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parents in dispute:
drag in your service providers!
parents in high conflict have a way of dragging others into their child custody
and/or access dispute. Not
just family friends, and neighbours, but every professional associated with the
children. The parents seek to bolster their claims to support their custody and
access position and believe letters of support from their professional service
providers will do the trick.
They ask doctors and dentists for letters stating which parent more often brought the children to appointments. They ask daycare providers and teachers how the child behaves depending on which parent drops off the child. In the process, the parent also informs the professional of his or her version of events, thus going beyond asking for a letter of support, by actively recruiting the professional to his or her side of the dispute.
a professional service provider offers a letter of support, the precedent is set
for that professional service provider to then become a target from the other
parent. The other parent is seeking to discredit the letter provider.
In reality, the nature of the dispute requires the other parent to
discredit the letter provider. The aim is to restore balance and hopefully tip
the scale in favour of his or her own claim in the custody/access dispute.
the dispute intensifies and the competence or bias of the professional service
provider(s) becomes the battleground, the services provided to the children may
become tainted. The physician and/or dentist may seek to remove him or herself
from providing the childís care to escape parental harassment. The daycare or
school setting, once perceived as a place of neutrality and safety for the
child, is a source of anxiety as the child fears parental intrusion and has to
cope with the service providersí consternation with the parents. Collateral
damage then includes a loss of service to the child as well as an increase in
distress for the child.
the eyes of the assessor/custody evaluator, such letters of support may say less
about the quality of that parentís relationship with the child and more about
his or her own boundaries and ability to contain the dispute and keep it from
reaching or affecting the child. Hence, a parent who resists dragging in the
professional service providers may actually reflect more positively in the eyes
of the assessor than a parent who brings a sheaf of letters.
the event a parent determines that contact with a professional service provider
is necessary to a determination of the case, then let the assessor make contact.
Assessors, with written consent, can request information from service providers
in neutral fashion so that the information is not tainted by the intrusion of
the parents. Service and parental relationships can remain intact, the child is
spared distress and the case can proceed accordingly.
parents are using a collaborative family law approach to settling custody and
access disputes, then they or their lawyers or child expert/consultant may send
a joint request for information, thus bringing balance to the request. In such
cases, they would be wise to clearly state that they are involved in a
collaborative strategy to facilitate their resolution,
and advise the service providers that their
involvement will not extend beyond their letter of information.
Service intact, kids spared.
Edited by Siri Gottlieb, MSW, JD Ė Ann Arbor, MI, USA
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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