Families Change: The Unbreakable Bond of Parenting

A recent key speaker was Professor Patrick Parkinson an internationally recognized expert on children and divorce and a family law professional who brings a perspective of many years as a legal scholar, researcher, and family law reformer.  Professor Parkinson is one of the world’s leading family law academics, with a particular expertise on parenting after separation, child support and complex property matters.  His books include the Indissolubility of Parenthood (2011) and The Voice of a Child in Family Law Disputes (with Judy Cashmore, 2008). He is a professor of law at the University of Sydney Law School and a specialist in family law, child protection and the law of equity and trusts.


Prof. Parkinson spoke on February 15, 2013 at an all-day event at The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, Vancouver, British Columbia supported by Collaborative Divorce Vancouver, Mediate BC and the B.C. Parenting Coordinators Roster Society.


His historical analysis of family law reveals that the public policy whose premise was that a man and women married and then started a family and their contract of marriage was unbreakable.  When Western societies began permitting divorce, the public policy shifted to finding a spouse responsible for the breakdown of the marriage and giving one parent sole custody of the children and the other parent access to the children through visitation.  This way of dealing with divorce dissolved the family as well as the marriage. 


Canada’s Divorce Act and the Family Relations Act of British Columbia are both drafted along the lines of custodial parent and the non-custodial parent who have very different rights.  Eventually both Acts were amended to reflect Canada’s progressive leap of recognizing common law marriages and then same sex marriages. 


Our new Family Law Act of British Columbia dramatically changes family law in British Columbia for two primary reasons.  The profile of the family has changed significantly and is more diversified.  Our new BC Family Law Act gives spouses who cohabitate for two years the same property division scheme as spouses are civilly married.  The second reason is to change the family law regime from one that encourages harm to children when the spousal relationship breaks down to a regime where all the family law professionals make each child’s best interests the only consideration.  The new family law regime makes the children’s best interests the only consideration.  The shift is to treat parenthood as an unbreakable bond except in rare cases.  Judges and family law professionals are being educated on how to help the family transition to a parenting after separation model where both parents co-parent together successfully.


Marla Gilsig is a family lawyer, mediator and collaborative lawyer at #550-943 West Broadway Street in Vancouver, British Columbia.  You can contact her on a confidential basis at (604) 669.6402 or [email protected] or www.gilsig.ca