The Ottawa Citizen
December 11, 2002
Divorce changes a 'bonanza' for lawyers: Government spending on legal training double that for mediation, counselling
The federal government is quietly spending almost twice as much money on advertising, research and training lawyers about new divorce laws than it will put toward counselling and mediation for separating parents.
Critics denounced the spending as a bonanza for the divorce industry at a time that the government says it is trying to make child custody battles less adversarial.
The Justice Department, in announcing long-awaited changes to the Divorce Act, said yesterday it will spend almost $48 million over five years on enhanced research about divorce and educating lawyers about a federal change in attitude toward child custody.
In comparison, the government will contribute about $25 million in new funding to the provinces over five years to run programs that counsel separating parents on how to jointly care for their children, and to provide mediation for those who cannot agree.
The funding is a 33-per-cent increase from the $15 million the federal government already contributes annually to counselling programs.
"This is a victory for the divorce industry," declared Ontario Liberal MP Roger Gallaway.
"This is a bonanza for the professionals," added Liberal Senator Anne Cools.
Ms. Cools and Mr. Gallaway, two outspoken supporters of men's rights, were angry that Mr. Cauchon formally rejected the premise that divorcing parents should be presumed equal in the eyes of the law when it comes to raising their children.
After years of intense lobbying, groups representing non-custodial parents failed to convince the minister to enshrine the concept of "shared parenting" so that each parent would have a legal right to spend time with their children.
Telling judges to presume equal access for both parents might not be in the best interests of the child, Mr. Cauchon said. "We don't want a presumption," he said, arguing that there has been no evidence in other countries that it has proven to be in the best interests of a child.