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Child Custody: It doesn’t have to be all or none:

The quickest way to start conflict between separated parents is to talk to them about child custody. The mere mention of the word conjures up images of one parent winning the kids with the other parent losing.

Traditional thinking has it that custody must be specified, particularly when parents are in conflict and cannot resolve parenting decisions reasonably. This thinking only intensifies an already acrimonious situation. It bears mentioning that in the throws and newness of a separation, parents are at odds with each other and in the midst of the fear of loosing their kids, they are apt to be in conflict. This however, does not necessarily mean they do not hold the same values or interests with regard to the care and development of their children. It also doesn’t mean that they would not exercise reasonable judgment with regard to their children’s needs. Teasing out the couple issues from the parent issues, there just may be reasonable ground to let both parents carry on with meaningful roles. It also bears mentioning that unless your situation is extreme, the likelihood of achieving an order for sole custody is remarkably limited.

There is a way out of the quagmire for some parents in conflict to resolve parenting issues without the all or none consequences of awarding custody to one. In some situations they can both continue to feel equal in terms of being a parent, fully able to maintain their relationship and assert a meaningful role with their children. The process entails stepping away from the “C” word in favor of developing a parenting plan, discerning the scope of authority on specific issues, and specifying a means of dispute resolution.

Parents can be helped to determine their mutual interests and areas of agreement. Authority can be vested in one parent or the other for specific issues. Through the vesting of authority, each parent is assigned a span of control for the specific issue. Where parents cannot reach consensus, they can then agree on less expensive processes of dispute resolution such as mediation or arbitration through the services of a Parenting Coordinator. While parents may fear they will always be running back to mediation, this is rarely the case, particularly if there is a rule that the one who calls for mediation pays for the service, this to cut down on frivolous actions.

Essentially what needs to be determined is a set of rules for the management and care of the kids. To the degree this is achieved and in particular, out of court, the parents retain overall control of their lives. They remain free from the loss of control court imposed solutions may bring. Their conflict is in part reduced knowing both can have an ongoing and active role in parenting decisions even if some decisions are circumscribed.

As parents retain a meaningful role by agreeing to abide by their mutually established rules, responsibilities and span of authority, they can then ease into their separation with a growing sense of security that their attachments to the children will remain intact.

In the end, this is what both parents want post-separation. It is not just a say in the school they attend, but that each parent feels important and active in their children’s life. This is in the children’s interest. Even if one parent complains that the other never showed such interest before, the fact may be that they are now. An active and interested parent is good for any child whenever it comes. Step away from the “C” word and seek an agreement. Your kids will thank you for it.

Achieving this kind of parenting agreement can be difficult but difficult does not mean impossible. It requires a commitment from the parents and the support of a highly qualified support system. The support necessary may be found in a very experienced mediator or through lawyers practicing Collaborative Law.

The Parenting Pan Worksheet can be a vital tool in the process of negotiating the agreement.

Print this as a one-page article to hand out freely.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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Separating? See the right counselor before the wrong lawyer

Once the decision to separate is made, there are a number of other issues to settle. If the decision has been made in isolation, there is the matter of informing one’s spouse. Thereafter comes telling the kids. From there, attention is directed towards determining the ongoing care of the children between the separated parents. Then there is the matter of settling housing, finances and ongoing financial obligations. For some people, these issues begin to blend together, overwhelming them with the enormity of the consequences.

Underneath all decisions are associated feelings. Each issue brings a host of emotions, mostly dark and upsetting. The parties are dealing with the loss of the relationship, let alone the fantasy of how things should have been. There is worry as to the impact on the children, ongoing parent-child relationships, and economic hardship. Feelings may include anger, resentment, depression, fear and in some situations, even elation. Typically it is the feelings that drive decisions. Many people directly or indirectly seek retribution in how they settle the cascade of issues. People also may seek to make quick and rash decisions, serving to assuage their feelings and fears.

