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to be clear: Family Court Doesn’t Resolve Conflict
Parents turn to the court thinking
a Judge will settle matters and life will be peaceful thereafter. This is far
from the truth.
Court is turned into a contest of
black and white to determine, who is right/wrong; good/bad; best/worst. No one
wants to be on the losing end of that contest, particularly when a relationship
with one’s kids is at stake.
In the run up to Court, and with
an eye on winning, parents continue to say nasty things about each other and
they may involve almost anyone who they feel can influence the outcome in their
favor. This includes family, friends, teachers, doctors, childcare providers and
even their own children. In the pursuit of winning, some parents will stalk,
harass, enlist, bribe, manipulate and even contrive to gather evidence to
support their position.
All the behavior in the run up to
court does nothing to resolve conflict. Indeed all those behaviors are well
known to escalate conflict and harden bad feelings.
By the time someone is pronounced
a winner, there is nothing left of the relationship to carry on the task of
co-parenting. To add, the loser will be filled with resentment, seeking only to
really undermine the spirit of the Court order and gather additional evidence to
one day seek a motion to vary the Order in their favor.
The very conflict sought to be
resolved is ramped up even though there is a required solution to be followed.
How long do you think that will last?
In the meantime, the children,
whose “best interests” are supposedly the subject of dispute, are anything
but served as they live with the parental animosity, angst and anger, fearing
that one day the feelings witnessed between the parents will one day be targeted
at them if they step out of line. Children’s behavior goes squirrely as they
contort themselves to survive the parental mess.
If you really want to sort things
out in the interest of your children, take Court out of the equation. What if
Court wasn’t an option?
With Court out of the way, parents
would have to rely on working things out between themselves. Considering
parenting issues aren’t really legal matters, but personal and interpersonal
matters, this makes sense. The challenge is finding support to enable parents to
resolve disputes between themselves and hopefully learn how to resolve future
conflicts as they may arise.
This support is actually readily
available. Accessing the available support often hinges on your disposition to
finding a way to settle versus fight and your choice of lawyer as some lawyers
get caught up on helping you fight the good fight versus helping you address the
personal and interpersonal issues affecting cooperative parenting.
If you can holster your ego to
truly advance the interest of your kids over your anger towards your ex and if
you have chosen a lawyer who appreciates decisions made between parents are best
for children and therefore seeks to avoid court parents have a good chance of
settling things between themselves. This often requires parents to refocus.
Instead of making the shortcomings of the other all the issue, parents will need
to take some responsibility for their own contribution to distress and learn new
strategies for coping, communicating and resolving conflict.
To the degree parents can take on
the work of self-control, self-evaluation as well as moderate and cooperative
behavior, mutual solutions can be generated and accepted. Problems can be
addressed and resolved. In so doing, your children then learn how to manage
conflict respectfully – life lessons that will serve them at every stage of
life. Not only will they be spared the parental conflict, but will be better
equipped in the event life throws them a curve ball.
We are always role models to our
children. The most significant role model of all is how we co-parent in the
midst of being challenged. Parents are encouraged to step up over stepping out.
Need support to make this happen?
Speak with persons whose have
actual expertise in resolving conflict as opposed to ratcheting it up. They
include: social workers, psychologists, mediators and collaborative lawyers.
Always advise your intended service provider of the issues at hand and ask about
their training and expertise.
In the end, you not only want a
parenting plan, but to resolve conflict too. Your children deserve your best
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
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