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Co-parenting: New ways to resolve conflicts

By April 30, 2020February 23rd, 2024No Comments

Want to try something different to resolve your co-parenting matter quickly and sensibly? Instead of waiting for the Covid-19 pandemic to be over and the legal system to return to normal–and possibly suffering through ongoing parenting conflicts, stress and uncertainty in the meantime—you might like to consider how we family lawyers are adapting our approaches to offer creative, solution-focused services to resolve your disputes.

Here at Alliance Family Law, we are helping clients resolve co-parenting issues in innovative ways–and by this we don’t simply mean an increased use of videoconferencing technology (though this certainly helps!).

As we have all seen during this unprecedented time, the world has the potential to change for the better in the way we interact with each other and manage our needs. In the family law arena, we are focusing particularly on early intervention for families in conflict and working towards alternative solutions that draw on common sense, creativity and imagination.

Beyond the blame game

Pitting parents against each other in the traditional adversarial legal system which creates “winners and losers” often results in long-lasting negative consequences both for the “losing” parent and for the children involved. Chlidren have had to endure watching their parents in a legal battle where it is difficult, if not impossible, for both to experience a “win”.

Scientific evidence has clearly shown that parental fighting and hostility harms children, particularly when it occurs in front of them. As well as being directly distressing to children, interparental conflict causes instability in children’s lives, not only through the impact on parenting quality when parents are too emotionally wrought to be able to adequately focus on the child’s needs, but also through the financial loss that is often suffered by families.

As family lawyers, it can be traumatising to witness the detrimental effects that the adversarial system can have on clients and their families. That’s why we continue to work hard to implement new, creative ways to help families resolve their co-parenting conflicts when going through divorce and separation. At Alliance we already have a special interest in Collaborative Divorce, which you can read more about here. We have also always encouraged clients to seek out other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution such as mediation and arbitration.

However, these processes are not always suited to all separating couples, and there is a need for family lawyers to adapt their methods still further to offer clients personalised, fast, practical alternative processes that are essentially a hybrid of mediation, arbitration and collaboration processes.

Family lawyers are bound to mandatory ethical rules and voluntary codes of conduct – but we believe family lawyers must go further to proactively prevent the negative effects of longwinded, costly, adversarial court proceedings between parents.

We recognise that we have a moral duty to avoid enabling parental vindictiveness, or actions taken out of spite or revenge or to obtain financial advantage. We understand that we must do our utmost to decrease the emotional level of the conflict, while also meeting our clients’ needs.

This means moving beyond the simple application of the law to facts to determine solutions. Of course, we still use our knowledge of the law and skills in applying it to matters. But increasingly, our focus is on preventative, therapeutic methods which actively prevent exacerbating existing conflict. The aim is to empower parents to make the best choices and decisions with the help of experts and lawyers, but not necessarily courts.

There is a need to draw on variety of disciplines in acknowledgment that a co-parenting family law conflict is much more than a legal matter, but rather often requires the redesigning of lives to promote healing.

With this in mind we have been widening our repertoire of problem-solving methods and exploring creative ways to find simple, workable solutions for families.

Resolving co-parenting disputes

For example, families can be referred child psychologists for early assessment, even before any applications are filed with courts. All members of a family are interviewed to create a holistic picture of the psychological functioning of the family and the experts produce a report which is given to parents and their lawyers. This report may include specific recommendations regarding co-parenting going forward. Parents and their lawyers are encouraged to provide feedback and to discuss the expert assessment. They can ask questions and request further elaboration on the report.  Each parent’s solicitor is involved in discussions on how to create the ideal outcome for the children. It’s important to note that everything is reportable–if solutions are not reached, this report can ultimately be utilised in court proceedings.

This kind of open dialogue process is child-inclusive but also empowers parents by reinforcing the need for, and ability of, parents to make the best decisions for their families. Rather than being in an authoritative role, the family lawyer casts themselves more as an ‘honest broker’ between parents and professionals like psychologists and parenting experts.

The ultimate goal is to minimise loss and instability for children while maximising meaningful time with each parent, all the while remaining conscious of children’s developmental needs and remaining child-focused throughout the process.

This is not to say that all families can avoid court. In some cases, the judgment of a court may end up being the only way forward, if parents find it impossible to resolve the problem themselves with the help of professionals. Court is always an option and if you need to go down that path, we are also highly experienced representing our clients in court matters as well.

Give us a call here at Alliance Family Law if our thinking and approach appeals to you. Although we are located in the ACT, distance is no problem—we can facilitate this Australia-wide. Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 to discuss your needs.Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.

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