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Preserving Relationships and Costs in Child Custody/Access Disputes

A disclosure meeting comes at the end of a child custody/access assessment where the assessor delivers the findings and recommendations.

The findings and recommendations are highly influential at court and the hope is that by way of the disclosure meeting, parents can read the writing on the wall and come to an agreement and thus avoid the battle, cost and fall-out of court.

I offered to conduct a recent disclosure meeting verbally so as to avoid the cost of producing a written report. If necessary, a report can still be written. The parents and lawyers accepted. The matter settled and I will have saved the parents about $1,000.00.

I can’t take all the credit for the success.

Lawyers for both parents have a disposition to settling matters and not inflaming conflict. In the hands of other lawyers this situation could have gone nuclear and the lawyers could have profited significantly from an escalation of conflict that would have resulted in a drawn out legal battle.

This represents the second last court involved assessment I will be doing. I hope the last one works out so nicely. There are reasonable lawyers attached to that file too.

I have always had an eye towards helping parents settle their disputes, albeit this is not always achievable. However, at this point I am not accepting any more referrals with court involved parents. All my services are closed, meaning they cannot be used for court purposes and they are settlement oriented.

I am taking lucrative work off the table. However, a good referral source tried to entice me to take on another court involved assessment and I turned it away. The lawyer wrote in his letter to the parents:

I requested of Mr. Direnfeld that he make an exception and agree to perform the assessment in an “open” process. True to his commitment, Mr. Direnfeld has declined.

I sent an email out to lawyers in my community to let them know how my decision to only offer settlement oriented services was working out. My email read:

Since opting out of court involved work just a few short months ago, I have seen a steady uptick in my closed settlement services. Files sent for assessment are turning into consultations and single day mediations. It is interesting what doors open when others are closed.

The beauty of working outside of court is the creativity in actually developing services to suit people’s needs. Apart from the services outlined on my website we can craft an approach that best suits the parents’ needs.

I am also seeing an uptick in referrals of persons heavily involved in court who are seeking to now divert their matter. Perhaps the money is running out or finally cooler heads are prevailing, but people are coming to realize that court just doesn’t resolve underlying issues or leave relationships intact for ongoing co-parenting.

I received the following reply from a lawyer who received that email. He wrote:

I couldn’t agree with you more that: “doors open when others are closed ” and ” court just doesn’t resolve underlying issues or leave relationships intact for ongoing co-parenting “.

My most difficult files are those where the other side refuses to sign a CFL Participation Agreement and preserves the court option for them and their client. Often, when negotiations get rough, court seems like the easy or only way out – but experience shows it rarely is.

For me, it’s important to keep that door closed.

I am satisfied with my decision and look forward to helping more separated parents in distress do well by their children. Hopefully if they already have lawyers, they too will be settlement minded.

If you are a parent in the throes of separation, be mindful that your conflict can make you ripe for exploitation. Choose settlement minded service providers, otherwise that pound of flesh you seek can cost you everything.

While this may sound preachy, your long term interests should be the preservation of relationships and costs.

Goals met with this week’s disclosure meeting.

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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Are You Raising Your Child in a Polluted Pond?

Parental alcohol use and corporal punishment are co-related to problems in the offspring. The greater the use of alcohol and corporal punishment by parents, the greater the risk of depression, anxiety, marital and vocational problems for their children come adults.

Some folks believe that even in view of parental alcohol use and corporal punishment, if they have fond or happy childhood memories, those issues couldn’t have contributed to current problems. Further, many will dismiss those childhood memories believing they were everyone’s experience and hence, inconsequential.

With regard to alcohol consumption, 1 to 6 standard drinks weekly is considered light drinking. Moderate consumption is regarded as about 14 standard drinks weekly. Heavy drinking is about 24 drinks weekly and abusive drinking (from a medical health perspective) is 35 drinks weekly. Binge drinking is defined as 5 or more standard drinks per occasion at least once monthly. Cut those amounts by about 1/3 for women.

Once a parent is a regular drinker at any level, there is a greater risk of social, behavioural and vocational problems for the offspring. The risk for offspring raises exponentially, the greater the amount of parental alcohol consumption. Risk accrues regardless of one’s childhood memories.

