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since June 19, 2001

Table of Contents for Eeva Sodhi's Web pages at Fathers for Life
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Bias and injustice in our family court system
the root cause of many murder-suicides

Bias and injustice in our family court system
the root cause of many murder- suicides

By Eeva Sodhi

The last few decades have seen an alarming rise in the number of young men who see suicide as the only option out of despair. In Canada, the yearly toll is close to three thousand men, most of them in the prime of their lives.

Statistics Canada tells us that in year 2000 fourteen men and one woman also committed an act of family homicide before ending their own lives: 10 men killed their spouses, three men killed their spouses and children, one killed his child. There was one high profile case where a mother killed her child during an act of murder-suicide.

Based on the above, we can hardly conclude that we are facing an all out epidemic of murderous men on the prowl, intent on killing their spouses and offspring. Rather, we are facing an epidemic of desperate men who see their own death as the only option.

Yet, we refuse to examine what are the causes for these multiple tragedies. Rather, commentators cite this as another example of male violence. Only in the exceptional case where a mother kills her child and then takes her own life do we strive to understand the underlying reasons.

Researchers have almost totally ignored the role of the biased family laws which are pushing fathers to commit the unthinkable, not only in Canada but across the world. Though we now cannot escape the fact that most of these tragic acts are linked to the break-up of families, we prefer to see it as an act of revenge not as a statement: I have been pushed farther than I can go.

It is noteworthy that when fathers kill their children, they often commit suicide as well. Suicide, as we all know, or should know, is the final act of desperation. It is rare for a mother to take her own life after she has killed her children, who often have suffered long time abuse in her hands.

Strangely, the courts determine, almost without an exception, that it is in the children's best interest to grant the sole custody to the mothers, while ordering fathers to pay even if the mother has moved away with the children in order to thwart their access to their father.

Only shared physical custody and financial responsibility by both parents can prevent these tragedies. The assumption that both parents are financially responsible for the upkeep of the children is already written in the law.

However, only the non-custodial parents, usually the fathers, are ordered to provide support. The following exchange during the proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs tells it all:

Senator LeBreton: "When the courts decide these issues, how does the mother's income factor into this? Who determines what amount the mother will contribute?"

Ms Brazeau (Dept. of Justice Canada): "The amount that the mother is required to pay is presumed. There is a presumption that she will pay what she can at her income level. If she earns more, she will be pay more." [In: Social Affairs, Issue 3, Evidence. Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology Issue 3 – Evidence. OTTAWA, Tuesday, December 16, 1997] 

For the ultimate irony, the father is usually ordered to pay alimony as well so that the mother can then be seen to contribute to the financial support. As Abella J (Ontario Court of Appeal) put it:

"There is a clear statutory attempt to equalize the standard of living between the payor’s household and that of his or her children so that there is as little financial disadvantage to children from the parent’s separation as necessary ...Households tend to function as integrated economic and social units. This makes it more reasonable to determine what standard of living the household as a whole is entitled to enjoy"

In short, Madame Justice Abella advocates that the non-custodial parent is not only responsible for his child(ren) but for his ex-partner’s new partner, and his/her dependants also. Justice L’Heureux-Dubé elaborates on this concept also:

"The purpose of the guidelines is to enhance the child’s post-separation standard of living to approximate, as far as possible, what that standard would have been had the parents not separated".

Personally, I cannot find any statute that stipulates that an outsider has to support the family of a stranger who has robbed him of his children and then uses them as pawns to extort money.

In 1999, Renu Mandhane, representing the Ontario Women’s Justice Network, wrote:

"...Unfortunately, this bias (towards joint custody) can have a detrimental impact on women and children by promoting the rights of the father at the expense of the mother and weakening the mother’s financial situation post-divorce." [in: "The Trend Towards Mandatory Mediation: A Critical Feminist Legal Perspective Executive Summary" by Renu Mandhane, a University of Toronto law student, who worked with METRAC/OWJN for the summer of 1999 as a Pro Bono Fellowship Student] http://www.web.net/~owjn/mediation.htm

So, there you have it from the horse's mouth: the support is for the mother, not for the children. Ms Mandhane ignores the fact that sole custody promotes the rights of the mother at the expense of the children and their father.

The only equitable way to deal with this dilemma and save lives is, of course, shared physical custody, or sole custody by the parent who is able to provide the pre-divorce standard of living to the children. By ordering the transfer of wealth from the payor parent to the receiving parent, who need not be accountable, further reinforces the master-slave relationship between the parents and sets the stage for further conflict and even death, usually that of the payor parent.

Yet, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is on record for having said that he wants to shelve the Child Custody and Access laws, while pursuing fathers who find it difficult to pay support to the mothers of their children. It is time forget the advocacy folly and restore justice into our laws.

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Posted 2002 11 12