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A Father’s Story

In 1987 my wife decided to leave…

We had 3 children. There were a number of reasons, and through talking it out with her we decided it was best for me to have full custody of the children, with her getting weekend and summer visitation. Initially, we involved lawyers which were expensive and made matters worse. By coming to an agreement ourselves, it did make things easier, although it was still very hard. There were no resources to turn to to get help and advice. We basically did it on our own.

Of course, this was nothing compared to becoming a single dad. I was really on my own except for one other single dad. I wasn’t raised to be the full-time parent and to carry a career. But, I did manage to make it through and did alright.

I eventually went on to be an online advisor for single parents and for those separating and divorcing, trying to help other single parents, especially dads. It came in handy when I went through my second divorce having a fourth child.

Workgroups and seminars such as the one the Family Mediation and Resource Centre are offering would have been a valuable and welcome resource back then. Surprisingly, being even needed more today, these types of resources are paramount for divorced and single dads.

If I could offer one piece of advice, it is make every decision based on what is best for the children. What is best for the children, in most cases, is to keep their lives as normal as possible, know that they are not to blame, and make sure they have equal and open access to both parents.

Rob

Check out our FREE events and groups:

Divorced or Separated Dads Group
Family Law Information Session (FLIS) 

Why a Support Group for Divorced Dads?

A support group is not the same as group therapy. Group therapy is a formal treatment under the care of mental health practitioners.

Our Divorced Dads Group was motivated by the notable lack of supports for dads experiencing divorce or separation. Its premise is that dads are equally important in their children’s lives and, just like moms or anyone experiencing divorce, dads also need help navigating through all challenges that separation comes with.
This group also welcomes dads who have managed to successfully move past their divorce – sharing their experience may help guide others.

Each dad has different needs:

  • Some dads need to share their experiences in a safe space
  • Some dads need to know that they’re not alone during this tough time
  • Some dads need more information about community resources
  • Some dads need to learn of different options to deal with their divorce
  • Some dads need to be heard and not judged
  • Some dads need to bounce ideas around
  • Some dads need to form positive relationships with other like-minded dads
  • Some dads simply need to share a laughter with others who get what he’s going through

The reality is that, sometimes, we all need support. And, you’d be surprised at how much “strangers” may actually support you more than the people you know.

Legislative provisions related to marriage and divorce of persons with mental health problems a global review

In many cultures women will be expected to marry according to gender roles and gender role expectations. Combined with mental illness this may create double jeopardy against women with mental illness and discriminate against them further… Full article here: Legislative provisions related to marriage and divorce of persons with mental health problems a global review

Time to re-think access to justice!

Families are at the core of our communities! We need NOW more than ever community togetherness, understanding and accepting of diverse perspectives! Our families need access to dispute resolution processes right here, in the community! Support empowering yourself and your neighbour – that’s how we’ll build a stronger, more resilient and peaceful society!

Access to Family Dispute Resolution processes should start in the community and should remain within the community!

Laura Catone-Tarcea

The way we treat the most vulnerable members in our community is the truest reflection of how caring a community we are.

It is now estimated that about 60% – 80% of family law litigants are unrepresented. Many of these families cannot afford representation. The court system can be a difficult, lengthy and unpredictable process. It often increases the intensity of conflict between family members, leaving them financially and emotionally exhausted. For low and middle income families, access to justice is even more challenging.

The time is now, for effective change! Community-based family dispute resolution (C-FDR) is in many situations a viable, if not the only practical (affordable) alternative to a court-based process. Unfortunately, this type of service is almost non-existent across Ontario and many families are falling through the gaps. In the following paragraphs, I intend to highlight the dire need for investment in this service, to become an essential and primary community service.

Sadly, conflict has become a norm in life – it abounds. Yet all too often, access to alternate means of resolution is only accessible to those of financial means. These alternative mechanisms are rarely accessible to the lower/middle classes, and to those with mental health challenges or of different cultural backgrounds. It is these – the majority of the people that stand to lose the most, ending up struggling to find resolution within an overcrowded and very unfriendly legal system. Factors such as money, power and control, eclipse the need to create attainable, culturally and linguistically appropriate processes for families within their very own communities.

Community leaders are all too often vocal about supporting and advocating programs that promote safety, “connectedness” and growth. As well, governments provide funding for projects aimed at improving access to justice, increasing public awareness and removing barriers to accessing the family justice system. And yet, despite all these “efforts,” these services are most times lacking in true humanity. I urge you to reflect on the rigidity and limitations of our current “access to justice services” which, in many cases, act as the very stumbling blocks to incorporating the very core of humanity and fluidity!

