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Regardless of Decision Making Authority, Get on Same Page 




I have shared custody my children on a week about basis, though the court has given me control over all medical decisions.  Recently my son who is 12 soon to be 13 was given medication for ADHD.  His father does not agree with this diagnosis or treatment.  My son was taking the medication for 2 months, his report card has improved slightly this term but  now refuses to take it. This is becoming a major source of conflict with him and I and I feel that it is because he is listening to his dad's opinion.  I'm afraid my son will go down the wrong path if he is not treated.  I'm seriously thinking of contacting CAS over the matter as I feel alone in the fight to help my son.


Despite your feeling alone in the fight to help your son, the boy's father is obviously a big part of the picture. He also likely feels as if he is alone in his the same fight. Given your information, he would likely argue that your lad is otherwise fine apart from perhaps lolly-coddling. So perhaps in his view, rather than medication, hold your lad accountable to expectations. Needles-to-say, the fight rages on.

A good colleague of mine likes to refer to ADD as "Attention Divided by Divorce". In situations such as described it is common to see children do poorly at school oftentimes themselves distracted by the parental conflict. Indeed, it is difficult for many children to concentrate and follow through with school work amidst the noise and differing opinions of separated parents.

Even though your son may have been diagnosed with ADHD, it is important to figure out the root cause. Is there a neuro-cognitively mediated problem for which medication is an appropriate treatment or as my colleague would say, is this child's attention divided by divorce - parental conflict?

The key in these situations is to attend for an assessment with a psychologist or social worker who would include both parents in the assessment process. Thereafter a better determination may be made as to treatment options. Please note of course, there can be both neuro-cognitive issues as well as social issues (parental conflict) affecting your son. In either case or both, counselling will be necessary for the parents to get them on board with one well coordinated treatment plan.

As you are learning, even though you have authority on medical decisions, it still remains important to have agreement between parents, particularly when there is conflict. You can contact the CAS, but in the end, that likely will not resolve the conflict and may only escalate matters making them worse.

Ask the father to attend counselling with you to sort out these challenges.


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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847  


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker in private practice. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider Gary an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report.


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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