In the wake of the decision to separate, many people turn to a lawyer first, seeking to preserve rights and turf. The decision to separate is then communicated to the other party by way of a legal letter, not only telling of the separation, but laying out the demands and expectations for settlement. With the rug pulled out from beneath them, the other party, in a tizzy, is seldom able to respond reasonably given the information just befallen them. Hence the response may be nothing more than an outpouring of their emotion, upset, rage, sadness and fear, disguised as a counter to the demands of the other. Then the couple, like a ship, makes a series of over-corrections, trying to counterbalance competing demands; they veer left, then right, further left and further right, harder and harder, until their matter reaches epic proportions, spilling over into the courts.

Separating is always counter-intuitive. No person enters a long-term committed relationship saying that in time, they seek to lose their love and develop animosity enough to drive them from the relationship. These are always upsetting times and when upset drives decisions, poor decisions are often made further compounding problems. The ones to suffer most in the process are children. Statistically, it is not the distribution of assets, residential setting or even the access schedule that determines the outcome for children. It is singularly the level of conflict between the parents that most determines how their children will fare during and after the process and how they shall fare in their own adult intimate relationships later on.

Upon a decision to separate, parents would be wise to call to a counselor well trained and versed in separation and divorce matters. Please note, this is a specialty and very different to working with persons on other individual, emotional or psychological matters. The counselor trained and versed in separation and divorce matters will help the couple identify and manage the issues that contributed to the decision to separate and will maintain a clarity of vision to help the couple truly sort out what is best for their children, given their situation. Further, most counselors, trained and versed in separation and divorce matters can facilitate referrals to financial and legal services and would do so with the view to preserving the integrity of the parties and relationships.

The goal of the separation is to permit for the untangling of lives, whilst still respecting and maintaining relationships vital to the care and development of the children.

It can be scary seeing the counselor, but parents are advised to consider this a mature decision aimed at managing their feelings to achieve an outcome best for everyone combined and especially, their children.

Print this as a one-page article to hand out freely.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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Do you know these 7 strategies to make the most out of restrictive access to your children?

Many parents with severely restricted access hold tremendous rage or anger at agencies, institutions, courts or the custodial parent. However, their limited access may be more a consequence of their responses to problems, than the problems directly. Provocation by others cannot be used to excuse their own behavior if inappropriate or worse, criminal.

First and foremost, parents in such situations must learn to manage their behavior so that it cannot be used against them. No matter how provoked a parent may feel, they must never act in such a way as to undermine their own self. Parents must consider the consequences of their responses PRIOR to responding and with a view to acting in their own long-term interest rather than the immediacy of the situation.

Secondly, parents in such situations must learn that relationships are a lifelong endeavor. So even though difficult today, parents must be helped to think long-term. They must act now to prepare and build for a relationship even if in their child’s later life like adolescence or adulthood. Don’t miss the chance for something later, by creating new problems today.

To maximize the opportunity for a lifelong relationship parents with restricted access can do the following:

  1. Use whatever access is available. Children cannot live by excuses. Being there whenever possible lets children know you value them. This is a primary responsibility.
  1. Never bad mouth the other parent or caregiver. Putting down someone else will never elevate you. Concentrate on the children directly and your activities in the moment. Do not place them in a situation of revealing matters of family life that you think you can use in your case. This will only heighten their mistrust of you and add to a poor relationship now and forever.
  1. Leave your anger outside the visit. Children want the opportunity to see you, not your anger. Also, your anger may scare them, which will only cause them to want to stay away.
  1. Remember all birthdays, holidays and special occasions with a card or gift that is appropriate to their age and interests.
  1. If allowed, maintain regular contact in-between visits by telephone or email or letters. Again, remember to leave your feelings aside and concentrate on enjoying listening to your child. Sometimes such contact is only a matter of seconds. Do not expect lengthy conversations. It’s the contact that matters, not the length.
  1. Never hit your child, scream or yell, but do learn and use only appropriate behavior management techniques. Remember, you are also a role model so what you do in all aspects of your life matters most. Your children will learn by watching you or being told about you, so always act appropriately.
  1. Maintain a life journal with pictures and notes that you can use to share memories together of good times. If you do not have access to your children, still make a journal of your life showing what you were up to on their birthdays, holidays or special occasions. Keep it positive and include a birthday card that you would have sent. Then when you see your child, be it now or when they are an adult, you can demonstrate they were always in your thoughts and you can catch up. In such situations these actions can help your then adult child feel better about themselves and help you forge an adult-adult relationship. This can make up for some of the lost time and you both can feel good about it.

