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Conflict Divorce: Mediating Parenting Plans
note – This article does not refer to women who may be experiencing
with couples engaged in high conflict divorces, you are immediately thrust
into an eye-for-an-eye battle. Such couples communicate with scripted
monologues that presuppose both the opening statements and replies of the
other. They each seek to redress the perceived imbalance of past wrongs
and with each strike they heap more injustice on each other to add to
their mutual discontent. They have secret code words and looks that are
incendiary, causing the other to ignite without our perceiving the
divorce process to these couples has less to do with negotiating financial
and parenting plans and all the more to do with getting even. They each
have an imagined value for the pain and suffering experienced in the
marriage and look to the divorce to settle the score. They have lost sight
of the best interests of the children even while using this catch phrase
to couch their positions.
some couples enter mediation in good faith, many high conflict couples
enter mediation simply to avoid the high cost of the contested battle and
in other cases to prove the inability of the other to negotiate. Mediation
can be just another ploy in the battle to prove who is worse.
these couples in the same room for facilitative or communicative style
mediation and watch them run roughshod over the mediator, particularly the
uninitiated. The immediate response is a series of caucuses as the
mediator recognizes their inability to control the individuals in the same
what of the children in high conflict divorce situations whose parents are
duking it out over child custody and access issues? The mediator
cannot remain neutral with regard to the best interest of the children.
High conflict divorce mediation requires the mediator to make clear this
position – to inform the parents that they will advocate on behalf of
the children such that their needs can best be met. The mediator should be
commenting on parental behaviour and it’s impact on the well being of
children. An objective with regard to developing a parenting plan is to
inform, if not educate the parents on their destructive behaviour to the
social-emotional development of their children while respecting the right
for both parents to have meaningful relationships with their children.
Their role is not therapeutic per se with regard to the marriage. The
mediator cannot hold any rescue fantasies and must fully accept that the
marriage is over. The mediator must therefore accept the foibles of the
parents and as such only seek to instil compensatory strategies, teaching
or structuring ways to mitigate anger and the exchange of parental
information when necessary. The process also cannot avoid issues raised by
the parties, particularly when issues of drugs, alcohol, abuse or
inappropriate discipline or care are disclosed. Rather, the mediator must
bring these issues to the foreground to be addressed as part of the plan.
While each complains of the parenting of the other, it may be that both
should attend selective parenting courses and that this be written into
the parenting plan agreement.
to stand a chance of a mediated parenting plan, the mediator must; be able
to enter a high conflict situation; keep the focus on the children; accept
that the parents won’t likely change with regard to each other; provide
strategies to keep both parents meaningfully involved with the children;
and address harmful issues. It’s a tall order.
process requires an active and seasoned mediator with knowledge and
training on child development and this is definitely not for the
faint-of-heart. A defining variable in choosing a mediator is finding one
who is able to handle the intensity of high conflict couples and offers a
structured approach to the mediation process itself. The actual structure
may differ between mediators, but each mediator should none-the-less be
able to articulate their process.
goal? A parenting plan both parents can agree to that meets the
children’s needs and maintains relationships.
Still fighting child custody issues? Use this:
To track your child custody schedule, use this:
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: email@example.com