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Just to be clear: Family Court Doesn’t Resolve Conflict

Parents turn to the court thinking a Judge will settle matters and life will be peaceful thereafter. This is far from the truth.

Court is turned into a contest of black and white to determine, who is right/wrong; good/bad; best/worst. No one wants to be on the losing end of that contest, particularly when a relationship with one’s kids is at stake.

In the run up to Court, and with an eye on winning, parents continue to say nasty things about each other and they may involve almost anyone who they feel can influence the outcome in their favor. This includes family, friends, teachers, doctors, childcare providers and even their own children. In the pursuit of winning, some parents will stalk, harass, enlist, bribe, manipulate and even contrive to gather evidence to support their position.

All the behavior in the run up to court does nothing to resolve conflict. Indeed all those behaviors are well known to escalate conflict and harden bad feelings.

By the time someone is pronounced a winner, there is nothing left of the relationship to carry on the task of co-parenting. To add, the loser will be filled with resentment, seeking only to really undermine the spirit of the Court order and gather additional evidence to one day seek a motion to vary the Order in their favor.

The very conflict sought to be resolved is ramped up even though there is a required solution to be followed. How long do you think that will last?

In the meantime, the children, whose “best interests” are supposedly the subject of dispute, are anything but served as they live with the parental animosity, angst and anger, fearing that one day the feelings witnessed between the parents will one day be targeted at them if they step out of line. Children’s behavior goes squirrely as they contort themselves to survive the parental mess.

If you really want to sort things out in the interest of your children, take Court out of the equation. What if Court wasn’t an option?

With Court out of the way, parents would have to rely on working things out between themselves. Considering parenting issues aren’t really legal matters, but personal and interpersonal matters, this makes sense. The challenge is finding support to enable parents to resolve disputes between themselves and hopefully learn how to resolve future conflicts as they may arise.

This support is actually readily available. Accessing the available support often hinges on your disposition to finding a way to settle versus fight and your choice of lawyer as some lawyers get caught up on helping you fight the good fight versus helping you address the personal and interpersonal issues affecting cooperative parenting.

If you can holster your ego to truly advance the interest of your kids over your anger towards your ex and if you have chosen a lawyer who appreciates decisions made between parents are best for children and therefore seeks to avoid court parents have a good chance of settling things between themselves. This often requires parents to refocus. Instead of making the shortcomings of the other all the issue, parents will need to take some responsibility for their own contribution to distress and learn new strategies for coping, communicating and resolving conflict.

To the degree parents can take on the work of self-control, self-evaluation as well as moderate and cooperative behavior, mutual solutions can be generated and accepted. Problems can be addressed and resolved. In so doing, your children then learn how to manage conflict respectfully – life lessons that will serve them at every stage of life. Not only will they be spared the parental conflict, but will be better equipped in the event life throws them a curve ball.

We are always role models to our children. The most significant role model of all is how we co-parent in the midst of being challenged. Parents are encouraged to step up over stepping out.

Need support to make this happen?

Speak with persons whose have actual expertise in resolving conflict as opposed to ratcheting it up. They include: social workers, psychologists, mediators and collaborative lawyers. Always advise your intended service provider of the issues at hand and ask about their training and expertise.

In the end, you not only want a parenting plan, but to resolve conflict too. Your children deserve your best behavior.


Gary Direnfeld

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead and the parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator. His book, Marriage Rescue… MORE >

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