Does shared parenting reduce conflict?

In a National Post article, Ryan Glass (with the Canadian Equal Parenting Council) writes about the need for family law reform in the area of parenting after separation and divorce. Specifically, he points to the possibility that a private member’s bill introduced in December, Bill C-560, might result in amendments being made to the Divorce Act.

Important changes the bill would make include: (1) custody orders would be based on a presumption of shared parenting- ie. that both parents have equal time with the children. This presumption could be rebutted if it could be shown that shared parenting is not in the best interests of the child; and (2) a judge can order (with consent) that a counselor, mediator or parenting coordinator be appointed to facilitate a shared parenting regime and minimize conflicts.

I don’t think anyone questions that it’s in the best interests of children for the legal system to help people resolve conflict after separation. However, I would disagree with Mr. Glass that the conflict is caused by the legal system itself. The conflict is caused by the breakdown of the couple’s relationship and is fueled by the fact that they have to keep dealing with each other in order to co-parent. People who are in a high conflict situation are generally not going to be the people who can make a shared parenting plan work with or without the assistance of third party mediators or counselors. The logistics of shared parenting, especially with young children, is demanding and not for everyone.

I’m curious as to who would pay for the court-appointed parenting coordinator. Either the parties themselves are bearing this as an additional cost, or this is a cost that would be subsidized through the government alongside the costs of the court system. People already have access to mediation and other more collaborative approaches to resolving conflict and are encouraged by everyone (lawyers, judges) to make use of these services. Those who are in high conflict situations are less likely to use these services if, for no other reason, than the fact that they are voluntary.

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