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Peacemaking: Putting our Money Where our Mouths Are

June 26, 2016

I received yet another call last week from a parent seeking a custody/access assessment for court purposes. The caller said they heard I was the best and so the caller wanted me to provide the assessment.

I explained I no longer provided assessments for court purposes and explained why court doesn’t really resolve conflict but in fact runs the risk of perpetuating conflict even when some one is declared the winner.

The caller sought to argue with me and convince me to take their case insisting that as the best, I should do so.

I explained that if the best, perhaps I already provided reasonable information, if they chose to hear it. This too seemed to fall on deaf ears.

I did explain that I could provide the basic service of an assessment through a Clinical Evaluative Consultation to help the parents explore what was going on and what may be helpful to their children in their situation, but that I wouldn’t write a report or go to court. I explained that I would conclude my investigation with a meeting that included both parents with their lawyers and then could facilitate settlement negotiations. This parent was bent on going to court and winning their point of view.

I advised that my fee would have been at least $6,000 for the assessment as requested and that the approach I offered would cost a fraction and likely provide a more stable and lasting outcome. The parent declined my offer and I didn’t accept the parent’s request for service.

About 18 months ago, I put my money where my mouth was a decided to only provide peacemaking services. I continue to do so.

Do you know someone who might benefit from this information? Please scroll down and share this article. To view my full list of peacemaking strategies to facilitate settlement, check this out.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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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 and Georgina 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


One Comment
  1. Well done you. I did something similar in 2005 – refuse to issue court process after I trained in collaborative practice. But it was bloody hard. Few lawyers were willing to work truly collaboratively.

    So I trained as a mediator in 2009. I realised I didn’t need to share the project management with someone with diametrically opposite aims. So I stopped practising as a lawyer. As a lawyer, it was easy to turn a problem into a dispute and a dispute into income. But I’ve never looked back. I can not only sleep at night, I also enjoy every working day.

    Most family lawyers simply aren’t prepared to consider their limitations in conflict resolution. If they would only consider for a moment the medical profession in the 1950s. When drug therapies were developed to address mental health illnesses, they pretty quickly stopped referring patients for destructive, often deadly, frontal lobotomy surgery. Physicians didn’t continue en masse to refer patients for lobotomies. They had an ethical code which they adhered to. Lawyers continue to address conflict through adversarial combat – even where there is no disagreement over the law itself or need for a court’s protection. They do so because it pays them handsomely.

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