Testimony before the Special Joint Committee on Custody and Access of the Parliament of Canada,

March 31, 1998, Toronto, Ontario

Dr. Marty McKay (Clinical Psychologist): Good morning.

I'm a psychologist, and I'm here to speak to you about my 20 years of carrying out custody and access assessments, the pain that I have seen in the lives of children, and the difficulties that I have experienced in continuing in the role of an assessor due to what I feel are significant shortcomings and room for abuses that prevail in our family law system.

I have always been interested in vulnerable groups. I consulted to the Children's Aid Society for 15 years. I worked with battered women in transition homes. Within the past 10 years I've come to see that men, or fathers, constitute a vulnerable group within the family law system. By a decision for a women to leave a marriage, a man may be bereft of his children, falsely accused of abuse, have his children coached to give evidence against him, and end up fighting for his reputation, access to his children, and his freedom in some cases.

I have seen some terrible cases that have caused me great concern for the future of children who are being deprived of half of their heritage and who have half of their emotional life torn away from them. I'm surprised, starting out as a feminist myself and one concerned about abuses and unfairness toward women, to reach a position where I am genuinely concerned about the future of fathers.

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My position is that assessments are being used to deprive children of meaningful relationships with both parents. They're being misused. They're being informed by a political attitude that see a woman's word as much stronger than a man's; that on the basis of an accusation a man cannot clear himself. It doesn't matter if he passes a psychological assessment, a lie detector test, or even a penile measure for child abuse. He could still be on a child abuse register and prevented from seeing his children, except under the most rigorously supervised conditions, when he has done nothing wrong.

I'm well aware that abuse exists. In 15 years of consulting with the Children's Aid Society, I know that children are abused sexually, physically, emotionally. That's why I feel it is so important not to give credence to false allegations, especially when children's lives and futures are at stake.

My position is that joint custody should be the de facto position, and that mandated mediation should be required for up to two years post-divorce to settle disputes that arise between ex-spouses.

I believe that without the adversarial system and the ease with which false accusations and adversarial fires can now be fuelled and burned, without those opportunities, most couples can come to reasonable arrangements in caring for their children post-divorce. But they need education, they need the assistance of professionals—professionals who are committed to fairness, who do not see one parent as virtuous and another parent as evil, who give both parents the right to continue having meaningful relationships with their children, who are not informed by some kind of misguided political correctness.

Thank you.

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