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thing happened on the way to trialÖ
or divorced parents, unable to resolve a parenting plan or child custody and
access issues may turn to the Courts
for resolution. The Courts may turn to the recommendations of an assessor to
guide judgment. Now the outcome hinges on the choice of assessor. Who do you
folks struggle with the credentials of the assessor. There may be an opinion
preferring or rejecting the services of a social worker, psychologist or
custody and access assessments, the service of a social worker may be preferable
if issues of concern appear to relate more to family, relationship or parenting
issues. The services of a psychologist may be preferable if there is concern for
individual psychological issues related to temperament, personality or
intelligence. The services of a psychiatrist may be preferable if there is
concern for issues stemming from mental illness and psycho-active medication.
Notwithstanding, there is such a great degree of overlap between these
professional disciplines, that a well-experienced assessor of either profession
should be able to assess the situation and provide reasonable recommendations.
Approaches may be vary, but the end result should at least be similar. As a
concept this is known as equifinality. In laymanís terms, all roads lead to
the assessorís professional credentials, of more importance may be the
assessorís disposition to facilitating an agreement through the assessment
process. Standards of Practice for conducting custody and access assessments
generally are silent on the issue of facilitating an agreement during the
assessment process. Rather, most Standards of Practice convey information
directing the practitioner through an appropriate assessment process that
concludes with a report directed to the Courts. As such, some assessorís will
argue as to whether or not they should even consider facilitating an agreement,
let alone engage in activity that may be regarded as mediation or negotiation
during the actual assessment process.
though, and perhaps an anomaly with regard to the various Standards of Practice
available, the Ontario Psychological Association in their Ethical Guidelines for
Psychological Practice Related to Child Custody and Access (1998) include:
reached by parents should be given the highest priority and respect, questioned
with the greatest caution and reluctance and altered only if the childís best
interests are at serious risk (e.g., suspected child abuse, other forms of
family violence, or agreements reached only through intimidation).
may be value in choosing an assessor predisposed to facilitating agreements when
appropriate. Social science research suggests parenting plans reached by
consensus through the parents tend to result in less parental conflict and hence
may be more durable. Further, power and control remains in the hands of the
parents who presumably know what arrangement would suit them best. The trickle
down outcome for the child is exposure to less parental conflict, the most
identifiable factor relating to their adjustment and psycho-social outcome.
well as those reasons above, the added benefit in parents reaching an agreement
during the assessment process relates to money. Simply stated, when parents
reach an agreement the assessment process concludes, as does the legal process.
There are no more costs related to resolving the dispute. Money spared remains
with the parents for the care of their children.
is worth asking the question of all assessors, ďIf an agreement could be
reached that does not compromise the best interests of the child, would you
facilitate the agreement in lieu of continuing the assessment processĒ? You
will get a range of responses. Best-case scenario, a funny thing happens along
the way. You settle. Worse-case, the assessment continues and concludes as it
does. You decide whatís right for you.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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