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Fighting Over Choice of Service Provider in Child Custody/Access Disputes

August 20, 2014

You know the file is going to be high conflict when you receive a call from one parent extolling your virtues, wanting you as service provider be it child custody/access assessor/evaluator, mediator, arbitrator or parenting coordinator and then hearing the other side is opposed to your appointment in this capacity. You also know the caller is seeking to stroke your ego in an effort to gain favor in the process.

What the caller needs to know is that such behavior on their part may cause them to look manipulative by being so ingratiating. This caller is undermining their own effort, inadvertently creating a negative impression of him/herself with this misguided strategy. This is a poor way to get the ball rolling.

If you are seeking a service provider to address your dispute regarding your children, it is typically better if your lawyer makes the referral on your behalf. When the parent calls first, then the other parent will likely be more concerned for issues of bias on the part of the service provider, contemplating what one-sided information has already been provided by the caller.

Lawyers are usually aware of these issues and hence seek to provide minimal factual information so as not to sully the referral within the initial contact. Very often the lawyers will also agree upon the information to be provided to the service provider to facilitate the referral. This is almost always the case if you choose collaboratively trained lawyers. This increases the likelihood of the parents agreeing upon the choice of service provider.

However, when parents do not agree and assuming both choices are within the range of reasonable, then I often tell the caller to choose the other person. The degree to which this choice becomes the battleground, this too can reflect poorly upon one or both parents. Better to move forward by availing oneself of the services to resolve your dispute than getting mired in new disputes along the way.

In my jurisdiction we are blessed with several competent, well regarded service providers, all of whom provide a range of services for separated parents in conflict over the care of their children.

At the end of the day, your children need to be freed from the parental conflict. Think of your children and look to resolve matters, not get hung up creating new ones. Given that parental conflict alone is the most potent predictor for your children’s psycho-social outcome, avoiding this battle is already in their favor. That matters most.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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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