What is “fair” when it comes to custody of the kids?

Those of us who live in British Columbia have noticed a shift in the rulings of the courts over the past decade or so. It used to be that if parents separated, the children would end up spending the bulk of the time living with their moms. However, in British Columbia now, the starting assumption of judges is that parents will share custody 50/50 after separation. Generally, this will only be altered if one of the parents has been found by the police, or the Ministry of Children and Families, to have physically or sexually abused one of the children.None of the other forms of abuse are considered (emotional, psychological, spiritual). And if only the mother has witnessed the physical abuse, her testimony is not considered sufficient.

This is supposedly done in the name of fairness; the idea being that it is most fair to the mom and the dad if they both have equal time with the children. (Many also believe this is beneficial to the child even though most Developmental Psychologists argue that moving constantly from home to home is detrimental to children.)

I think it is important that we re-examine what we mean by “fair”. It seems to me that it would be fair to the child if the care the child received before separation remained the same, as much as possible, after separation. That would mean, whoever the primary care-giver was before separation would be the primary care-giver after separation. In the case of abuse, the child would see their dad but would live with their moms and benefit from all that that security affords them. 

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  1. I agree. It would nice to be nice to see some trends that support children and mothering for a change. I am sure that many women stay in abusive relationships, in cases where the abuse is “tolerable” (“it’s not that bad”) because she is worried about the impact of separation on children knowing that her child will likely end up having to go back and forth between parents, especially knowing that when the children are with their father she won’t be around to support them. It’s not fair for children to be forced to go back and forth – that makes them essentially homeless. Two half homes does not make a whole. There are ways to determine or prove who the primare caregiver is and that really should be considered as sacrosanct after separation. Children should be allowed to live in one stable place.

  2. What if my husband not only feels that he should see my children more (he sees them on Saturdays since we recently separated), but that he also wants to co-parent, that is, know about what is happening in their lives and wants regular contact with me to discuss what is going on with them? He feels that because he has left the home, he is at a disadvantage. But my older 3 children (19, 16 and 14) don’t want to see him, and now the 7 year old is also dreading the visits because it is boring, he has to walk a lot, and Dad is “sad all the time”. So that only leaves the 3 year old. If it goes to court, he is likely to be granted only supervised visits because of confirmed child abuse, but that arrangement would rile him I know, because he has made threats to me before about not allowing him to see the kids, or humiliating him with supervised visits. Whatever it is, I hate enraging him (not that he would express it overtly now that he is on a good behaviour bond) but wonder about his state of mind with the kids. Yet, even pastors and friends can’t see why a father who “loves his kids dearly” should be given limited contact, so I feel torn.

  3. Thank you for the information that you post on your website. If justice were always the way in which the courts rule I think that situations would be so much better for families and the children who get hurt and are used as pawns and devistated in the face of abuse. The young ones truly are the victims and when they get ripped apart from the ones who have been their primary care givers the heartache can just be almost too much to recover from. I want to thank you for your book…I have had the honor and the privilage to give it to other woman like myself who had to flee for their safety and have lost almost everything… in many cases the ultimate sacrifices have been made their children. I currently am going through the group again with Elsie Goerzen and feel honored to sit in a room with some of the bravest people I have ever encountered…women who have fought the good fight when it comes to domestic abuse.

  4. My heart goes out to you! We hear about this dynamic all the time. I would love to see you get more support for yourself – you SO deserve it. Is there a support group near you? Also, I will say to you and anyone else reading this, I do one-on-one counselling on the phone with women from all over North America. I do it based on the approach that Jill and I share in the book “When Love Hurts”. I charge $40 an hour for this. You can reach me by email to set this up at . (I know sadly that this is not financial feasible for many women.) Karen McAndless-Davis

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