants.
3rd, no real authority to police the judiciary who operate abuse their powers.
Sorry, Georgialee Lang ideas are a regurgitation of the latest judicial
propaganda which sounds great in theory but in reality is a delusion.
Family law is a 100 Billion dollar business run by the Legal Cartel which includes the judiciary at 250K each a year plus benefits. That is not unreasonable being in mind that 250K works out at around 250 an hour, a low ball figure for experienced lawyers deserving of a judicial appointment.
The PRIMARY ROOT CAUSE is a failure of Parliament a FAILURE of all out politicians to jump to the defence of the rights of children to have Equal Parenting.
There are a host of other causes, and they all breed with each other with terrible destruction that results.
IGY had problems with access and fails to utter a word for Equal Parenting. Harper is a father and "it wont happen to him" right?
Jack Layton strongly opposes Equal Parenting and supports Feminist doctrines.
In Australia, the issue changed a government.