There are few issues more emotionally charged than divorce. The amicable divorce is the exception and sadly not the rule. Divorce proceedings can become overwrought with feeling, especially when kids are involved, and when one loving parent feels unfairly treated by the court system.
One such dad is Brad Chalmers. He seldom sees his daughter and doesn’t want other Dads to go through what he has, and so he’s founded Fathers’ Rights Edmonton.
Chalmers tells 630CHED’s Ryan Jespersen that he feels that the role of fathers has been minimized by the adversarial nature of Family Court.
“After experiencing what I did in the family courts I was quite curious as to whether or not there were other fathers out there going through what I was going through. So through a bit of searching on the internet I found out there’ s a very very large community of fathers and mothers out there that are pushing for family law reform.”
He points to a paper published in 2014 in the American Psychological Journal where 112 social scientists agree that shared parenting should be the norm.
“Now, the 112 experts agreed in a groundbreaking announcement that based on the scientific literature that shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages. But I guess the courts know better than these 112 expert social scientists.”
Family Law practitioner Jennifer Galarneau also sat in studio with Jespersen and Chalmers. Her position is professional, stoic and detached as she pointed out the harsh fact of law: “There’s no ‘right’ to be with your child.”
Galarneau and her husband co-founded The Family Law Firm in Edmonton, and she says there is a legal presumption toward ensuring maximum contact with both parents. Galarneau asserts that the courts strive to strike an arrangement where the best interests of the child are given the highest priority.
“The courts are going to consider what’s in the best interest of the children. Now, I don’t think that there’s many people in the world that are going to argue (against this.) Having both parents involved in the child’s life, in almost every situation, is going to be in the child’s best interest.”
Galarneau says, in her experience, the courts are loathe to keep children away from either parent barring any exceptional circumstances such as a history of physical or mental abuse of the shared child. Drug or alcohol addiction on behalf of a parent falls into this category as well. Even in extraordinary circumstances like these, she adds, the courts will allow for supervised visits.
Her position and experience are in contrast with Charmers’, who believes that fathers get the short end of the stick when it comes to getting time with the kids. The numbers from the mid 90’s bear that out, but Galarneau says, in her experience, these days it’s only the exceptional cases where one parent is given disproportionate time with the shared children.
When it comes to Chalmers’ group, Fathers’ Rights Edmonton, and his use of military recruitment style hyperbole , Galarneau says that is the wrong approach, reinforcing the confrontational stereotype.
“Referring to it as an army. Pasting your child’s picture on a flyer. That’s not parenting. That isn’t. Enlist now? This isn’t a war.”
Chalmers wasn’t dissuaded though.
“You know what, this is a battle against the corruption in the Family Law industry. This is a battle against people monopolizing on our children for money. This is a battle against people fighting for children to not have equal time with both parents. So it is a battle.”
Galarneau interjects, “It’s not a battle and unfortunately that’s how individuals who go into court with an idea that they’re going into battle, and that they’re prejudiced against, and that they’re there to fight for their rights are missing the point, and that’s where they’re not going to be successful. This isn’t about going to war against another parent, or about the court system. It’s about determining what’s in the best interests of the child.”
Chalmers replies, “And the best interests of the child is by having an offset parenting schedule where one parent is the main gatekeeper and the other pays for the right to visit? That’s what’s in the best interest of the child?”
“Nobody is paying for the right to visit.”
“That’s exactly what’s happening to thousands of Canadians. That’s exactly what’s happening.”
When walls are built up and parents are at war it is the children who suffer the most. Galarneau says it’s best for couples to come to an amicable arrangement, and avoid going to court over custody.
If you want to get in touch with Father’s Rights Edmonton their number is 587-717-0605 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can listen to the entire conversation by clicking here and then selecting Sept 12 – Jespersen – 9am Does our family law system fail fathers. It continues above with Sept 12 – Jespersen 9:30am – Conversation continues on divorce & fathers’ rights.