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Are you sure you need
to go to Court?
Parents, unable to resolve plans
for the ongoing care of the children post-separation or child custody
and/or access issues, may turn to the
Courts for resolution. There is a subgroup of parents who will entrench
themselves in their position and defend themselves primarily by pointing
to the shortcomings of the other parent. The trouble in some of the more
fractious cases is both parents engage in the same tactic, pointing out
different foibles of the other, both justifiably. In many of these cases
there is a profound emotional immaturity even in the face of intellectual
sophistication on the part of both parents.
In such situations, the parents
present with polar views as to the children’s interests where such views
are more a matter of value positions, rather than an issue of real
consequence. In other words, one parent will like blue and the
other will like red. In truth, either colour is fine, but both
parents present as if the future well-being of the kids is fully depends
upon the “right” choice. An assessment reveals that each parent’s
preference is highly subjective, influenced more by their personal history
than the real needs of the children. Parents confuse their needs and wants
with the needs of their children and each parent simply wants to win in
order to live out their idealized solution.
Childcare workers are often faced
with similar scenarios; two kids fighting in the sandbox over a toy; each
child kicking sand at the other. Their solution is eloquent in its
simplicity. Either they take the toy away from both children, or they help
them set rules for sharing. If the worker sets the rules, then both
children must abide even if not fully to their liking. The better workers
will have the kids give each other a hug and move on. Kids get over these
disputes quickly and most remain fast friends afterwards.
In the adult situation of
parenting decisions post-separation, clearly the stakes are higher, but
the process is similar. The trouble lies in the sophistication of the
fight and access to resources. Parents can bring in more arguments, can
obscure details, and can economically and emotionally wear each other
down. Unlike kids in the sandbox, their very children suffer the
consequences of the ongoing and resource depleting dispute. The children
may suffer economically as each dollar to the dispute is a dollar that
could have been directed to their care. The children suffer emotionally.
They are subject to the toxic emotional atmosphere of each parent and as
each parent is emotionally preoccupied with the dispute, the emotional
nurturance of the children suffers. Each parent has less to give the
children emotionally and when they do, it is tainted by their animosity to
the other parent. Despite parents objections to the contrary, this is a
structural consequence of the situation and kids do suffer. Many parents
seek to distance themselves from this truth or otherwise posit blame on
the alternate parent. Few parents truly take responsibility for their
contribution to the children’s distress in these situations, they
continue to use the transgressions of the other to legitimize their own.
Appealing to the Courts in these
situations is a reasonable solution for parents who otherwise are
unreasonable. In such situations, the concern or view of the parent
becomes secondary to the needs of the children. Assessors and Courts are
then in the untenable position of imposing solutions that likely neither
parent will enjoy, but simply makes the best of a terrible situation.
While structural arrangements may be imposed to address the children’s
needs, neither the assessor nor the Court can impose maturity upon the
parents. In such situations it is imperative that the agreement or Order
be as behaviourally and objectively specific as possible as these kinds of
parents are apt to nip at the edges of any agreement or Order.
When are these situations
resolved? When either or both parents let’s go the fight or when the
children become teenagers and vote with their feet by leaving home early.
The kids who leave home early are the ones at higher risk for their own
problematic relationships. Quite the legacy.
Children’s needs before parents’ wants is the answer.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
20 Suter Crescent, Dundas, ON, Canada L9H 6R5 Tel: (905) 628-4847 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org