Madam Speaker, I rise to address this bill. By way of background, I am bringing to this the perspective of having practised family law almost exclusively for some 15 years and then significantly for another 12 or 13 years in the province of Ontario. I have also instructed in family law at the local law school as a sessional instructor and I have been a sessional leader at the bar admission course in Ontario as well.
There is a point I particularly want to address. If I understood the comments of the author of the bill, he is interested in avoiding what at times is the inevitable conflict between parents in the course of a marriage breakdown. I have to say to the member that my experience tells me the presumption he wishes to build into the legislation would inevitably have the effect of heightening both the amount of litigation that would go on and the level of hostilities between the parents.
In that regard, I draw to the House's attention some of the statistics he gave on the breakdown that exists in the country in terms of how custody arrangements are finalized. Members may recall that he made the point that in approximately 85% of all custodial arrangements custody resides with the mother of the children and some 6% or 7% with the father of the children, the remainder being joint custody arrangements.
As a bit of an aside, that 6% is a substantial increase from the time I first started practising law. I think it reflects some change in society and society's orientations and particularly in the orientation of women and mothers to be willing to look at a custody arrangement. It also reflects, I think importantly, the amount of additional time that male members of society are taking with the children in wishing to have that type of arrangement.
However, I want to come back to the reality of the process when marriage breaks down. What will occur, I prophesy, is that of the 80% of mothers who attain custody we will have a much greater number of them going to court if this type of bill and presumption are passed into legislation. We will have them going to court to rebut that presumption in order to establish sole custody in their names.
The end result is that instead of having 10% of all cases going to substantial litigation, which is the figure he quoted, we will have a greater number. As an aside, I can point out that does not mean those cases go to trial and are determined by a judge. What that means is simply that they are lengthy and protracted litigation, which oftentimes ultimately end up in settlement in any event.
However, what we will be having is a number greater than 10% in our courts. If we are really sincerely interested in protecting our children from the abuse they suffer from the litigation process, we will want to avoid this. I can speak to that personally from the fairly substantial number of contested custody cases I was involved in. There is emotional abuse of children as they suffer their way through the protracted battles between their parents. This proposed legislation would only heighten that.
From that perspective alone we would have to oppose this proposed legislation. There are a number of other points we could make regarding the validity of the presumption, but recognizing that it is this time of the week, I will leave my comments at that.