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Toronto Star

Put kids first, judge tells parents

His family court sees conflicts daily
Complex reasons why dads absent


Family Court Justice Harvey Brownstone says children need both parents involved in their lives.

Children pay a big price when they grow up without fathers, but it's unfair to blame it all on men who walk away, says a North York family court judge.

Harvey Brownstone says he welcomes recent public discussion about the risks faced by kids who don't have a father in their lives.

But Brownstone, who has seen thousands of support, custody and access cases during his 11 years on the bench, says there are many misperceptions about why it's happening. And most often it's because parents can't get along or want nothing to do with each other.

"You would be shocked how many men say, `I didn't know I had a child until I got these court papers,'" he says in an interview at his office in the provincial court building.

And, when they find out, almost all of them take steps to become involved in their child's life, even if it's years after the child was born, Brownstone says.

"Fathers should not be portrayed as generally not caring, because they're not," he says. "When you're talking about deadbeats, I think it's important to know that many, many guys are completely cut out, because they were never told they were the father and then, when they find out that they are the father, they want to start a relationship with the child."

Brownstone says, in the majority of such cases, the parents were involved in a casual relationship, which may have ended badly, with the mother not wanting to have anything to do with the child's father, even though her child is legally entitled to financial support.

Sometimes men who know they are fathers but don't have money to pay support assume they have no right to request access to their child. But the two are separate legal issues.

more than 40 per cent of the cases he sees involving matters of support, custody and access are driven by child welfare staff, who insist mothers file for child support from known fathers if they want to continue receiving social assistance.

In most cases, fathers who are called to court will then ask for access to their children. But because they are strangers, building the relationship has to happen gradually, perhaps starting with visits in the presence of the mother or at supervised access centres. It's a process that can take many months. It's also one that some fathers give up on, even if they're paying support, in cases where there's too much nastiness and fighting taking place at every adult encounter.

"In order to create a relationship between a total stranger father and a child, it takes time and it takes good faith on the part of both parents," Brownstone says. "Unfortunately, the couples we see have great difficulty demonstrating a child-focused approach to fatherhood."

Brownstone, 49, is a former director of what is now known as the Family Responsibility Act (formerly called the Family Support Plan), which is responsible for enforcing child support. He believes passionately that a child has the right to have a relationship with both parents as long as the court feels it is in their best interests and that parents have obligations to do everything they can to allow that.

He says when mothers name someone as the father of their child, DNA tests show they are almost always right. But those tests cost $650 and not all fathers are willing to pay for it until the court orders it. Often, the court will tell them the mother will cover the costs if it shows they are not the biological father.

In the wake of recent gun violence in Toronto, a Star story Jan. 7 raised the issue of how kids are affected when they grow up without their fathers.

Toronto pastor Bruce Smith said the gangs and guns that have grabbed headlines lately reflect his experience growing up without a father in Texas, a situation he says often breeds feelings of powerlessness and frustration among boys.

"As a young kid, you need that security, so if you don't have it, you will try to create it, by being tough, by being mean, being part of a gang," he said. And it is a problem regardless of race or income.

Brownstone also says paternal involvement is not just an issue limited to lower-income communities or certain racial groups.

"There is a perception that this is a poverty issue," he says. "Rich kids are just as likely to get into trouble as poor kids if they are not properly parented."

To him, that means parents spending time with kids, knowing where they are and what they are doing, and parents who function as a team and don't put their children in the middle of their conflicts.

Brownstone, who divided his time between family court and young offenders court for his first six years on the bench, says he saw teens from a cross-section of backgrounds, including wealthy homes.

"The high incidence of violent behaviour from boys was strongly correlated to being fatherless but it was not, in my experience, prevalent among any one community. It was not related to one race or community, but it was related to having no father."

The issue is not about the child's socioeconomic background, he says, but about parents who cannot resolve their disputes and kids who fall through the cracks.

"I've seen many custody cases here with wealthy people. Those parents were busy professionals. There's a nanny raising those children and if I were going to be honest about who should get custody, it would be the nanny. That's the person these children are most bonded to."

Kids may act out in different ways. "It may manifest itself in getting in with the wrong crowd and getting involved with guns," he says. "I have dealt with rich kids who got involved with drugs. I have deal with rich kids who have gotten pregnant and had tremendous sexual promiscuity. It's not about rich or poor."

He says there are several things that could be done to prevent duelling parents from doing harm to their children. Parents should do everything they can to avoid having to sort it out in court. "Litigation is not a good way to make decisions."

He also supports the idea of mandatory parent education for anyone dealing with questions of support, custody and access.

Brownstone would like to see anyone involved with children, including schools, physicians' offices and social services agencies, sending the message that involvement of both parents is important to a child's emotional well-being and healthy development.

"I say this in court: `You have to love your child more than you dislike each other and if you can do that and always make it all about the child and put aside your own personal animosity, then your child should grow up healthy.'"

National Post - Canada

The time for shared parenting is now

By Edward Kruk, Professor of Social Work and Family Studies at the University of British Columbia, Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Six years after the long-awaited report from the Joint House of Commons-Senate Committee on Custody and Access, and four ministers of justice later, where are we on the issue of parenting of children after separation and divorce? Shared parenting, the principal recommendation contained in the joint committee's report, has yet to be realized, as courts continue to remove loving parents from the lives of their children via sole-custody judgments.

