Poison Control

Don’t risk becoming the “hated parent” to your own children, as a result of your separation or divorce.  Learn the antidote to poisoned minds, and counter the negative impact of “parental alienation syndrome”.

It’s an area of family law which both as a parent, and a family lawyer, I find most troublesome, and frustrating.  Of course, I’m referring to the often bitterly contested issues of custody and access.

Children often become mere pawns, manipulated by one, or the other spouse, to suit their own legal agendas.  It’s something which has come to be called “parental alienation syndrome.”  It’s a condition whereby children are essentially programmed by one parent, the “loved parent,” to reject, and despise, the other parent, the alleged “hated parent.”

Tactics used by a parent can include both conscious, and subconscious, techniques to “poison” a child’s mind against the other parent.

How do you recognize this syndrome?

There are several key characteristics.  Typically, a child will constantly denounce the “hated parent,” and, if asked to explain, such negative feelings will be unable to provide any rational explanation.

There will also be an unquestioned, and absolute approval, of the “loved parent,” including sharing the “loved parent’s” description for the “hated parent.”  In addition, the description of the “hated parent” will often appear to be consistent, and unchanging, suggesting that the child has been coached, or prompted, by the “loved parent” to provide a negative description.

Finally, and perhaps most damaging of all, the “loved parent” professes that the child’s own wishes, and views, must be respected, including their desire not to see the “hated parent.”

While in my own experience, courts have been slow to recognize and address this syndrome, there may be a glimmer of light, at the end of the tunnel.  An Ontario Superior Court Justice fined a woman $10,000.00 for “poisoning” the minds of her children, against their loving father.

Specifically, the woman, the custodial parent, had refused to comply with several orders, which required her, to facilitate contact between the children and their father, and to undertake family counseling.

The court could also have awarded sole custody of the children to the father, but felt such action was not appropriate, since the youngest child, now 16, was “so attached” to the mother, and soon to be fully independent.

Unfortunately, as this case readily demonstrates, once the emotional and psychological damage is done, there is no force on this earth strong enough to compel a child to maintain, or develop, a relationship with the other parent, regardless, of how loving, or well meaning, that parent may be.

What do I recommend as an “antidote” for such “poisoned minds?”

Firstly, if you and your spouse are separating, or divorcing, keep the legal matters out of court, if possible.  Going to court creates considerable stress and pressure on both parents, and children.  Minimizing both, may help salvage your short, and long term relationship, with your spouse, and children.

Secondly, I recommend counseling for all parties.  If you are an employee, your employer may have a benefits program which provides personal and family counseling.  If it does, take advantage of it.  In most cases, it will be free of charge, as well as being confidential.

Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, I believe changes in the Divorce Act are urgently required.  Changes such as removing the divisive term “custody,” and replacing it with a more neutral, but vital, concept such as “parental responsibility.”

But rather than address this particular issue, which has been researched to death, and potentially impact thousands of separating, and divorcing families, each year, the Federal Government has other priorities.

It’s no surprise many doubt the Federal Government’s commitment to families, me among them.

The contents, opinions, and observations, contained in Scott Taylor’s Kitchen Table Divorce, are strictly intended for general information and entertainment purposes only, and are not intended to be relied upon, or to replace, legal advice.

It is recommended you obtain legal advice from Mr. Taylor,(604-534-6361or info@underappeal.com), or another lawyer, with respect to your specific jurisdiction, and legal circumstances.

Dream Divorce

 

Make sure your dream divorce doesn’t become your worst nightmare.

Sorry, to anyone experiencing or contemplating divorce, but there is no way for me, or anyone else, to guarantee that you will ever fondly refer to your divorce as a “dream divorce.”

In actual fact the opposite is more often the case. Just ask anyone who has previously suffered through the cost, and soul destroying trauma, of having their martial dispute dragged, (slowly and painfully), through the traditional court system.

But, since second, or third, (or more), timers should know by now, the futility of using court to resolve family disputes; this advice is for first timers. 

My first advice, oddly enough, since I make my living providing legal advice to separating and divorcing couples, is to explore whether there remains any possibility that the relationship can be saved.

In my experience, except in circumstances of abuse or other emergency situations, there is usually the time and opportunity to take a step back, take a deep breath, and take advantage of available marriage counseling options.  If you, or your spouse, work for a company, you should enquire as to whether the company will subsidize counseling appointments.

Assuming that you, or your spouse, aren’t prepared to commit to marriage counseling, or you have already tried it, unsuccessfully, it may be time to move on. Although it’s helpful to remember that you can always re-visit counseling anytime during the legal process, provided you and your spouse are in agreement. Be sure if you do however, you let your lawyer know your plans in advance.

Once you’ve decided that the relationship is definitely over, what are your legal options?  There are essentially two tracks to resolution, negotiation or litigation, although these options are not mutually exclusive.  This means you can start with one track, and eventually end with the other, or even employ a combination of negotiation and litigation.

Personally, and professionally, I always recommend, as the first option, the negotiation track, with what I, and others, refer to as the collaborative divorce approach.  Collaborative divorce lawyers are a combination of a specially trained mediator and family lawyer. Not every family law lawyer is qualified as a collaborative divorce lawyer, if you’re not sure yours is, be sure to ask.

The key difference between the collaborative process and the traditional legal process is that the collaborative focus is to attempt to resolve matters without the need of court intervention, usually by means of informal meetings between the parties with the assistance of their counsel.

In fact, one of the central tenants of the collaborative process inspires the parties to work towards a negotiated resolution. That’s because, if either party decides to commence, or continue, court action, both collaborative counsel are required to essentially “fire” themselves from the file.

Another vital advantage of the collaborative process is the potential involvement of various therapists and counsellors to work with the parties, and children, to address the inevitable emotional issues arising from the end of the relationship.

My final words of wisdom – take my advice and give collaborative divorce a chance, if you, or your spouse, are contemplating, or experiencing, divorce.  It’s the best way, I know of, to reduce the risk of your “dream divorce” becoming your worst nightmare.

The contents, opinions and observations contained in Scott Taylor’s Kitchen Table Divorce are strictly intended for general information and entertainment only, and not intended to be relied upon, or replace, legal advice.  It is recommended you obtain legal advice from a lawyer, with respect to your specific legal circumstances.