Member of Parliament Maurice Vellacott has introduced Bill C-560 to amend the Canadian Divorce Act to provide a rebuttable presumption that children with separating parents will have shared parenting regimes. The intent of this change is to protect children from the well established harm caused by the alienation of one parent from a child’s life. Another phenomenon that has to be considered with Bill C-560 is that Divorce laws effect the quality and conduct within a marriage.
For example, Richard Kuhn and John Guidubaldi study Child Custody Policies and Divorce Rates followed divorce rates in US states as they changed to states permitting judges to make joint custody orders instead of just sole custody orders. The study showed a distinct trend that divorces decreased in joint custody states. Other studies such as University of Virginia’s Leora Friedberg and Steven Stern’s The Economics of Marriage and Divorce and Margaret F. Brinig and F. H. Buckley Joint Custody: Bonding and Monitoring Theories provide a hypothesis for this phenomenon. The theory is that in a marriage where parents foresee a divorce, they will start acting in a way to improve their lives post-divorce. If both parents have a likelihood of shared parenting after divorce, both will put more time and effort into maintaining cordial relations with their spouse and improving relationships with their children. As a result of these efforts, a marriage becomes “less bad” and the rough patch which may have resulted in a divorce passes.
Perhaps this is nothing new. In ancient times, many religions had marrying spouses enter into a marriage contract (for example in Jewish tradition it was called a Ketubah). The terms of the contract were then had to be posted prominently on their home’s wall as a constant reminder of the consequences of a failed marriage. These contracts became more ornamental in recent centuries and their practical importance diminished.
There is no reason to believe that MP Maurice Vellacott's Bill C-560 would have any different impact within Canada. The act goes further than merely allowing joint/shared custody orders, as in the studies quoted above. Vellacott is proposing that shared custody is the norm.