Skip to content

Diverting from the Abyss of Family Court

Did you know that it’s never too late to divert your family matter from court?

Many people do not know this, but it’s true. If parents agree to seek an alternate approach to settling their dispute they may do so and interestingly enough, of all court actions started, 95% settle prior to trial.

Given the vast majority of court actions settle prior to trial, then ask yourself, why spend all that time, aggravation and money fighting a dispute that with other forms of support you are likely to settle more reasonably anyway?

So why are you going to court?

Many people go to court only because of lack of awareness of other options to settling disputes.

In some situations, a person’s own lawyer may have downplayed or not addressed the alternatives to court not necessarily to protect their own income, but because many lawyers are also ill informed as to the value of more peaceful strategies for resolving issues and/or their own training obscures their vision and appreciation of the alternatives.

A lawyer trained in litigation will be invested in going to court. That is what they do. A lawyer trained in Collaborative Law will work to keep your matter out of court, as will a Mediator and even a good therapist who has knowledge and training helping separated parents co-parent.

Imagine standing at a precipice. You look over the edge, ready to jump, the bottom unforeseen. As you wind through the court system, you learn that the initial retainer paid to your lawyer was only a meager down-payment the end of which is also unforeseen. Not only will the cost inevitably escalate, but you have no control over the final outcome in the event a judge must make a decision regarding your life.

Don’t jump.

Diverting your matter from court is like stepping back from the precipice and not taking a leap into the abyss. This is important because those agreements entered into voluntarily tend to be better followed and last longer than decisions imposed by a judge or arbitrator. Parents not only want to achieve a livable outcome to their dispute, but also want to know both will honor the agreement.

By all means, if it is a fight you really want, hire a litigator go to court. If it is a settlement you want, hire a settlement oriented and trained professional and stand back from the precipice.

Either direction may be scary for you, but once you consider the direction of your action, jumping over a cliff will hardly look like a reasonable alternative. Choose wisely in the first place and if you don’t, remember, it’s never too late to divert your case from court.

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

http://www.facebook.com/GaryDirenfeldSocialWorker
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60758978&trk=tab_pro
https://twitter.com/socialtworker

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.

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Therapists and Court involved Clients

Are you a therapist or social worker or psychologist or psychiatrist working with a client involved with family court or criminal court?

Did you know your service can contribute to an escalation of conflict between parents?

Did you know that your client may be triangulating you into a dispute on a one-sided basis?

Did you know that without both parents consent to treatment of a child, you may be compromising your professional code of ethics?

Did you know that even if one parent has so-called “custody”, in most jurisdictions the other parent still has an equal right to access information concerning their child?

Did you know that the disclosures of the child in therapy are often influenced by the parent bringing the child hence rendering such disclosures at least suspicious?

Did you know you could be dragged into your client’s court action?

Did you know that there are defence lawyers who shop around looking for therapists to write a good report really only to help their client’s case at court?

If you didn’t know that answer to just one of those questions, you could likely benefit from training on working with court involved clients.

If you would like to better serve your court involved clients and better protect yourself from a claim of malpractice, you should consider specific training in these issues.

I have been working with court involved clients for over 30 years. It would be my pleasure to provide training in this area of practice to your group or organization. Feel free to call to discuss: 905 628-4847.

(Courts in Ontario, Canada, have deemed me an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations, custody and access recommendations, and an expert at critiquing the assessments of other assessors. Yes – I evaluate evaluators for court purposes.)

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

http://www.facebook.com/GaryDirenfeldSocialWorker
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60758978&trk=tab_pro
https://twitter.com/socialtworker

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.

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Want to Raise Great Kids?

This is the common denominator between parents – we all want great kids; kids who are well adjusted, responsible and happy.

The question is, how do we achieve it? How do we go about raising great kids particularly amidst all of life’s distractions and challenges?

All my workshops have that frame of mind – raising great kids.

Whether I am speaking with single parents, separating parents, parents with intact relationships, parents of children with special needs, family lawyers representing separating parents, other mental health professionals who work with parents or children, early childhood educators, teachers or any other professional whose work intersects with children, the focus remains the well being of the child.

I have spoken on topics such as managing child and adolescent behavior, parenting plans for separated parents, resolving parenting disputes, the impact of domestic violence on children, child and adolescent issues, drug and alcohol abuse, multiculturalism, sexual abuse, therapy, foster children, rehabilitation, and self-esteem, just to name only a few topics.

If you want great kids and are planning a workshop or conference, please give me a call.

Having provided hundreds of workshops, talks and key note presentations, it would be my pleasure to be of service.

Interested in what others have said? Check it 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

http://www.facebook.com/GaryDirenfeldSocialWorker
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60758978&trk=tab_pro
https://twitter.com/socialtworker

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.

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Think Twice if You Think Your Kid Will Tell You Their Woes

I had the pleasure of talking recently with middle school students in three groups: grade sixes; grade sevens; and grade eights. Each group had about 70 students. Their teachers and principal were present for the talk. The talk was actually a dialogue between me and students, asking about the issues they grapple with as students, issues that may at times interfere with their ability to concentrate in class.

All three grades identified bullying. A show of hand poll demonstrated about 90% of all students experienced some form of bullying. Interestingly, about 80% indicated they had bullied others. About 15% of students indicated that as a result of bullying, they had trouble concentrating at school. Virtually no one confronted their bully. About 3% of students would tell their parents about being bullied. Cyber bulling emerged as the greater form of bullying moving from grade six to eight.

Beyond bullying, students identified issues from home as contributing to problems concentrating at school. Some 80% of students identifying family issues as a concern about 20% of students had difficulty concentrating at school due to family issues. Few students spoke to anyone about these concerns, about 15% spoke with a friend and perhaps 2 or 3 % told their parents.

Approximately 40% of grade 6 students had a smart phone or tablet. That number rose to about 50% in grade seven and about 80 to 90% of students in grade eight had a smart phone or tablet.

The higher the grade the more likely the student slept with their smart phone or tablet next to them. The majority of students use their devises after their parents have gone to bed without their parents’ knowledge. The higher the grade, the less likely there were overt rules for the use of the devises in the late evening hours. The majority of students in grade eight identified fatigue or difficulty waking in the morning.

The grade seven and eight students identified popularity as a concern and the grade eight female students also identified challenges to maintain a certain appearance as defined in the media. On-line pornography figured into the mix of media.

In terms of lessons learned through talking with these students is the degree of their social isolation when under duress. Few students turn to their parents for support.

A teacher debriefed the talk with a group of students and asked why they don’t speak with their parents more about matters of concern. They identified:

  • Our problems are small compared to theirs;
  • It won’t matter anyway;
  • It is too embarrassing to discuss things with them;
  • Useless to report cyberbullying….it can be tracked anyway;
  • I don’t want to bother them;
  • Sometimes our parents are the problem;
  • I am often unsure what’s ‘significant’ to discuss;

The students were generally engaging in the dialogue. I shared strategies to address concerns raised and how to seek help and support. I will be meeting with parents from the school to share what I have learned.

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

http://www.facebook.com/GaryDirenfeldSocialWorker
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60758978&trk=tab_pro
https://twitter.com/socialtworker

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.

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Beware Your Behavior in the Throes of Separation

There is a point in the break-up of a relationship where things may finally get out of hand.

If the relationship has been marked by domestic violence and the target of the violence initiates the separation, there is risk for a spike in the intensity or severity of the violence. This can make the difference between violence being hurtful to being dangerous. The perpetrator may feel like a grip on the other has been lost and escalates the violence to act out the associated anger or to reclaims the grip on the other. If your relationship has been marked by domestic violence, particularly of the controlling coercive type, then before triggering your separation, consider making a safety plan to facilitate the disclosure of your intent to separate and exit from your relationship.

In other cases although violence may not have been a feature of your relationship, in the throes of separation, tempers and upset can still flare. People can say mean things in their upset intentionally or unintentionally. One may feel compelled to slap the face of the other or hit and lash out. An object may be thrown; a door may be slammed. In this context, the behavior of the one acting out physically/violently in the moment can have this behavior used against them so as to suggest it was a common feature of the relationship and/or to influence the outcome in a child custody/access dispute.

A parent who has had undesirable behavior, not necessarily violent or who has had other issues such as problems with alcohol or extra-marital relationships can use the acting out of the other to obscure what may have been a long-standing issue on their part by pointing to the momentary lapse of the other. Despite the escalation of feelings, it is critical for separating couples to still maintain control of their behavior even when provoked, lest their lapse of control is used against them and obscures or distracts from others’ issues.

The delivery of the intent to separate should not be made with children anywhere near the parents having this discussion. More to the point, the children shouldn’t even be in the home if the discussion is taking place there. Your children will hear. Your children will try to listen in even when you think otherwise.

Children are reasonably curious about parental disputes and your children will be worried for you and themselves. Many children feel compelled to break up their parents’ dispute and help them reconcile. Many children feel responsible for the safety of their parents and the integrity of the parental relationship. Being present for the break-up can be frightening, overwhelming and emotionally traumatic and even more so if the child feels some sense of responsibility for making things better, whether or not they act on the feeling of responsibility. Further, if violence does erupt in the process of the parental break up, children can be accidentally hurt and injured. A parental break up is no place for a child.

After a discussion of separation has been had, then parents can decide on how best to inform the children. Caution must be taken to not have the child feel like one or other parent is at fault or bad or that the child has any duty to either parent to support or take sides.

Remember the lyrics of the Carpenters, “Breakin’ up is hard to do.”

While there may not be a best way to break up, there sure are many wrong ways to do so.

Before you do, give it some thought, speak with others and perhaps a professional. Keep it safe for yourself and your partner and especially for your children. Your children will have enough on their plates to worry about without having been exposed to the trauma of a separation fight.

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

http://www.facebook.com/GaryDirenfeldSocialWorker
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60758978&trk=tab_pro
https://twitter.com/socialtworker

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.

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Parental Expectations of Med/Arb or Parenting Coordination

Separated parents come to mediation/arbitration or parenting coordination (see previous blog for explanation of differences), believing the service provider will offer a quick fix to an impasse on any given issue. There can be considerable pressure by one or both parents to simply settle their differences by choosing between opposing views.

To be clear, unless a remarkably serious issue, the service provider should not be quick to judge or impose a resolution.

In these roles, it behooves the service provider to try and help separated parents settle their dispute between themselves first, even if they are not hopeful.

The rationale for this is that those agreements entered into voluntarily and as determined by the parents, tend to be better followed and last longer than those outcomes imposed by a third party. Rushing to impose a decision undermines the parents being able to unpack their dispute, review their priorities and obtain support that very often leads to them determining their own solution.

To add, the service provider early on knows precious little about the parents, their children and their situation. As helpful as the service provider wants to be, imposing a decision in the absence of learning about the parents, children and situation, can lead to an outcome poorly suited to meet anyone’s needs. Simply put, do not expect or seek the service provider to quickly solve your problems on your behalf.

What parents should expect is to receive information, education and support to learn how to better settle disputes on a go-forward basis. They should also expect the service provider to help them take turns talking, respectfully listen and problem solve between themselves. In so doing, the service provider may have to control the meeting to allow respectful and appropriate discourse. No one should be allowed to ramble, simply register multiple examples of the others issues, or make demands. The service provider does manage this process, at times to the consternation of a parent whose greatest challenge may be to listen and relinquish control in order to achieve that oft times elusive mutually acceptable outcome.

Only after the service provider has had an opportunity to get to know the parents over some time and the parents have truly exhausted opportunity to resolve matters between themselves should the service provider determine the outcome. Only then should the service provider impose a decision as mandated in view of impasse when other options are proven unfruitful. This is the preferred process and not withstanding though, there may be occasion when the service provider is required to make a quick decision, but this is typically avoided as much as possible.

If called upon to make a decision, contrary to the belief of many parents, the service provider is not bound to chose between the parents’ competing views or positions.

The service provider should be taking the view respecting the best interests of the child as determined by the service provider and not the parents. The view is not just for what is best in the moment, but with a view to the long-term interests of the child.

The service provider in these situations will likely prioritize limiting the child’s exposure to parental conflict as that alone is most determinative of children’s well being given parental separation. As such, the service provider may take a perspective different from either parent if required to make a decision on the parents’ behalf. In so doing, neither parent may be satisfied, although the child will likely be better served in the long term.

Mediator/Arbitrators and Parenting Coordinators do want to be helpful.

At times it takes the parents a while to catch on how these services are helpful and learn to be patient when the process may be slower than expected. These process still tend to be far superior than going to court. These services tend to resolve issues sooner, at less cost and in a manner better suited to the parents and children. Along the way, many parents learn how to better resolve matters between themselves, rendering the actual service redundant.

Reasonable expectations of the Med/Arb and Parenting Coordination can help parents make good use of these services. The goal is happy, responsible, well adjusted children. Just as most disputes do not occur overnight, better outcomes will require patience and commitment on the part of the parents.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker and yes, I provide Mediation, Mediation/Arbitration and Parenting Coordination.

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

http://www.facebook.com/GaryDirenfeldSocialWorker
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60758978&trk=tab_pro
https://twitter.com/socialtworker

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.

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Differentiating Between Mediation, Med/Arb and Parenting Coordination

There are only so many options available for separated parents to settle their parenting disputes in a way that minimizes lawyer involvement. Chief among them are: Mediation; Mediation/Arbitration (Med/Arb); and Parenting Coordination.

All three processes involve both parents working collaboratively with a single neutral third party who often will have a mental health background of either a social work or psychology type. People choose these professionals for this service precisely because they appreciate the clinical versus legal perspective the service provider brings to the situation. The focus is on the well-being of the child, not the rights of the parent.

To differentiate, the mediator has no particular power or authority with regard to the outcome. While a mediator may be influential or educational and help parents to better understand the needs of a child, the mediator has no say in the final agreement the parents achieve with regard to their parenting plan or issue of dispute. The mediator’s main role is to facilitate respectful dialogue and help parents determine common objectives for their children and help devise a mutually acceptable plan to achieve those objectives between the parents.

The Mediator/Arbitrator, begins service in the role of Mediator described above. However, in the event the parents reach an impasse and are unable to resolve their differences, the Mediator/Arbitrator may then go on to impose a decision on the parents which is then binding upon them as if ordered by a Court of law.

To differentiate between a Mediator/Arbitrator and Parenting Coordinator, the former may at impasse decide on anything predetermined, prior to the onset of service. In other words, if the parents agree that anything may be settled by the Mediator/Arbitrator, then indeed any parenting issue may be visited.

In Parenting Coordination, the service provider has the same powers as the Mediator/Arbitrator, but, the Parenting Coordinator’s jurisdiction or span of authority is limited to working within the bounds of existing agreements and/or Court orders. These existing agreements and/or Court orders cannot be altered by the Parenting Coordinator. So the Parenting Coordinator may help define an Order, may set rules for particular exceptions that may not have been anticipated and may wade into new territory. The Mediator/Arbitrator however, has in a sense, full reign to address any issue arising and make changes regardless of Orders or agreements in place.

These are important distinctions. When a parent is deciding on a choice of service to settle a dispute or in view of ongoing disputes, these distinctions can make a world of differences. Neither is better than the other. They are just different and which may be preferred depends on your situation and objective in enlisting any of these services.

If you are not sure which service is best suited to you, you should consult a lawyer.

Do not consult the intended service provider as you do not want to create a bias in the referral process for discussions had prior to the delivery of service. Wherever possible consult a lawyer trained in Collaborative Family Law as these are persons whose training can increase the likelihood of their respecting your decision to use any of these strategies rather than divert your case back to a legal fight.

In the end, parents choose these kinds of services because of an interest to best respect the well being of their children over parental rights. These are very different ways to solve parenting disputes and are not to be treated lightly.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker and yes, I provide Mediation, Mediation/Arbitration and Parenting Coordination.

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

http://www.facebook.com/GaryDirenfeldSocialWorker
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60758978&trk=tab_pro
https://twitter.com/socialtworker

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.

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,418 other followers