In all families, and in fact in all communities across the world, fluctuation, change and fluidity are the main ingredients of daily life and growth. Change, particularly in family dispute resolution, is a given, and yet our social services barely allow for it. Au contraire, change has become a frightening concept; a destabilizing factor, which our current family justice system is holding onto as its status-quo. Please understand: I am not purporting that all change is good. Change and adaptation to change are part of our human endeavours and should be widely accepted and appropriately accounted for rather than becoming a trigger for implementation of punitive-like measures. In most court orders, change is rarely encouraged and often penalized. As result, the human characteristic is being suppressed, growth is stunted and tension and frustration become the new human status-quo. Instead of focusing on our humanness, we allocate enormous amounts of resources in focusing on “enforcement.”

We treat conflict in a similar fashion. While conflict is inevitable, instead of equipping community members in developing skills for peaceful resolution, considerable funds are being allocated to agencies that will dictate the manner in which conflict is to be resolved, thereby denying community members any potential for developing this fundamental skill set. As well, ownership and responsibility of conflict, instead of resting with its community members, is by default, externalized and placed in the hands of “quasi-experts” who have the power to exercise control that may not necessarily be in the best interests of the families.

Family mediation is not a natural extension of our legal system. Nevertheless, our current family justice system is designed by lawyers – for lawyers (who become judges), resulting in family mediation simply being an extension of the law model. Respectfully, it is submitted that it is families who ought to be the experts and it is they who should be at the centre of designing FDR systems. We need to begin to learn and to listen to families and structure services that are reflective and inclusive of this understanding. The current approach to family [and ‪‎access to] justice is not meeting the diverse needs of the very families it is meant to serve. We need to establish family dispute resolution services that are accessible, affordable and help community members (especially the vulnerable ones) maneuver with ease in investing in the growth and well-being of our communities. The deliverance of FDR services has to become culturally and linguistically appropriate and representative of the community it serves. We don’t only need “better” services in the FDR field. We need to adopt an entirely new framework to better resemble humanity and to uphold dignity. It is respectfully proposed that a holistic, multidisciplinary and community-based approach needs to be at the core of this framework.

Divorce/separation does not only affect the partners in the relationship, it extends wide – to children, extended family members and the community at large. Being informed about separation/divorce and the legal family process is necessary and relevant public education that should be easily accessible to all members of a community, including those who are not going through separation. Education and information at an early, neutral stage is crucial if community members are to become empowered, in order to make better choices for themselves and their families. While there are court-connected mediation centres across Ontario (albeit for limited hours), these are operating directly under and within Ontario’s justice system with strict rules and guidelines that often prohibit citizens from accessing the services. Barriers such as educational background, financial means, language or mental illness make accessing court-connected mediation centres an almost impossible and highly frustrating option. In addition, the lack of trust in the judicial system prevents many from accessing these services. Unfortunately, court-connected mediation is the only point of entry for individuals in the low and middle income brackets, while higher income people can choose from a wide range of out-of-court family dispute resolution processes. We need to take a hard look at and resolve this gross imbalance and inequality. Not only are we denying the right of choice, but we are placing these people and their children at risk of harm with conflict “escalation.” All individuals, no matter their income level, culture, gender or race, must equally and justly be provided with similar access to quality services and the right of choice.

If we are serious about preserving and fostering human “connectedness”; if we want to improve access to justice for families who are going through divorce or separation; if we want to provide quality family-centered dispute resolution services and the right to choice, then we need to empower our communities! We need to begin to prioritize establishing and maintaining family dispute resolution entry points – starting right within our communities.

In conjunction with adopting a family-centered approach, instituting well organized and funded FDR services outside of the court system will:

  • reduce considerable governmental costs associated with failure to resolve family matters in a timely and cost effective manner
  • benefit courtsby triaging and reducing the number of unrepresented individuals
  • enhance community viability and promote interdisciplinary collaboration among family support professionals
  • inform and educate the public of effective and creative conflict resolution alternatives
  • improve access to justice and enhance community togetherness
  • prepare and equip future generations with invaluable conflict resolution skills

The time is now to take the right steps in bringing justice, fairness and equality to our neighborhoods 

Read Why the Mandatory Information Program established by the Ministry of Attorney General should be accessible BEFORE COURT (the choice is yours!)

 

What judges see in court

What judges see in court is beyond belief and certainly more dramatic and gut-wrenching than any television show or movie. As any family law lawyer, judge, or litigant will tell you, family court litigation is expensive, time-consuming, unpredictable and highly stressful.” (Brownstone, 2009)