Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Plight of Non-custodial Parents

As the following chronology of events illustrates, the effort of one parent to exclude the life of the other parent from their child's life can have devastating consequences, and politicians and advocates for women have no qualms about using such events for their own purpose.
  • On 19 February 2008, Bernice Sampson began the process of abdicating her responsibility to care for her child, Katelynn, by asking the Ontario Court of Justice to place her in the custody of Donna Irving, a known prostitute and drug addict, who lived with her partner Warren Johnson. The Court File listed Irving as the Applicant, although she was not a relative, and Sampson and Mark Letang as Respondents, although Letang was not present at the proceedings. During the proceedings, Sampson stated, among other things that: Letang was not the father of Katelynn; one George States was Katelynn's father, she did not want him to be a part of Katelynn's life; she approved of Irving's partner; no father was listed on Katelynn's birth certificate; the father was someone in Nova Scotia; and she would write up a piece of paper explaining to the Court, one way or another, what should be done about the father.
  • On 6 June 2008, after additional court appearances, Irving was granted custody of Katelynn even though Letang, who was the father and who was believed to have been living in the Toronto area, had never been properly identified and notified of the ongoing proceedings.
  • On 2 August 2008, Katelynn died while in the care of Irving, and she and Johnson were subsequently charged with second-degree murder.
  • On 12 August 2008, Letang put his daughter's casket in a hearse after her funeral at Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church in Toronto.
  • On 24 November 2008, a Toronto Star headline and story appeared that read, in part "Changes to family law aimed at better protecting women, children", "Death of Katelynn Sampson weighed on attorney general and others who examined child custody laws in Ontario" and "We can no longer ignore the fact that the safety of women and children in this province must be paramount," said Zahra Dhanani, legal director for the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children". No mention, however was made of Letang.
  • On 25 November 2008, the attorney general introduced Bill 133: Ontario's Family Statute Law Amendment Act.
Incredible as it may seem, among the several amendments proposed in the legislation, none deal with one of the root causes of what lead up to Katelynn's death. The obvious desire, on the part of one parent, to exclude the other parent from her life.
Unfortunately, in the Province of Ontario, not a day goes by that some custodial parent fails to abide by court ordered custody of or access to a child.
While I am not usually an advocate of State intervention in such matters, I do believe the time is now to find a way for the Ontario to take the lead in the enforcement of court ordered custody and access, similar to what is done in the case of court ordered support payments and arrears of support.
The chance of this happening, however, are slim since it would seem that from the State's point of view, taking a proactive approach to the collection and dispersal of money is simple, politically correct, and apt to make the State look good; while dealing with the access issue would be complex, politically incorrect, and apt to make the State look bad.

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