June 15, 2010
Sometimes unequal works
(An interesting Op-Ed by a Father on pending child custody legislation in Canada)
Tomorrow, June 16, is a day that has come far too quickly: my daughter Zara’s first birthday. It is a time to pause and reflect on the joys and craziness of parenting, and on the realization that Zara will never again repeat her first steps and first words (no, not Mama or Dada, but “car”. Oh well, at least the kid knows what she likes).
Her birthday also falls less than a week before Fathe’s Day, and thus also brought to mind a piece of legislation before Parliament which would radically change child custody and access laws in Canada: Bill C-422.
This private member’s bill, introduced by Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, would amend the Divorce Act to mandate “equal shared parenting” when parents split up. Courts would start from the presumption that parents share time with the kids and decision making on a 50-50 basis, and put the legal onus on parents to show that such an arrangement would not be in the child’s best interest.
Before I had a baby, I would probably have supported this legislation. Who would deny a child the right to the equal love and care of both parents? Why do mothers get custody so much more often than fathers?
Raising an infant as a single parent for the past year, however, has changed my opinion. Not because I think that children don’t need fathers, but because I realize that they need each parent in different ways at different stages of development. And unfortunately, Bill C-422 presumes that equal parenting is best regardless of circumstance, including the age of the child.