Is there a gender bias in Ontario’s divorce courts? Do most outcomes favour the mother?
There are a lot of men who certainly feel that way. They feel like they went into divorce court with the intention to be a part of their children’s lives, only to have their character attacked, their drinking habits exaggerated, and their rights ignored.
As always, there are two sides to the story, so let’s take a look at this complex issue.
A Father’s Right to Child Custody
Yes, of course. The most common child custody arrangement is the mother being the primary caregiver, with the father getting visitation rights.
In Canada, the most popular arrangement is Mother Exclusive Custody, which accounts for 79.3% of separated or divorced family arrangements. Father Exclusive Custody is only the case in 6.6% of Canada’s separated families, and Shared Physical Custody is the case in 12.8%.
But before we overreact to those numbers and call courts unfair, let’s remember that the courts aren’t the ones making the majority of those decisions. The court is only making a decision in about a third of all divorces in Canada, so most of those arrangements are not court-ordered.
In most cases, the couples are the ones who arrive at that arrangement, not the courts.
Are Ontario’s Courts Gender Bias?
If your divorce goes to court, it’s reached the peak of maximum emotion and expense. So if you don’t get what you want, or what you’re expecting, you’re going to be upset and maybe even cry foul.
In 2009, our own Brian Galbraith wrote a great piece that makes you consider that maybe judges aren’t treating men unfairly. Perhaps the system itself is flawed:
“I have met many men who blame judges for their plight. Maybe some of them have legitimate grievances but having appeared before many judges over the years, I believe most are well-meaning men and women who are just doing the best job possible given the restrictions of the adversarial process.”
“Frankly, I don’t believe it’s the judges’ fault… it’s just that the adversarial system is not the best way of resolving parenting issues.”
The reality is that a divorce court’s decision about child custody is not about a father’s rights or the mother’s rights; it’s about the children’s rights. So it becomes a battle of “Who Can Make the Other Look like the Worse Parent.” And literally, everyone involved suffers because of it.
There has to be a better way.
How Collaborative Law and Mediation Can Help
Keep your fate and your custody/ support arrangement in your hands; not a judge. Try collaborative law, and stay in control of your own fate.
You and your ex will work with your respective legal representation, and a third-party mediator, to systematically, and fairly arrive, at a compromise. Both parties commit to working together, in the interest of fairness and what’s best for everyone. It’s successful for 85% of the people who try it.
It can work for you. We’ve seen successful outcomes from divorced couples that never dreamed they could agree on anything ever again.
Protect Your Rights with Collaborative Law
Keep your fate in your own hands, and out of a judge’s. Divorce court is emotional, expensive, and unpredictable.
Galbraith Family Law lawyers are trained in Collaborative Practice, and we have been named the top firm by the Barrie Examiner multiple times. Our legal insights have also been featured in the Globe and Mail, as well as Lawyers Weekly.
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