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Assess the Lawyer Before Accepting the Referral!

June 3, 2014

Parenting Coordination is a high-bred service for separated parents who are apt to find themselves in ongoing conflict. The PC (Parenting Coordinator) acts in the role of coach, educator, mediator and depending on jurisdiction, arbitrator. Utilizing those roles, the PC seeks to help parents disengage from the turmoil and conflict, learn new and improved skills for communication and advance the needs of their children above unresolved anger or animosity.

Central to the efficacy of the PC service is the disposition of the lawyer. This is something I have written about previously. However, I have recently come to conclude that as much as the PC must assess the parents in order to facilitate service, the PC must also assess the disposition of the lawyer prior to accepting the referral. The PC must be assured that the lawyer will not act in such a way so as to only transfer their zealous advocacy to this new arena as to do so is typically contradictory to the goals of PC.

To that end, I have added the following information on my website with regard to this service:


While I am usually accepting new referrals, I have recently decided to be better informed about the respective clients’ legal representation before agreeing to accept the referral.

If the lawyers are themselves litigious by nature and apt to provide zealous advocacy then the forum of parenting coordination only becomes a less formal battleground than the Court. This is contrary to the goals of parenting coordination and does not bode well for good outcomes. In other words, the lawyer’s disposition to the pc service and the service of their client is a factor in the pc’s ability to be helpful.

To that end, I must chat with the lawyers on both sides to understand their approach to service to determine compatibility with the Parenting Coordination service.


I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

(905) 628-4847

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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One Comment
  1. I received an email from a colleague expressing concern that my openly stated views above may serve to alienate some lawyers from me and that I may be perceived as disparaging other professionals. Here was my reply:

    Your comments are appreciated.

    My views are likely colored by more recent poor experiences with litigious lawyers whose activities have been antithetical to a helping process on top of many previous poor experiences with similarly minded litigators. These are the lawyers who chose to attack the service provider when they really cannot defend their client.

    To that end, I do think it reasonable that not only the lawyers, but the general public have a better understanding of co-parenting issues affected by the disposition of the lawyer. I am at a point in my career where I am less concerned about referrals and by chance alienating those lawyers whose referrals I would likely turn down anyway.

    You and I also discussed my musings about only accepting referrals from lawyers who are collaboratively trained. I have not gone that far yet in policy, but it continues to run through my mind. My experience of collaboratively trained lawyers is that they are more likely to hold their client accountable to the PC process and and not get caught up in the client’s dissatisfaction when outcomes don’t go their way.

    Interestingly enough, I was referred a case the other day where the prior PC resigned and everyone is being sued by one of the parties. I advised the referral source that the case wasn’t suitable for PC and really needed to be tried at Court. So really, I am not anti-litigation, it just must be better appreciated that to transfer the legal stylings from one venue to the other is not what PC is about and will not bode well for good outcomes.

    I’m prepared to risk annoying a few litigators and lose some referrals to be open and transparent about this.


    After that response, I received another from where the PC requested to use my policy/approach in their practice.

    I hope that helps clarify my views.

    I am pleased to at least open up the dialogue.


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