Finally, you may need help or support to work on the suggestions contained in this article or to fully understand all the needs of children. Remember, your children will benefit when you put your issues aside and concentrate on working towards a lifelong relationship that is aimed at meeting their needs first, be it now or for the future. It’s only too late when you give up or act inappropriately.

Print this as a one-page article to hand out freely.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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Coming to Grips as the Memory Fades, Part II – The Three Biggies

While most people immediately go to memory loss as a primary deficit of dementia, there are other issues which can create havoc for coping be it by the affected person or support persons. Chief among those other issues are anosognosia, confabulation and disinhibition.

Anosognosia is the condition of the person lacking awareness of their own deficit. This is quite different from denial. Denial is seen as a psychological defense mechanism to distance oneself from the emotional challenge of accepting one’s issues. In denial, the person does have an awareness of the deficit, but hasn’t come to accept it. Anosognosia is truly the absence of awareness of the issue or deficit. When applied to the issue of memory loss, the person in denial will likely become angry or agitated when confronted by others about losing an object. The person may even become agitated or angry with him or herself. As for the person with anosognosia if confronted on the issue of memory loss, this person may be apt to not even understand the problem as originating with themselves, but may more believe someone is playing a mean trick on them. Whereas counseling can help a person in denial address the emotional impact of their situation, counseling for the person with anosognosia will likely prove futile. In lieu of counseling the person with anosognosia, counseling is better directed to those who support the person.

Confabulation may be best understood as the mind filling in the gaps for not perceiving things as they really are. With confabulation a person may be seen as accusatory, blaming others on the basis of misunderstandings or simply making things up in order to make sense of their distorted view of personal experiences. For instance, a person may blame their partner of having an affair when they try to put together broken elements of their perception, knowing the other is out, not knowing where and perhaps catching a piece of a message about a meeting. While the story of an affair seems to make sense to the affected person, it strays far from the reality of the situation where the other person may have simply been out shopping with a friend. Confabulation is often combined with anosognosia. Not realizing what one may miss, one constructs a distorted view that only makes sense to that person. Arguing and counseling are typically not of value to the affected person, but again, counseling can be of particular value to those who support the affected person.

Disinhibition is when the brakes fail to control our normal impulses. While everyone has had the experience of wanting to do or say something that may be deemed inappropriate, we typically have a set of internal controls that keep us from doing so. The disinhibited person has a faulty set of those internal controls and as such may say or do things inappropriate to the situation. These persons appear to lack social judgment and their behavior or comments may be inappropriately humorous to rude to hurtful to harmful to dangerous.

Taken together, anosognosia, confabulation and disinhibition can create havoc in the life of the person with dementia and those who provide for their support or care. Counseling the affected person about these issues will have little to no impact and may actually create more turmoil and upset for everyone. Rather than counseling the affected person, it is the support or caring persons, very often the family members and friends who require counseling and education. Education is best directed to explaining these conditions and offering strategies for management. Those strategies include learning when not to argue and how to redirect to more socially acceptable conversation and behavior. These can be challenging strategies to learn and role play may be helpful with instruction.

In the end, most family and friends are upset not only for the management challenges but also for the compromised dignity of the affected person. Family and friends may feel shame or embarrassment for the affected person or themselves. It is important to address those feeling as well as learning effective management strategies so that the dignity of the affected person may be better protected by loved ones and friends. To that end, loved ones and friend may have to confront their own denial and challenges in accepting the affected person’s dementia. Protecting one’s dignity begins by acknowledging the dementia so that problems arising are not seen as a reflection of the affected person, but can be viewed compassionately as an outcome of a disease process.

Counseling and education for loved ones and friends are often the best way to help the person with dementia.

