Who Influences Family Law Reform? Discourses on Motherhood and Fatherhood in Legislative Reform Debates in Canada
Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Vol. 26, pp. 43-75, 2002
Posted: 25 Jun 2009
Date Written: 2002
This article examines resistance to law reform initiatives in the field of child support and child custody and access law by those who say that special rights are being given to women and that the “family” and fathers are under threat. Specifically we consider whether legislative reforms in these areas have been inappropriately influenced by feminists, as many fathers’ rights groups would argue, and we try to determine who set the agenda for the legislative changes that occurred in Canada duri8ng the late 1960s to the mid-1980s. Relying on debates in the House of Commons and parliamentary committees, our findings are that the interests of women did not receive preferential treatment. The debates on support enforcement focused more on the need to protect the state from financial responsibility for the “victims” of divorce than on the economic needs of women and children. During the 1980s especially, men’s defaults in support payments were increasingly linked to the alienation of fathers from their children. This concern about paternal alienation, combined wit the assumption that the law had gone too far in terms of favoring women over men, resulted in legislation on child custody and access that reflected a compromise which generated new difficulties for mothers in custody disputes.
Keywords: Family law – interpretation and construction
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation