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Is it an Affair?

Here is an excerpt from my book, Marriage Rescue, Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships:

Katie wouldn’t consider herself naive and she would never have thought herself capable of cheating on her husband. But she did feel the distance between them growing, first month-by-month, then week-by-week and now day-by-day. She felt lonely, isolated and sad. She didn’t have anything particularly bad to say about her husband apart from the fact they have drifted apart. She was at a loss to figure out how to bring themselves closer together. Both were heavily involved with work and volunteer activities and both kept very different schedules.

She left a simple message on her Facebook page; Feeling lonely.
Katie didn’t really know anything about Bob. He just “friended” her one day as a friend of a friend. He was however, the first to pick up on her sign of distress. He sent her a private message asking what’s up, what’s wrong. Innocuous enough.

Katie, not really looking for a response after flagging her emotional state, at first ignored Bob’s message. Bob, not receiving a reply within the day, followed up with, “Sorry if I was too forward, just though you needed a friend.” This seemed to endear him to Katie. He quickly appeared intuitive and thoughtful. She readily replied with a vague message telling him that she had a trying day. He didn’t push but demonstrated empathy by saying he’s had days like that too. His non-aggressive style prompted Katie to say more. He seemed safe. She confided that she felt herself distancing from her husband and was forlorn by the situation. Bob was better than a therapist. He reflected back to her the sentiment she expressed, but taking it a step further saying it hurts to feel detached from someone who should be special.

Katie thought Bob could read her mind. This endeared him more to her and soon they began chatting about all sorts of things, be it the weather, recreational activities, work related problems and so forth. Katie began to believe they were kindred spirits.

Katie and Bob’s messaging continued and intensified. Within a matter of a few weeks they were going back and forth on any subject. Katie was freely telling Bob how oblivious her husband was to her distress and how disengaged they were as a couple. The quality of Katie’s messages were different though. Rather than forlorn, Katie sounded merely factual, as if she had come to view her current status with her husband as the new normal. There was a sense of freedom that accompanied her change as well as a seeming renewed sense of adventure. The on-line chat flew back and forth between them. Katie sought to explore some mutual interests with Bob. They both enjoyed hiking and so she thought they might take an afternoon together and go for a walk down by the bay. Innocent enough. Although when Katie reflected on her thoughts of Bob, she realised she knew little of him but comforted herself with thoughts about how intuitive and supportive he had been.

Katie and Bob did go for that walk. They met quietly and discretely. Bob was a perfect gentleman and every bit the likeness of his Facebook picture.

When departing from each other, Bob extended his hand to Katie’s arm. He held his hand on her arm, said goodbye and they both made their way back to their cars. Katie was awakened. Katie was alarmed. She repeated to herself, a touch is just a touch, a touch is just a touch. She secretly thought it meant more and she secretly felt both shameful and excited.

Has an affair already taken place? Who is responsible? How will her partner react – oh, he does find out….

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

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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

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.

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Don’t Confuse Family Court with Criminal Court

Parents in dispute turn to family court to resolve their differences and hopefully their conflict. Thinking of the criminal court model, those entering family court believe they must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. They believe their case to be determined on the basis of hard irrefutable evidence – even if they have to exaggerate or concoct it.

However, family court is not about making one’s case beyond a reasonable doubt but on the basis of probabilities. Probability is the likelihood of something, not the certainty of something. Further, while criminal court is about the administration of justice, family court is about doing what is best for the child. Thus family court can put the wishes of the parent at odds with what the court considers to be in the child’s interest. To that end, the court weighs how the child’s needs will be met and with which parent the child stands the better chance of maintaining a relationship with the other parent absent issues of abuse or neglect or substandard care. And by the way, neither parent has to be presented as the best parent, just a good enough parent.

Treating family court as criminal court, some parents seek to magnify the negative issues of the other and portray themselves as near angels. To the judge, this raises concern that the parent engaging in this behaviour is malicious, undermining, self-centered, lacks insight and has difficulty taking responsibility for their contribution to distress. This concern is based on probability given the manner in which the parent has presented themselves over what the parent presented. No wonder when that parent loses their case they are dumbfounded and blame the judiciary and all attendant servants of the court as biased. That parent doesn’t see their strategy as having backfired, as having provided a negative impression more of themselves than the other.

If you want to make a good impression at court, you need to be seen as reasonable, level headed and open to discussion, but hey, if you could do that, you likely wouldn’t need court.

If you really want to win your case or more importantly, if you really want a reasonable relationship with your child, then appear reasonable and if you can do that, then you really don’t need court anyway.

So save yourself and your child the stress and expense of a court battle that in the end is likely to leave you dissatisfied.

Be reasonable – someone with whom you can reason, someone who shows flexibility in thinking and action. Be nice. Take responsibility for your own issues. Address those issues that interfere or create concern with regard to the care of your children and then settle your dispute through mediation or Collaborative Law.

To really resolve parenting disputes, mediation and Collaborative Law tend to be quicker and less costly than any court battle and typically leave parent’s relationship with their children intact as they grow up well. Further, these processes are likely to leave you a better person in the end and what child wouldn’t want that of their parent.

(Learn about all of Gary’s services.)

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.

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Help to Get Out of Court or Stay Out of Court

Resolving disputes outside of court takes a mindset that suggests court is just out of the question. Once someone adopts that mindset, then attention can be focused on other more creative ways to facilitate settlement and a more productive co-parenting relationship.

Co-parent Coaching and Facilitation is one such creative way to help separated parents be better co-parents.

Co-Parent Coaching and Facilitation is an innovative non-binding, closed and educative approach to enable separated parents to manage the care of children between them. It is designed to help separated parents stay out of court or get out of court.

This is specifically provided for those parents who find themselves in ongoing conflict over the decisions or care affecting their children or where the parents are at risk of mounting escalating legal bills in the pursuit of sorting out their differences. Parents in these situations may be thought of as high conflict.

These parents likely have lawyers who are willing to go to court and where a court action may have already been started or is at risk of being started.

Either the parents by their wisdom or desperation, or the lawyers reasonably seeking to help their clients avoid mounting legal bills, may find this service of value. To some, this service may be considered a last ditch effort to resolve matters before or even during the expense of other conflict/blame based approaches such as court, arbitration and demanding legal letters.

To Collaboratively trained lawyers, this service may help their higher conflict clients remain within the Collaborative participation agreement.

The Co-parent-Coach-Facilitator (service provider) holds no power or authority to require parents to do anything. However, upon mutual consent, parents can agree to abide by suggestions on a friendly basis. If parents deem their issues to be irresolvable between themselves they are free to seek to other strategies.

Given the service is closed, the service provider cannot be called to testify; reports cannot be required; and notes cannot be requested. Although lawyers may refer, they will have no involvement in this service outside of referral and providing Independent Legal Advice as to the nature of the service agreement. There are no certificates of attendance.

Because of this process, parents are free to raise issues without the fear that the issues raised will be used against them. This can enable people to enter into this process less defensively so attention is concentrated on resolving issues of contention rather than documentation for legal purposes.

The objectives of this service include:

1. Reducing conflict;
2. Limiting legal bills;
3. Learning strategies for negotiating directly;
4. Helping parents make decisions affecting the children;
5. Helping parents determine the residential schedule.
6. Improving the children’s experience of the parental separation;

The tools of the service provider include:

1. Providing specific information about child development;
2. Providing specific information about those factors that lead to better outcomes for children of separated parents;
3. Education on strategies to facilitate co-parenting;
4. Coaching on how to negotiate;
5. Coaching on how to manage intense feelings;
6. Guidance with regard to issues raised;
7. Providing an environment for the parents to allow this to happen.

There is no guarantee that this service will meet the stated objectives. The outcomes depend more so on the willingness or ability of the parents to make use of the information, education, coaching and guidance provided them and the service provider has no control of this. Similarly though, while a court may impose a decision, there is no guarantee that a parent will follow an Order or that that parent won’t seek to undo the order down the road. However, decisions entered into voluntarily tend to be better followed than those decisions imposed.

This service is not for everyone and may not be appropriate where a parent has a criminal charge pending; is known to be dangerous; is known to have an active substance abuse issue of a Schedule 1 or 3 substance (Canada: Controlled Drugs and Substances Act); cannot attend sober.

Although this service is closed, meaning the service provider cannot be called to court, cannot be required to produce a report and cannot be asked for records, if a reportable child safety/protection issue is raised, that matter will be referred to child protective services. Harm or risk of harm to a child is reportable by law and is an obligation of the service provider.

For more information about the costs and stipulations for this service, please see:
Co-Parent Coaching and Facilitation

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.

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Med/Arb – Will Recent Ruling Change Practice

In a recent ruling, Justice Gray heard the appeal as to my jurisdiction on a matter in mediation/arbitration and also ruled on my impartiality.

He found that the matter subject to dispute was within my jurisdiction, but that given a reasonable apprehension of bias, I would be removed as mediator/arbitrator.

He discusses the challenge of hearing something in the mediation phase of service and the role of the service provider in mediation/arbitration.

As per Justice Gray’s analysis:

[49] As noted earlier, mediation/arbitration is of somewhat recent origin. Ordinarily, if the parties are to engage in both mediation and arbitration, they will feel more comfortable if a different person is used to perform each function. That is because the two functions are instinctively considered to be mutually exclusive. As a general proposition, that is reflected in section 35 of the Arbitration Act, 1991, which reads as follows:

35. The members of an arbitral tribunal shall not conduct any part of the arbitration as a mediation or conciliation process or other similar process that might compromise or appear to compromise the arbitral tribunal’s ability to decide the dispute impartially.

[50] Section 35 of the Act may be waived, as it was here. If it is, it is open to the parties to use the same person to perform both functions.

[69] In order to effectively mediate, the person appointed must engage in a process that has a good deal of informality. Mediative techniques include persuading, arguing, cajoling, and, to some extent, predicting. Mediation is a process to secure agreement, if possible. All of those techniques, as well as others, will come into play in trying to secure agreement.

[70] If the mediator/arbitrator must move to the arbitration phase, it cannot be expected that he or she can entirely cleanse the mind of everything learned during the mediation phase, and of every tentative conclusion considered, or even reached, during the mediation phase. However, at a bare minimum the parties are entitled to expect that the mediator/arbitrator will be open to persuasion, and will not have reached firm views or conclusions.

In his Judgment, Justice Gray included information from my med/arb service agreement that takes into account that not only can the service provider not entirely cleanse the mind, but in this case, the service provider is well entitled to use information obtained in the mediation phase to inform the arbitration phase:

In his role as Arbitrator, the Service Provider may rely on any information, both written and verbal, that the parents have disclosed (including written records) during attempts to resolve the issues up to that point in the process prior to the commencement of arbitration, during the non-decision making component. Notwithstanding, the parents shall provide full submissions, either verbal or in writing, and not assume any prior information provided will be taken into account in the decision-making process. (Direnfeld – Med/Arb Agreement)

The parties had independent legal advice and provided Certificates of same. They were screened for domestic violence and power imbalances as per the Act. The Agreement was reviewed in part again with the service provider and the parties signed another agreement with the service provider indicating they received Independent Legal Advice and agreed to the terms of service. In short, “I’s” were dotted and “t’s” were crossed. The parties understood the nature of the agreement and service process.

However, Justice Gray was of the opinion that I would not meet the expectation that in the arbitration phase, I would be open to persuasion. Given this, the issue then becomes, how far can a mediator go in terms of delineating the issues and providing opinion as to potential outcomes?

From my perspective, people enter into med/arb and waive s35 (above) specifically because they want the service provider to advise accordingly as per the information available to that point in service. The value in this is that people may then be compelled to craft an agreement between themselves with an appreciation that those agreements entered into voluntarily are better followed and more durable than decisions imposed upon them.

Further, the med/arb process in part precludes people from simply failing mediation and using it as a dry run in the run up to arbitration with another service provider. Med/arb is an antidote to those who may simply abuse mediation and believe they can then use a different tactic in arbitration with a new provider who wouldn’t have the history.

Justice Gray went on to set out a process to determine a new arbitrator:

[88]  With respect to the specific arbitration that is to occur, I think it should be conducted by an arbitrator with legal training, preferably an experienced family law practitioner who can hear the matter fairly quickly.  If the parties cannot agree upon the identity of an arbitrator for that purpose, I invite counsel to each supply me with the names of three proposed arbitrators within ten days, and I will select one.

With regard to his view of appointing an experienced family law practitioner as arbitrator, what does that say about his view of non-lawyer arbitrators generally? Further, when people choose a non-lawyer, are they not doing so because they value the expertise of the of the chosen professional? I am of the view that people come to mental health professionals, social worker and psychologists for med/arb to hear and manage family disputes because they recognize these are relationship, family and child development issues more so than matters of law. If the judiciary is going to steer these cases from non-lawyers to lawyer-arbitrators, then will the clinical expertise and acumen needed in deciding those matters be lost to points of law? How does that work for the well being of the child?

This ruling may send a chill through the med/arb community in terms of how facilitative, evaluative, informative or persuasive a mediator may be in the function of this service ahead of arbitration.

Should there be a separation of church and state? Is med/arb inherently flawed or does Justice Gray’s view of med/arb as a service of somewhat recent origin, miss the mark. Can professionals whose primary expertise is in areas other than law, act as arbitrators?

For the time being anyway, I will likely be more circumspect in terms of the conveyance of my views on matters that may proceed to arbitration. That may mean that more matters may then move to arbitration that could have been settled in mediation.

As for the general public, when a party waives s35, Justice Gray forewarns, “If the mediator/arbitrator must move to the arbitration phase, it cannot be expected that he or she can entirely cleanse the mind of everything learned during the mediation phase, and of every tentative conclusion considered, or even reached, during the mediation phase.”

Med/Arb – inherently flawed or a good service?

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.

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Separated parents: Do You Spill Out Onto Your Kids?

Her friend only said, her son looked like his father. Unfortunately that was enough to create disdain. From then on, she treated him differently. She was unable to look at her son and not think of her former husband. Every time she looked at him, she was reminded of the abuse she endured at the hands of his father. Every misdeed by her son was taken as evidence of having his father’s personality. She grew cold and aloof and wanted to distance herself from him yet was unable to see him go live with his father. She still needed to protect her son from him. He is only three. Who protects him from her, his mother?

When he looked at his daughter, he saw her mother. At 14 she gained an interest in boys. She grew flirtatious and he was worried she was promiscuous. He knew his own influence upon her was tenuous, the likely outcome of having missed too many life events. With concern he blurted out, “You’re acting like a slut and that’s why I left your mother.” It didn’t matter what he meant to say, what he did say was more than enough. She broke curfew and their conflict escalated. She ran into the arms of yet another new boyfriend. Whatever influence he thought he had, evaporated. He intensified the very situation he was looking to resolve. Who protects her from him, her father?

Having a distressful separation and divorce whilst raising children, can create any number of challenges. Chief among those challenges is separating one’s issues with a former partner from those of our children. As much as some parents will complain about the behavior of the children being influenced by the other parent, it may very well be one’s own behavior that is creating or co-creating the troubles.

Parents may believe they are sheltering their children from untoward feelings about the other parent, but the truth is, we exude our feelings like a heavy dose of garlic after a good ethnic meal. The phone rings and we bristle. We see each other at exchanges and our shoulders meet our ears. We hear their voice and we grimace. We wear our emotions plainly, even when we think not. When we do, our children are there to observe and learn. Worst case scenario, we hold our children accountable for traits that remind us negatively of the other parent.

Our children are only looking to cope themselves. They are caught in a no man’s land seeking to survive the bombs going off overhead. Bombs that would have each parent destroy the other, the very people on whom the child rely for survival.

Your children still require your nurturing, guidance and love. It is never appropriate to advise a child of a negative trait akin to the other parent. Causing a child to feel bad about themselves for matters they may have no or little control over is demoralizing. This simply undermines self esteem – a necessary ingredient that protects against exploitation and facilitates the desire to accomplish great things.

Assuming you want your children to develop well, concentrate on their strengths. Listen non-judgmentally to their concerns. Facilitate accomplishments and celebrate them. Focus on your child’s achievements. Keep them out of the fray. Deal with matters concerning your former partner only when your children are not in your company, not in the home. After dealing with contentious issues, gain your composure before being in the company of your children. Let the smell of the garlic wear off, lest this off-putting perfume overwhelm your child.

Mostly, see your child as a unique human being whose only influence is your own. That way you concentrate on the only thing you may have control of: yourself.

(Download this article as a one-page handout)

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.

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Just to be clear: Family Court Doesn’t Resolve Conflict

Parents turn to the court thinking a Judge will settle matters and life will be peaceful thereafter. This is far from the truth.

Court is turned into a contest of black and white to determine, who is right/wrong; good/bad; best/worst. No one wants to be on the losing end of that contest, particularly when a relationship with one’s kids is at stake.

In the run up to Court, and with an eye on winning, parents continue to say nasty things about each other and they may involve almost anyone who they feel can influence the outcome in their favor. This includes family, friends, teachers, doctors, childcare providers and even their own children. In the pursuit of winning, some parents will stalk, harass, enlist, bribe, manipulate and even contrive to gather evidence to support their position.

All the behavior in the run up to court does nothing to resolve conflict. Indeed all those behaviors are well known to escalate conflict and harden bad feelings.

By the time someone is pronounced a winner, there is nothing left of the relationship to carry on the task of co-parenting. To add, the loser will be filled with resentment, seeking only to really undermine the spirit of the Court order and gather additional evidence to one day seek a motion to vary the Order in their favor.

The very conflict sought to be resolved is ramped up even though there is a required solution to be followed. How long do you think that will last?

In the meantime, the children, whose “best interests” are supposedly the subject of dispute, are anything but served as they live with the parental animosity, angst and anger, fearing that the feelings witnessed between the parents will one day be targeted at them if they step out of line. Children’s behavior goes squirrely as they contort themselves to survive the parental mess.

If you really want to sort things out in the interest of your children, take Court out of the equation. What if Court wasn’t an option?

With Court out of the way, parents would have to rely on working things out between themselves. Considering parenting issues aren’t really legal matters, but personal and interpersonal matters, this makes sense. The challenge is finding support to enable parents to resolve disputes between themselves and hopefully learn how to resolve future conflicts as they may arise.

This support is actually readily available. Accessing the available support often hinges on your disposition to finding a way to settle versus fight and your choice of lawyer as some lawyers get caught up on helping you fight the good fight versus helping you address the personal and interpersonal issues affecting cooperative parenting.

If you can holster your ego to truly advance the interest of your kids over your anger towards your ex and if you have chosen a lawyer who appreciates decisions made between parents are best for children and therefore seeks to avoid court parents have a good chance of settling things between themselves. This often requires parents to refocus. Instead of making the shortcomings of the other all the issue, parents will need to take some responsibility for their own contribution to distress and learn new strategies for coping, communicating and resolving conflict.

To the degree parents can take on the work of self-control, self-evaluation as well as moderate and cooperative behavior, mutual solutions can be generated and accepted. Problems can be addressed and resolved. In so doing, your children then learn how to manage conflict respectfully – life lessons that will serve them at every stage of life. Not only will they be spared the parental conflict, but will be better equipped in the event life throws them a curve ball.

We are always role models to our children. The most significant role model of all is how we co-parent in the midst of being challenged. Parents are encouraged to step up over stepping out.

Need support to make this happen?

Speak with persons who have actual expertise in resolving conflict as opposed to ratcheting it up. They include: social workers, psychologists, mediators and collaborative lawyers. Always advise your intended service provider of the issues at hand and ask about their training and expertise.

In the end, you not only want a parenting plan, but to resolve conflict too. Your children deserve your best behavior.

(Download this article as a one-page handout)

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.

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A Dose of Reality to Settle Parenting Disputes

Clinical Evaluative Consultation  

Thank goodness there are those lawyers, often those trained in either mediation or Collaborative Law, who seek to keep their warring clients from going nuclear at court. They tend to run their files collaboratively even if not officially “collaborative” (those who do this know what I mean). It may be that their client needs a dose of reality – a realistic appraisal of their situation while minimizing the risk of giving those same clients more ammunition to use for litigation.

That’s where the Clinical Evaluative Consultation come in and sets itself apart from a traditional custody and access assessment..

To explain, when separated parents cannot agree on the residential arrangement for their children between them or how conflicting decisions should be settled, many turn to the Court seeking an Order determining the residential arrangement and who would have decision making authority for what.

To guide the Court, many of these same parents would participate in a custody and access assessment (in the US these are referred to as custody/access evaluations). Therein a clinical investigator (typically a social worker or psychologist) would interview the parents, speak with and observe the children with the parents, obtain additional information from other sources and then write an extensive report concluding with recommendations on the matters of custody and access. Whereas some parents would settle their dispute on the basis of the recommendations, for others, the report and recommendations only serve to fuel their dispute in litigation.  Some parents will use the report to only hit the other parent over the head with the findings therein, feeling validated for their view of the issues, anger and position. In other words, these reports can harden parents’ positions actually escalating the very conflict the report would hope to alleviate. In this circumstance, rather than being instructive and providing a clinical road-map to address the parental mess, problems continue unabated.

A Clinical Evaluative Consultation (CEC) takes the process of a custody and access assessment, but keeps it out of a Court with the aim of facilitating settlement. Rather than concluding with a written report available for litigation, the CEC concludes with a verbal disclosure meeting and settlement meeting combined. It is attended by both parents and their lawyers. The entire process is closed, meaning nothing can be used for Court purposes. There will be no written report and the clinical investigator cannot be called to Court to testify in the event this matter proceeds to a trial.

The benefit of the closed process is that parents as well as the clinical investigator can speak very freely about the matters at hand without concern that it may be used against anyone at Court. The process allows the parents to obtain important and impartial information about themselves, their children and their situation so they the parents can retain control of the outcome – their settlement.

The process provides the parents important insights as to how this matter would be viewed in a traditional custody/access assessment and likely outcomes if the matter were to proceed to Court. Because of the clinical focus, looking forward to the future for better outcomes, the CEC may help parents engage in a process aimed at improving those issues that undermine or intervene on co-parenting. Rather than giving a snapshot in time and pronouncing an static outcome with a winner and loser, the CEC seeks to take a more developmental perspective to provide parents an opportunity to work towards a better future for themselves and for the sake of their children. Because it cannot be used at court, parents may better weigh the merits of their case against the opportunity for improving their situation.

The research is quite clear, with only a few exceptions, court is the worst place to resolve parenting issues. As mental health professionals, we must continue to develop processes to help conflicted parents work outside of a court process to resolve their differences. The Clinical Evaluative Consultation is just one of several creative approaches I offer to help those parents who need a dose of reality without necessarily contributing to ammunition for litigation.

Separating parents need and deserve the kind of help that leads more to settlement than ongoing battles.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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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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