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Settling Disputes Between Separated Parents

March 21, 2017

One of the biggest challenges for separating parents is to separate their conflict from the care of the children between them.

Frequently I hear from one parent how the other parent doesn’t deserve to see the children the result of a dispute between the parents. However, the parent-child relationship is not a right of the parent, but a right of the child. This can be a very challenging concept for parents to appreciate. To add, the other parent doesn’t have to be a good parent, merely adequate – another tough concept to appreciate.

In these circumstances though, people go to court, at times spurred on by their lawyers but without realizing that the parent complained about will continue to see the kids (absent any real abuse and based upon tangible evidence). Further, over recent years, Court decisions have been more towards a more equalized residential time sharing arrangement than ever before.

So if you are going to court, not liking the other parent and absent tangible evidence that the other parent is truly inadequate and seeking to limit or curtail the other parents access or seeking to limit support obligations, you may be in for a shocking surprise. The kids will be seen and parents will have to pay. This is why mediation and collaborative law can be so beneficial.

With a realistic appraisal of your situation as well as knowledge of current court trends, you can craft an agreement at a fraction of the cost of litigation and have something where you have a say and control of the outcome.

When I conduct mediation with lawyers present, I often ask the lawyers what a likely court order would be in the circumstances described. While no one can guarantee what a judge would necessarily say, all the lawyers are well able to advise of likely outcomes.

That’s right, before all the affidavits, court hearing and even a trial, the lawyers already have a good idea of the likely outcome. The whole fight then zeros in on typically small differences… small differences. However, achieving those small differences come at great costs both financially and emotionally and often to no measurable benefit.

Lawyers will happily take your instruction to fight the fight, but before giving that instruction, ask your lawyer what a likely outcome could be. Next try to figure out the cost both financial and emotional to achieve that outcome. Lead with your head, not your upset.

I completed a mediation a short while ago where parents were recently separated; one was withholding money and the other the children. Neither parent had yet spoken with a lawyer. This could have gone to court with disastrous consequences for everyone, but instead, both parents heard the same information at the same time and were able to set aside their differences to settle their matters.Thereafter I sent the couple to some lawyers to review the intended agreement – lawyers who were specifically trained in helping parents settle peacefully.

People don’t have to like each other to settle their separation, but they must learn or be able to manage their own emotions and behavior. If a parent can’t manage their own emotions or behavior, then pre-mediation counseling or support from a separation coach can help pave the way.Those unmanaged emotions or extreme behavior can set the trajectory for nasty and unremitting court battles to which children are then exposed.

Mediation or Collaborative Law more provides the opportunity for parents to learn conflict resolution skills and to keep their children as the priority of concern. Most parents don’t even realize, you can see a mediator before seeing lawyers. After developing your agreement, then you can see lawyers as recommended by your mediator.

Congrats to those recent parents who despite their upset with each other were still able to achieve a reasonable parenting plan. While they started each advising of what the other did or didn’t deserve, they learned about: the impact of their dispute on their kids; how to facilitate the exchange of the children between them; how to resolve future disputes; and how to behave more reasonably towards each other.

I am so pleased for their children.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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.

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