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Parents are stressed as they seek to maintain meaningful relationships with their children in the face of separation or divorce.
The fear of losing time with one’s children and the concern for developing the best plan of care causes some parents to actually dispute the matter in a way that contributes to the distress of children.
When the conflict between parents escalates and they cannot determine a parenting plan on their own, many turn to the Courts for a judge to determine the outcome. In such instances both parents are fully at the control of the courts and are bound by the judge’s decision.
Mediation is as an alternative to court.
Whereas in court the parents are bound by the decision of the judge, in mediation the role of the mediator is to help parents communicate and determine their own solution to the parenting of the children – a mutual agreement.
A mediator is a specially trained professional usually with expertise in child development, family dynamics and in helping people communicate. Some mediators will share their opinions and offer suggestions in the interest of the children while others may concentrate mainly on helping the parents communicate.
To determine if a mediator is right for you, ask these questions.
1. What are your credentials?
2. Will you share your opinions and provide input?
3. Are you familiar with issues related to child development, step or blended families, violence, abuse, etc?
4. What is the fee and how many hours will it take?
5. Will the mediation remain confidential or can information from mediation be used in court?
6. What is the process of mediation and how do you expect me to prepare?
7. Will you provide a report?
8. Are you registered within your profession?
9. Has there ever been any complaints, charges or convictions against you?
A reasonable mediator should be able to answer these questions directly and appreciate being asked.
Mediation is a good and reasonable approach to developing and settling parenting plans, but there are instances where mediation is often not recommended. Generally mediation is not recommended where a parent is known to be violent or abusive. If parents want to enter mediation where there is a known history of violence or abuse by either parent to each other or any of the children, they are advised to be certain that the mediator is aware, agrees to continue and has specialized knowledge or training on such issues.
Can’t sort out a plan for the children and you don’t want to go to court? Consider mediation.
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 is due out in spring 2013. Gary
maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services
for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North
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