Does this article sound familiar to a lot of men? My case went on for over 4 years and I lost everything.MJM
Family court broken, report says
The (Sarnia) Observer
Sarnia's Jason Morningstar says he's the poster boy for what's wrong with Ontario's family court system.
He's more than two years and $110,000 into a custody battle with his ex-wife.
He's seeking joint custody of their two children, aged five and seven.
"I've been drained financially and emotionally," Morningstar says.
Dozens of similar cases were outlined in a newly-released report commissioned by the Law Commission of Ontario and calling for reform of the family justice system.
The 83-page report, Voices from a Broken Family Justice System, says the system fails to find workable solutions for parents, often pitting them against one another in highly litigious cases that alienate children.
Parents are being driven to the poorhouse by an adversarial family court system that fails to protect the needs of children or find workable solutions for families, the report states.
Based on interviews and consultations with more than 100 social workers, family councillors, lawyers, judges and families, the report criticizes the family law system for not better meeting the needs of families at such a highly stressful period.
The report suggests lawyers sometimes use "delaying tactics" to make money and turn to bullying tactics to paint an ex-partner as an unfit parent.
The report says that's a common theme. Meanwhile, "children want to be heard but they feel they have no voice and no power in relation to adults, including their parents, lawyers, counsellors and judges," it states.
Morningstar's five-year-old son was diagnosed as an infant with an inoperable brain tumour. During a time when both parents should be working to spend as much quality time with their sons as possible, the court wranglings have left them strapped for cash and emotionally drained, Morningstar says.
"I'm living paycheck to paycheck. And the worst part is there is absolutely no one out there that will listen."
Morningstar said he now sees his children three times a week, but that's taken more than two years to get to.
"There's a lot of nasty games. It really doesn't need to be this difficult. I believe my ex-wife and I are good people," he says.
"All I ever wanted was joint custody of my children, and it's going to cost me $150,000 to get it. I've been struggling to keep my son alive and now I'm struggling to keep him in my life ... It's been a nightmare."
Onetime lawyer and former Sarnia-Lambton MP Roger Gallaway has repeatedly called the family law system unfair and biased against men.
Gallaway says little has improved in the system since he co-chaired a joint Senate-Commons committee that spent a year holding extensive hearings into custody and access.
The committee presented its report, For the Sake of the Children, to Parliament in December 1998, detailing harrowing stories of parents who were cut off from their children and driven into bankruptcy and despair by mounting legal bills and an unresponsive court system.
There needs to exist a presumption of shared parenting and equality going into court as it relates to parenting roles, he says.
"It doesn't exist. It doesn't apply in family law."
Gallaway says too often baseless allegations are brought up in court, based on "allegation, rumour, gossip and assumptions" and it is a highly effective tactic in preventing shared parenting.
"The onus should be on the parent who is alleging (the misconduct) to prove it. But courts are making decisions that are not evidentiary-based and that's frightening."
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