As for corporal punishment and regardless of personal views towards the matter, as offspring are exposed to greater levels of intensity of corporal punishment, they are at more risk of social, behavioural and vocational problems again. So a child may be spanked over their clothes on their bottom, or bare bottom, or hit with a belt clothed or bare bottomed, or slapped across the face, forward open hand, or backhand, or cuffed upside the head. There may be no marks, or there may be marks, welts, bruising or blood. As the intensity of corporal punishment escalates, so too does the risk for problems in adult life and again, regardless of one’s childhood memories.

As such, positive childhood memories alone are not protective for the negative effects of parental alcohol use or corporal punishment. More to the point, in view of positive memories, some offspring will have difficulty accepting or appreciating the impact of those formative experiences on adult life and problems. Hence they may be at an elevated risk of conducting themselves similarly and contributing next to their own children’s problems when they grow up.

Further, there is a belief held by many, that the behaviours they were exposed to by their parents were common and therefore reasonable or harmless. In other words, if everyone was doing it, it can’t be bad. However, if it looks like everyone did the same when you were young, it may be that in your pond, all the fish look the same. It is not until we compare with other ponds that we realise our own may have been polluted.

By analogy, people living in Los Angeles have a much high rate of respiratory disease due to pollution. Notwithstanding, they can still have happy memories of growing up in that city. The happy memories are not protective from the effects of the pollution therein.

The moral of this story is that parents must consider the fact that their own behaviour will have consequences whether they like it or not, think it doesn’t apply or believe it can be mitigated by other happy events.

Regular alcohol consumption, corporal punishment and certainly the combination of both do not bode well for developing successful adults out of our children regardless of the fun along the way. Consider the contribution of parental alcohol use and corporal punishment on your own problems and current parenting. If you drink regularly, drink less. If you use corporal punishment, use other non-physical methods of discipline. If you think your children are doing well, consider how much better they still can be.

No matter how much fun, swimming in a polluted pond can make you sick. If you were raised in a polluted pond and want better for yourself, your relationship or your children, consider counseling.

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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Is Your Divorce Inevitable?

There was an episode on a TV medical drama where a patient was awaiting delivery of a liver from an organ donor. An intern assigned to the donor patient removed the airway and the patient stirred. The intern was taken aback; the donor was not yet brain dead as had been previously diagnosed. Not to worry said another physician, “By the time we get the patient to the operating room, she’ll be dead.” Needless-to-say, this did not sit well with the intern who immediately paged another physician… and the drama unfolded.

Some pending divorces look like that medical drama. The parties have their lawyers; the family has long since taken sides; the dispute is underway; there appears an inevitability to the divorce, yet the marriage may not yet be dead.

Typical of marital discord, one party is more dissatisfied than the other and has contemplated separation long before the other. As such, that party is further down the road in terms of emotional adjustment. The initiating party may have talked with family, friends and colleagues, who on the basis of the one-sided account are likely to reinforce their position. As time goes on and given the complaints of the initiating party, he or she finally confronts their spouse with the news and demands a divorce. With time, the spouse catches up emotionally, admits defeat and succumbs to the divorce process of the initiating party.

Perhaps this couple hasn’t been to marital therapy, or if they did, maybe it was an inexperienced or unhelpful therapist. In any event, like a train running downhill on the strength of its own momentum, the separation and divorce moves along.

With children involved, the couple may attend for mediation or an assessment to determine the ongoing care of the children, post separation/divorce. Again, the process moves along.

Somewhere along the way though, couples are advised to take a second and sometimes a third look at the marriage. The question must be asked, “Is this marriage really dead?”

There can be many factors leading to divorce, none of which have to do with a bad marriage.

Parties can be thrown off-track by poor advice given by otherwise well-intentioned friends, family, colleagues and even therapists. Wrong notions can be reinforced. Sometimes just the embarrassment of returning to a relationship when having complained about it can cause some folks to chug on to divorce.

If a marriage is unsatisfactory, it behooves the parties to consider and seek marital counseling – together. Address matters with your spouse forthrightly and seek a resolution, particularly before taking matters to family, friends, colleagues or lawyers.

Divorce does not have to be an inevitability to marital discord. In fact, most marriages will experience turmoil at some time or another. The degree to which people can ride through, adapt, change or accommodate, marriage can provide an even greater sense of satisfaction. Before pronouncing your marriage dead, reconsider if this is the direction you truly want to take or whether the marriage deserves another chance at life. Check the pulse because momentum is hardly a good excuse for divorce.

If you are the family, friend or colleague to whom people turn, consider only one piece of advice… see a marital therapist. Certainly think twice yourself before adding your weight to the momentum of someone else’s divorce.

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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Amazon Canada

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

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