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Separated Parents and the “Status Quo”

June 13, 2018

One of the concepts used in family law by courts to determine the parenting plan is called the “status quo”. This basically says that whatever has been happening, shall continue to happen as long as what is happening doesn’t seem harmful. In other words, courts are shy about making changes that may produce unforeseen consequences.

This inherently disadvantages the child’s relationship with the dad as mom’s are still predominantly the primary caregiver prior to separation. This does produce a negative unintended consequence by limiting the child’s relationship with their dad or in the case of same sex parents, the less predominant caregiver.

The problem is though, that post separation, both parents are independently responsible for maintaining a relationship with the child and doing so requires time. This by necessity requires an alteration to the status quo to accommodate the child’s need to form or have a meaningful relationship with both parents.

With due concern about the “status quo”, unfortunately the fight is on to make a final parenting plan that may preclude good transitioning. The fear for the dad is that after implementing one step in a developmental plan, the mom will bring a halt to the process on the basis of maintaining the status quo.

Courts must come to the realization that children face change all the time. They go to daycare, are cared for by grandparents, have various teachers and coaches, attend summer camps and no one ever sees those changes and transitions as harmful. Only in the context of children seeing their dad post separation does this seem to become a major problem.

We all want our kids to be resilient, to have the capacity to overcome adversity or change. Only with exposure to and support of change can children develop that capacity.

If you have concerns such as skill or temperament, then address those in the transition plan. Skills can be taught and acquired. This may require openness and flexibility on the part of both parents to accept, however if one is not afraid that the need for skill development won’t be used as an outright restriction, then people are more inclined to agree to and follow a plan.

The reason I love mediation, collaborative law and counseling is because in those processes the parents don’t have to get locked into the arbitrary and historic ways of doing things as done in today’s family court system. Working cooperatively people can truly advance the needs of their kids to have a full range of meaningful relationships.

None of this requires a cookie cutter, even-Steven, 50/50 outcome. This is about a flexible approach that appreciates that children are better served with a meaningful relationship with both parents in a plan that is doable and respects the availability of both parents.

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 or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

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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. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

2 Comments
  1. Trish Barry-Relph permalink

    Thanks for sharing Gary. I agree with everything you have articulated in your paper and work on the same premises. With good wishes for your work. Trish Barry-Relph. Consultant Independent Social Worker, Psychodynamic Psychotherapist and Sustemic Family Practitioner.

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