Putting children first

TheStar.com – Opinion/editorial – Putting children first
Nov 25, 2008.

Under legislation introduced yesterday at Queen’s Park, judges would no longer be able to transfer custody of children from their parents to friends or extended family with little more than a signed slip of paper.

To be granted custody, non-parents would need a police records check, a letter from children’s aid outlining any concerns and they’ll have to explain how they plan to care for the child.

That is good news, but it is unfortunately too late for 7-year-old Katelynn Sampson. Her brutal death this past summer prompted the government to add these requirements, which seem so basic it boggles the mind they weren’t already in place. Had they been, Katelynn’s life might have been saved.

Attorney General Chris Bentley was right yesterday in saying children are our “most precious gift.” It’s just too bad it took a violent end for the government to discover and close a loophole that affects the custody arrangements of an estimated 1,400 children a year.

During any family crisis – including divorce – it’s the children who are the most helpless. That’s why it’s also welcome news that the province has decided to enhance protection for children in divorce proceedings as part of the same legislative package.

Under the proposed changes, divorcing parents would have to provide a judge with a sworn statement about how they propose to care for their children. This should ensure the needs of children don’t get buried under the piles of paperwork or forgotten amid the angry recriminations that form the bulk of many divorces.

The changes would also require annual financial disclosure to make it easier to ensure fair child support payments over time.

As Bentley said, these and other changes would help Ontarians of all ages “find justice in their most difficult times of need.”

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