Simple and time-tested principles can reduce divorce related domestic violence

by Vernon Beck – June 26, 2000

The increasing numbers of murders, suicides, gun seizures and other family court related horror stories should send a clear message to all stakeholders that we better change course in our thinking about domestic violence if we really want to reduce it.

If there is one thing that the increasing violence has made clear is that restraining orders, women’s shelters, mandatory arrest policies, police presence and even gun controls are only bandage solutions and will never be effective tools in addressing most divorce related family conflict situations. While many of these repressive measures were implemented with the intention of reducing violence, unfortunately, most actually increases the risk and intensity of domestic violence.

Most rational human beings are peaceful when treated fairly and with dignity by others in society. History has taught us that the application of fairness and equality between parties experiencing conflict will, in most cases, end or at least control it.

What is it about separation, divorce and the family court process that suddenly turns once normal persons to rage and violence? If you look at most situations where domestic conflict exists you will often find many factors which create injustice such as twisted and distorted truths, adversarial lawyers, high legal bills, criminal charges because of mandatory arrest policies, children being denied access to a parent, false allegations of sexual abuse of children, unfair and punitive child support, involvement of the parties in other intimate relationships, financial crisis, job loss, etc., etc.

Special interest groups and political do-gooders have been quick to unfairly label men as the only perpetrators of domestic violence without looking at the real causes. If we are to remain objective, we must first ask ourselves if men are truly being treated fairly or not by the system. The results of a recent CNews public opinion poll shows that over 90% of Canadians feel that government agencies and the family justice system is biased against men. Most honest lawyers tell their male clients that they will not be treated fairly by the system.

If the system is to really work towards ending domestic violence then it should start by:

  • Ensuring that both parents have fair, dignified and meaningful access to their children and that child support is fair and not punitive.
  • Minimizing the use of the adversarial family court system and the police services. Criminal charges and court proceedings should be used as a deterrent only as a last resort and where the circumstances warrant such steps.
  • Ensuring that emotional support and education related to parenting and family conflict is made available to both parents at the first signs of domestic problems.
  • Ensuring that neither parent is forced unfairly into financial hardship.

If political correctness and gender battles were put aside and if all stakeholders worked to ensure that fairness prevailed, then we would soon discover what is the real solution to ending much of the violence related to separation or divorce. If we did this, then we really could say that we are acting in the best interests of our children.

Vernon Beck is a mediator and family co-ordinator from Oakville, Ontario. He works with children and families of separation and divorce and is involved with the development of programs focussed on reducing divorce related family conflict. He may be reached at (905) 829-0407.


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