Hilary Linton, LL.B., LL.M. (ADR), Acc. FM.Hilary Linton is a well respected mediator, trainer and lawyer in Ontario. She writes a provocative blog about whether there should be a presumption of 50/50 in custody cases. I have reproduced her blog for you below. The Riverdale Mediation Blog always is an interesting read. 

In response to Hilary’s blog below, I feel the movement toward a presumption of 50/50 in custody cases is in response to the traditional, unspoken presumption held by some traditional judges that mothers are best suited to care for children.  Of course a true "best interests" test would be best but unfortunately it seems the pendulum is, once again, moving in the opposite direction.  Thanks Hillary for your excellent, thought-provoking blog.  

Here is Hillary’s blog. 

Should equal parenting time be presumed?

The always-hot topic of post-divorce parenting time is once again in the news.

The Canadian Bar Association is speaking out against a Conservative bill that seeks to make 50-50 time sharing for children of divorce the norm.

Such a presumption, of course, puts the rights of parents ahead of the best interests of their children, but is hard to get the advocates of such legislation to understand this.

Without question, a 50-50 time sharing arrangement is often best for the child. But not so in all cases. The only way to arrive at the best possible plan for each child is to look at all the circumstances, in each separate case, of both parents and the child and tailor the parenting plan to meet that child’s needs.

To legislate any particular parenting plan as the presumptive norm would eliminate the “what is in the best interests of this child” analysis. And that would put children at risk of not having their needs met.

There are many cases where a 50-50 is not the best for the child. This does not make one parent better than the other. Nor does it mean the child will be estranged or alienated from the parent who is less involved in the day to day upbringing. Research is clear that a child’s bond with his or her parent is determined more by the quality of the time spent together than by the amount of time.

To presume that it will always be in the child’s best interests to live equally with each parent could seriously jeopardize the stability and well being of a child, especially a young one, who has formed different kinds of attachments to the parents. A presumption of a 50-50 arrangement ignores the possibility that what will be best for the child is a gradual change to allow the child to develop the kinds of safe attachments necessary to be parented differently from what the child has grown accustomed to.

It is unfair to the child that the onus of proving that any particular arrangement is NOT in the child’s best interests should fall on the parent who may in fact understand the child better but not have the resources to fight a legal battle. That is why mediation is almost always the best way for parents to determine, together, what will be in their child’s best interests.

The system is not broken. The “best interests of the child” test is the only one necessary and it works. Leave it be.