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Away From The “C” Word!
quickest way to start conflict between separated parents is to talk to
them about child custody. The mere mention of the word conjures up images
of one parent winning the kids with the other parent losing.
thinking has it that custody must be specified, particularly when parents
are in conflict and cannot resolve parenting decisions reasonably. This
thinking only intensifies an already acrimonious situation. It bears
mentioning that in the throws and newness of a separation, parents are at
odds with each other and in the midst of the fear of loosing their kids,
they are apt to be in conflict. This however, does not necessarily mean
they do not hold the same values or interests with regard to the care and
development of their children. It also doesn’t mean that they would not
exercise reasonable judgment with regard to their children’s needs.
Teasing out the couple issues from the parent issues, there just may be
reasonable ground to let both parents carry on with meaningful roles.
is a way out of the quagmire for some parents in conflict to resolve
parenting issues without the all or none consequences of awarding custody
to one. In some situations they can both continue to feel equal in terms
of being a parent, fully able to maintain their relationship and assert a
meaningful role with their children. The process entails stepping away
from the “C” word in favour of developing a parenting plan,
discerning the scope of authority on specific issues, and
specifying a means of dispute resolution.
can be helped to determine their mutual interests and areas of agreement.
Authority can be vested in one parent or the other for specific issues.
Through the vesting of authority, each parent is assigned a span of
control for the specific issue. Where parents cannot reach consensus, they
can then agree on less expensive processes of dispute resolution such as
mediation or arbitration through the services of a Parenting
Coordinator. While parents may fear they will always be running back
to mediation, this is rarely the case, particularly if there is a rule
that the one who calls for mediation pays for the service, this to cut
down on frivolous actions.
what needs to be determined is a set of rules for the management and care
of the kids. To the degree this is achieved and in particular, out of
court, the parents retain overall control of their lives. They remain free
from the loss of control court imposed solutions may bring. Their conflict
is in part reduced knowing both can have an ongoing and active role in
parenting decisions even if some decisions are circumscribed.
parents retain a meaningful role by agreeing to abide by their mutually
established rules, responsibilities and span of authority, they can then
ease into their separation with a growing sense of security that their
attachments to the children will remain intact.
the end, this is what both parents want post-separation. It is not just a
say in the school they attend, but that each parent feels important and
active in their children’s life. This is in the children’s interest.
Even if one parent complains that the other never showed such interest
before, the fact may be that they are now. An active and interested parent
is good for any child whenever it comes. Step away from the “C” word
and seek an agreement. Your kids will thank you for it.
this kind of parenting agreement can be difficult but difficult does not
mean impossible. It requires a commitment from the parents and the support
of a highly qualified support system. The support necessary may be found
in a very experienced mediator or through lawyers practicing Collaborative
Law. The Parenting Pan Worksheet can be a vital tool in the
process of negotiating the agreement.
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