Given the benefits it offers, shared parenting -- a post-separation arrangement that attempts to approximate the parent-child relationship in the original two-parent home -- should not be controversial. Yet upon receipt of the special committee report in 1998, then-justice minister Anne McLellan demanded Read More before she would move toward implementation. Her successors have found similar excuses for inaction. During the interim period, public support for shared parenting has increased: A recent National Post poll showed that 91% of respondents are in support of shared parenting after divorce. Read More ..

Dept. of Justice - Canada
Consultations on Custody, Access and Child Support in Canada

The Federal / Provincial /Territorial Family Law Committee

National Post - Canada

Women's groups balk at sitting with fathers' rights advocates

Calls to boycott talks on changes to divorce law

Read More ..

Mother Abducted Child

DNA paternity test confirms fraud, annulment granted: judge | Visayan Daily Star Newspaper | Phillipines

Missing boy found in B.C.
Ex-Ottawa woman charged in son's abduction

Ottawa Sun, April 3, 2003, By LAURA CZEKAJ

A 12-YEAR-OLD Ottawa boy who was allegedly abducted by his mother eight years ago has been found living in a rural British Columbia community.

Oceanside RCMP raided a cottage in Coombs, near Parksville, B.C., Tuesday around 9 p.m. and arrested a 49-year-old former Ottawa woman on an outstanding Canada-wide warrant for parental abduction.

The boy, who cannot be identified, was taken into the custody of the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development. His father, a Parry Sound resident, was en route last night to reunite with his son, said Rhonda Morgan, executive director of the Missing Children Society of Canada (MCSC), which has spearheaded the investigation since 1996. Read More ..

Brainwashing Children - Divorce - Family Law

W5 TV Show on Parental Alienation

TV Show about Parental Alienation

W5 investigates: Children on the frontlines of divorce

November 7, 2009

The world of divorce is scary for any child. But when a divorce becomes especially toxic, children can become the target of an unrelenting crusade by one parent to destroy the child's relationship with the other. Experts call it parental alienation.

A Mother's Heartbreaking Story of Parental Alienation

A Kidnapped Mind

A Kidnapped Mind

What does Parental Alienation Syndrome mean? In my case, it meant losing a child. When Dash was 4 1/2 years old his father and I broke up. I dealt with the death of our marriage and moved on but Peter stayed angry, eventually turning it toward his own house, teaching our son, day by day, bit by bit, to reject me. Parental Alienation Syndrome typically means one parent's pathological hatred, the other's passivity and a child used as a weapon of war. When Dash's wonderful raw materials were taken and shaken and melted down, he was recast as a foot soldier in a war against me.

Parental Alienation

Divorced Parents Move, and Custody Gets Trickier

The New York Times, New York city, U.S.A. August 8, 2004

Not too long ago, Jacqueline Scott Sheid was a pretty typical Upper East Side mother. Divorced and with a young daughter, she had quickly remarried, borne a son, and interrupted her career to stay home with the children while her husband, Xavier Sheid, worked on Wall Street.

Early last year, Mr. Sheid lost his job and saw his only career opportunity in California. But Ms. Sheid's ex-husband, who shares joint legal custody of their daughter, refused to allow the girl to move away. So Ms. Sheid has spent much of the last year using JetBlue to shuttle between her son and husband on the West Coast and her daughter (and ex) on the East.

The New York court system, which she hoped would help her family to resolve the problem, has cost her tens of thousands of dollars in fees for court-appointed experts, she said, and has helped to prolong the process by objecting to her choice of lawyers.

TV Show Parental Alienation - The View - Alec Baldwin

The View - Parental Alienation - Alec Baldwin and Jill Egizii - Both Genders Can be Victims

Alec Baldwin talks about his experience with parental alienation. Alec ( 3rd from right) was accompanied by Jill Egizii ( 2nd from right) , president of the Parental Alienation Awareness Organisation (PAAO) and Mike McCormick, president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children (ACFC).

Parental Alienation Syndrome

Landmark Ruling Grants Father Custody of Children

PA News (U.K.), July 3, 2004

A key court decision to grant a father custody of his daughters after the mother flouted contact orders for four years was today welcomed by campaigners.

Fathers 4 Justice said that the High Court ruling was a vital victory and called for more judges to take a similar stance when faced with resistant parents.

The comments come after Mrs Justice Bracewell transferred the residence of two young girls to their father because the mother persistently refused him contact, despite court orders.  Read More ..


Psychiatric disorder may have led boy to fatally shoot father

Rick James Lohstroh, a doctor at UTMB, was fatally shot this summer, apparently by his 10-year-old son.

ABC13 Eyewitness News, Houston, Texas, U.S.A.
Dec. 29, 2004

The 10-year-old Katy boy accused of murdering his father this summer is now the face of an unofficial psychiatric disorder that may have lead to his father's death.

Some psychiatrists call it Parental Alienation Syndrome and they say that's why the son killed Doctor Rick Lohstroh last summer. The syndrome is basically caused by a bitter parent who poisons a child against the other parent, usually in cases of divorce.