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Custody and Access Disputes…
Counselling, Mediation, Parenting Coordinator: What’s the difference?
who are separated need to sort out the ongoing care of their children.
Statistically, most do so between themselves without any help or support from
outside resources. However, not all parents are able to settle matters
concerning the ongoing care of the children and thus turn to several different
strategies to help them out. Each strategy carries it’s own benefits and
Couples who turn to the Court are often locked in the most contentious of
differences. Each may seek a very different outcome and believe they may
persuade the Court in their respective favour and thus win their position. Court
is generally viewed as a last resort solution. The Court will never be as
intimate with the issues as will the parties and hence the outcome may not be as
finely tuned as hoped for. Further, the Court is not bound by the position of
the parties and may impose solutions that neither party is satisfied with.
Lastly, Court imposed solutions tend to be less durable than solutions derived
by the parties themselves, with or without assistance. Court imposed solutions
offer no opportunity to resolve underlying issues or teach better problem
solving and communication skills.
Mediation provides an opportunity for parents to resolve matters between
themselves in the presence of a trained professional. In the most traditional of
terms, the trained profession is to act as the guardian of the process, helping
parents to discus matters in an environment that provides some degree of control
over behaviour and content. The mediator may or may not express opinion as to
the subject matter but will seek to ensure the process and outcome is balanced.
Mediated solutions tend to be more durable than Court ordered solutions given
the intimacy with which the subject matter is addressed by the parties and the
fact the agreement is mutually achieved. Further, while mediation may do nothing
to resolve underlying issues, the process can model better methods for problem
solving and communicating to the parties.
Counselling as a strategy to resolve the ongoing care of children carries the
same positive features of mediation and is also aimed at resolving underlying
difficulties that may otherwise continually give rise to conflict. Thus through
counselling, the parties can be aided to understand their respective
contributions to distress and take responsibility to manage same. Further, the
process can teach and promote better problem solving skills as well as
communication skills and strategies. Agreements achieved through counselling
tend to be the most durable in that not only do parents come to a solution
between themselves, but also a new way of settling matters as they arise so that
greater problems are mitigated.
The Parenting Coordinator is a highbred between the three above strategies. The
Parenting Coordinator is generally appointed for a term of service to resolve
problems as they arise. Over the course of service, the Parenting Coordinator
offers guidance and direction as well as seeking to help the parties achieve
agreements between themselves. However, if the event the parties cannot reach an
agreement between themselves, the Parenting Coordinator is empowered by the
parties to impose a solution as per the Court. In stricter terms, this aspect of
the role is regarded as arbitration. A Parenting Coordinator is generally a good
solution for those parents who may continually find themselves in matters of
dispute on minor items with regard to an already established parenting
agreement. The goal of the Parenting Coordinator is to eventually work
themselves out of a job by continually teaching and guiding the parties to more
reasonably resolve disputes between themselves.
strategy is best for any particular set of parents is subject to a number of
factors including, the degree of cooperation between the parties, history of
abusive behaviour and willingness to work towards a common goal of better
communication and cooperation in the interest of the children.
Check out the Parenting Plan Worksheet
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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