A few years ago I was in court arguing a family case. At one point we were arguing about who should be responsible for a child. I eventually suggested that taken to it furthest point in our society, everyone had a duty of care to insure that the best interests of the child are protected. That includes realizing that letting other people share in that responsibility may actually be good for the child. We have to consider that we let adult strangers into our child’s lives all the time; sitters, teachers, bus drivers; so excluding a parent should only occur for legitimate reasons and even then it needs to be done with a view for what is good for the child. IE swallow your pride mom and dad, and let your ex- partner see the kids.
Cut to today. The Divorce Act is being revised and it promises to put children front and center. It is about time. The greatest thing interfering with the best interest of the children are people who keep one of the parents out of the picture without necessity. Often the excluded parent is the father, but mothers are being targeted more often as well. One parent has custody and uses it against the other as a weapon. The willful blindness of the custodial parent is frightening. They often delude themselves into thinking that this is better for the child. The parent without custody can become depressed and give up, thinking that this is a foregone outcome. They are both wrong. Children need all the adult love and guidance and supervision that they can get. If it is a busy father who will only see them twice a month that is better than nothing. If it is a drug addicted mother who wants to see them from her hospital bed that is still better than none.
I am not talking about parents, often the father, who just want out of the family and refuse to see the children. The heck with them. Every mom or dad; who knows their child’s pain in finding out mom or dad do not want to see them; can tell you how nice it would be to have another parent who wanted to be with their kids. I recall two kids taking the matter all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada, to get their delinquent father to actually visit them. If that was not sad enough the high court told them that they could not force that to happen. So we have to encourage as much of a relationship with both of the parents to the children as we can.
Years ago the Supreme Court of Canada made it the law that the parents who separate should have equal time with the children failing compelling reasons not to do so. Best decision they ever made. Now the updated act moves to focus more on children. You see it is normally in the best interests of our children to have two people who love them and are there for them.
The mistake a lot of the more naive parents make is they confuse their responsibility to the kids, for rights akin to ownership. “He is MY kid,” and the like. However in the days to come it should no longer be much of a question of parent’s rights versus BIC. I tell my parent clients to think of the child as their client and to think of themselves as stewards to that client. Some parents honestly believe the other side should not see the children ever, as they are a bad influence, but they are mistakenly equating ‘quality’ of time spent with the children with simply ’being’ with the children. That is a false equivalence as most children love their parents and their care givers in different ways and for different reasons. And so it is that even a grumpy father who watches too much TV is still better that a Dad who is out of the picture. It also makes some family court decisions easier to swallow.
I think legislative moves like this can help enforce the notion that if a child is alone and in need, someone should help her. If a child is with a parent great. No parent, but a teacher or coach? Also great. Not those two but another older cousin or relation? Fine. No one at all but an adult who just happens to be there? Okay. Because they are our kids, all our kids and if we are to live in a just society we have to do right by everyone we share that society with. And that starts with the children.