Download as a one-page article for handing out.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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High Level Training Opportunities in Conflict Resolution

The Hamilton High Conflict Forum is hosting Bill Eddy for a one day workshop, Friday, September 18. Tickets sales are extraordinary. Early bird tickets have sold out and we already have 50% of total ticket sales. This is an opportunity to hear one the the most renown experts regarding high conflict people at a remarkably affordable price.

To register, please go to:
http://www.faceshhcf.eventbrite.ca

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On Monday, September 28 in Toronto (venue to be announced) there is another extraordinary opportunity with an exclusive workshop featuring Woody Mosten and myself. This workshop is limited to only 20 attendees and the agenda will be set by those in attendance. Woody and I will be concentrating on making a profitable practice in peace-keeping. If you are a collaborative lawyer, mediator, mental health professional or financial divorce specialist who work with people in conflict, then this opportunity may bring your practice to the next level. We will share our secrets and strategies for diversifying your services and marketing and will openly answer any and all questions to help you improve your practice.

To register, go here:
https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/building-your-peacemaking-practice-tickets-16901798735

For those unfamiliar with Woody, he is an acclaimed collaborative lawyer, mediator and trainer who speaks throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more about him and his practice, go here:
http://www.mostenmediation.com/

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Earlier this year I was invited to write an article for the State Bar of California, Family Law News. It was just published and speaks to the role of the family lawyer and impact of family court on children. You can read it here:
http://familylaw.calbar.ca.gov/Publications/MovingBeyondtheLimitsofFamilyLawCourt.aspx

Please feel free to email me your comments about the article.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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Coming to Grips as the Memory Fades

It starts so innocuously; a misplaced set of keys, a lost wallet, a burned dinner. Any one event is so easily dismissed, but taken cumulatively you quietly begin to question your own mind or that of your partner or parent or friend.

Despite the finesse with which the issue is raised, the comment or concern may cut like a knife. The thought of perishing inside one’s own mind terrifies.

Very often, awareness of one’s own deficits is limited. One doesn’t see what one cannot remember. The gaps are filled in with one’s own beliefs that seemingly make sense to the one affected, but bears no resemblance to the reality of the others. Conflict, mistrust, confusion, anger, depression, loss, anxiety pervade.

Coming to grips as the memory fades is a process over time and a journey for not only the affected by those whose lives intersect. A new normal sets in but it is not a static new normal but one that rests on shifting sands.

How does one talk about these changes, these challenges, the implications, the choices? How does one cope whether the affected, the caregiver, the family or the friend? What should be said or left unsaid… and when?

Living with dementia, coming to grips as the memory fades will be so different from one person to another. The right way of one isn’t necessarily the path of another. Right will also be a function of where one is over the course of one’s journey. There can be so much to talk about, yet when and how become challenges to determine.

If you or a loved one is coping with dementia, apart from the wonderful support available through different community groups and resources there is a much more private and particular path and events and discussions that need be determined, that need be had.

When seeking to cope amidst the fear of a life affected with dementia, include counseling for yourself, yourself with your partner and with your family, especially when feeling stuck or unsure about having meaningful conversations and making appropriate plans.

As painful the thought and reality of dementia, the isolation and feeling stuck and upset for conversations not had can be even more tragic. Life can be less about what it throws at us than how we cope, together.

We may find meaning, greater peace and more support the result of counseling. Counseling may help what feels insufferable, feel meaningful. Counseling may help you better manage the shifting sands, finding strategies to cope and better manage from one stage to the next. It is well worth considering when coming to grips as the memory fades. Counseling may help.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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Father’s Day Tip

Most dad’s think or know they are important to their kids. The real challenge though is acting in such a way that the kids think the dad is important.

If you want a great Father’s Day, you have to be a great father in your kids’ eyes, not your own.

You can be that dad by placing your kids’ need above your own, spending time together and holding your kids accountable to reasonable expectations and responsibilities. You also demonstrate you are a great dad by being kind and gentle, especially with their other parent and even if you don’t really get a long.

Be forever the kind of person you want your kids to be but above all, be there and be there in a way that enhances your kids’ lives. Consider the memory you are creating of yourself for your kids by your own actions and choices.

Then you may have a great Father’s Day.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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