Soon Parents Will Have A More Clearly Defined Duty to Protect Their Children From Conflict
The amended Divorce Act creates a series of new duties for parents. One of those duties is for parents to protect their children (to the best of their ability) from conflict arising from their divorce proceedings. This is not really a “new” duty. Common sense dictates that children not be involved in parental discord and there are plenty of cases in which Judges admonish parents for involving children in their disputes. What is new is that the duty to shield children from conflict will be enshrined in the legislation.
What are some of the ways that parents can comply with this more formalized duty?
by not telling their children that they are involved in court proceedings
by not discussing with their children the contents of their own or the other parent’s court documents
if the children know that there are ongoing court proceedings, by not telling them about upcoming court dates or what what court orders are being requested by either parent
by not telling their children about the contents of court orders that have been made (unless doing so is necessary for the child’s protection and safety)
by not coaching their children to take a side or to support a parent’s position in the court proceedings
by not making negative or denigrating comments about the other parent’s personality, behaviour, opinions or decisions directly to the children or in circumstances in which they may overhear the comments
by not discussing child support, spousal support or other financial issues with their children
by supporting their children’s relationships with the other parent (unless there are circumstances that make the relationship inappropriate or unsafe)
by not arguing with the other parent in the children’s presence
by not creating tension before or during the children’s care transitions
We may see an increased number of costs awards being made against parents who breach their duty as well as an increase in the number of Judges who supervise files from the early stages of court proceedings. Emotions can certainly run high after separation - more so when parents are involved in court proceedings. The articulation of this duty in the Divorce Act is intended to recognize the chaos and damage that is sometimes experienced by children when too much information about adult issues is shared with them.