The need for fundamental reform related to contested custody cases has been well documented, and Bill C-560, a private member’s bill proposed by Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, represents a reasonable, balanced approach to fixing the broken system, Toronto family lawyer Brian Ludmer writes in a Law Times commentary.

The bill, which Ludmer helped draft, calls for changes to the Divorce Act, with the primary proposal being a rebuttable presumption that equal shared parenting would support the best interests of the children unless a party can establish that another parenting plan would substantially enhance those interests, the article says.

While the act currently calls for a consideration of maximum contact with both parents, reported decisions show the great majority are still following a primary and secondary parent model, writes Ludmer, of LudmerLaw.

“Social science research overwhelmingly supports the more current understanding that children need, benefit from, and want two primary parent relationships after separation rather than one parent and someone they go to visit,” he writes. “Among the leading experts globally is Prof. Ed Kruk of the University of British Columbia. He recently published a book with a synthesis of the rationale for equal shared parenting and a listing of the leading global peer-reviewed research.”

Ludmer writes: “Bill C-560 recognizes that the current effort to specify with precision a specific time-share between a primary and secondary parent isn’t logically or empirically justified. Custody litigation seeking to marginalize one parent has no discernible benefit when measured against the financial and emotional cost and the impact on the children of litigation.”

Public opinion polls have consistently shown up to 80-per-cent support for equal shared parenting across all demographics, regions, and political affiliations, says Ludmer, who has also prepared a myths and facts guideline related to Bill C-560.

Parliament is set to debate Bill C-560 today, to be followed by a second reading vote later this month.

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