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Keeping families out of court

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Keeping Kids Out Of The Middle
 Keeping families out of court
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Divorce doesn't harm children. Parents do.

You don't need to marry to work together to raise a healthy child
and you don't need to divorce to put your child in the middle of adult conflict.

Family Law Consulting PLLC will work with you to establish mutual, constructive and
child-centered dispute resolution paths,
keeping the focus on the child and
avoiding the stresses and costs of court whenever possible.



Back to top Mature, mutual and child-centered

This is how most co-parents function and this should be your goal, regardless of the legal status of the adult relationship. Healthy parents are able to put their own needs and emotions aside to work with their parenting partners to see that the child's needs are met. The process is proactive, respectful and constructive.

Healthy co-parents are characterized by at least four basic skills:
  • Healthy co-parents can communicate together constructively and respectfully
  • Healthy co-parents can cooperate and compromise so that decisions are made in a timely manner
  • Healthy co-parents can work together to establish consistent parenting practices
  • Healthy co-parents keep the kids out of the middle Read more
                                  here

Back to top Why NOT go to court?

Our courts were created to determine guilt, to assign blame, and to exact punishment. They instill a victim versus perpetrator mentality. This works if the question to be answered is a "who done it?" but fails if the question to be answered is about a child's future care and well-being.

Most courts and the lawyers and judges who work in them make family law matters worse before they offer remedies. Because our courts are overburdened, it can takes months to be seen before a judge. Some divorces last many years, consuming the entire span of a child's childhood.

Litigation can be extremely expensive. At hundreds of dollars per hour, lawyers and their assistants will consume a child's college savings and an adult's retirement funds and then eat away at assets before and still not offer any answers.

Worst of all, the court process can polarize litigants, making mountains out of molehills. Lawyers bound to serve as "zealous advocates" will go to extremes to denigrate one parent so as to win favor for their client, all to the detriment of the child.

Courts may be able to settle family law matters in the long run, but no one escapes the process without scars, least of all the children.

Read more here:
  • Vu, T. D. (2009). Going to court as a last resort: Establishing a duty for attorneys in divorce proceedings to discuss alternative dispute resolution with their clients.  Family Court Review, 47: 586–599.
  • Marshall J. Breger, (2000). Should An Attorney Be Required to Advise a Client of ADR Options? 13 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 427, 428.
  • Gerald F. Phillips, (2004). The Obligation of Attorneys to Inform Clients About ADR Mediation: A Win-Win Process, 31 W. St. U. L. Rev. 239, 239–40.
  • Andrew Schepard, (2007). Kramer vs. Kramer Revisited: A Comment On the Miller Commission Report and the Obligation of Divorce Lawyers For Parents to Discuss Alternative Dispute Resolution With Their Clients, 27 Pace Law Rev. 682, 683.
  • Boyarin, Y. (2012). Court-connected ADR- A time of crisis, a time of change. Family Court Review, 50: 377–404.
  • Sulmeyer, S. H., Adams, V. A. and Wood, B. (2015), The Interdisciplinary Settlement Conference: A Grassroots Alternative for Resolving High-Conflict Parenting Disputes in Lean Times. Family Court Review, 53: 632–649.

Back to top Shared, joint or exclusive decision-making authority?

At issue is what is sometimes called "legal custody," the court-determined authority to make major decisions in the child's life. Healthy, mature and child-centered co-parents can share this responsibility constructively. Angry, bitter and resentful co-parents often see shared or joint decision-making authority as another opportunity to do battle.

When co-parents cannot communicate, cooperate and establish consistent parenting practices, joint or shared decision-making will often result in stalemate, each parent refusing the other's requests in a power struggle that can never be won. There several alternatives:

  • Exclusive decision-making authority. The court can vest one parent with the authority to make all decisions, often with the caveat that the other parent's input must first be solicited and considered. While this can minimize co-parent conflict and the child's associated stresses, it also marginalizes the parent who has no authority and risks that parent disengaging entirely.
  • Partial exclusive decision-making authority by domain. The court can vest one parent with exclusive decision-making authority in a particular domain of the child's life, for example: academic or extra-curricular or medical. This can be useful when co-parents have intractable differences in only one area and/or when one parent has expertise in that area.
  • Deference to an impartial, child-centered third party, such as a Parenting Coordinator Read more
                                  here (and continue below)

Back to top What is co-parenting therapy or counseling?


Co-parenting interventions (sometimes referred to as "co-parenting therapy" or "co-parenting counseling" is neither psychotherapy nor counseling. This service is not about emotions and must not be confused with couples' therapy or marital therapy.

Co-parenting intervention is an agenda-driven, child-centered decision-making process. It is conducted like a business meeting, proceeding one business item at a time, prompting understanding, child-centered focus, compromise, and agreements.

Co-parenting interventions are appropriate for moderately conflicted co-parents.



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Back to top What is Parenting Coordination?

Parenting Coordination (PC) is co-parenting intervention with teeth. The PC works with high conflict co-parents to resolve child-centered decisions within the parameters of the parenting plan through education, mediation and arbitration. Although the details vary by jurisdiction, the PC is generally vested by the court to make binding decisions in the child's best interests when the co-parents cannot unless and until the court rules to the contrary.

Read more here Read
                                more here

  • Read the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) PC guidelines Read more here
  • Read the American Psychological Association PC guidelines Read more here
  • Read more about PC and ADR here Read more here
  • Also:
  • Demby, S. (2016). Parenting coordination: Applying clinical thinking to the management and resolution of post‐divorce conflict. Journal of Clinical Psychology.
  • Montiel, J.T. (2015). Out on a limb: Appointing a parenting coordinator with decision‐making authority in the absence of a statute or rule. Family Court Review, Vol 53(4), Oct 2015, 578-588.
  • Coates, C.A. (2015). The parenting coordinator as peacemaker and peace-builder. Family Court Review, Vol 53(3), 398-406.
  • Kirkland, K. (2010). Positive coping among experienced parenting coordinators: A recipe for success.Journal of Child Custody: Research, Issues, and Practices, Vol 7(1), 61-77.
  • Montiel, J. T. (2015), Out on a Limb: Appointing a Parenting Coordinator with Decision-Making Authority in the Absence of a Statute or Rule. Family Court Review, 53: 578–588.
Back to top What is a developmental parenting plan?

A parenting plan that suits your child's present needs is necessary, but not sufficient. A parenting plan must be able to grow with a child's growing needs and abilities, else the co-parents will be back in court to revise the parenting plan with each new grade and developmental milestone.

Family Law Consulting PLLC and Dr. Ben Garber have pioneered the idea of developmental parenting plans, helping conflicted co-parents to establish highly structured plans that adjust to meet the child's predictable growth toward autonomy.



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Back to top What is mediation?

Mediation is a structured, impartial process intended to help conflicted parties find middle ground. Child-centered mediation factors our knowledge of child and family development into the process.
For example: If Mom thinks that Billy should be in bed at 7:00 p.m. but dad thinks that he should be in bed at 9:00 p.m., they might mediate to resolve the difference, finally agreeing on 8:00 p.m. But if Billy is 3 years old, an understanding about his developmental needs might prompt a child-centered mediation to conclude that 7:00 p.m. is best.

Read more here:
  • Tjersland, Odd; Gulbrandsen, Wenke; Haavind, Hanne (2015). Mandatory mediation outside the court: A process and effect study. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, Vol 33(1), Fal 2015, 19-34 
  • Giovannucci, M. and Largent, K. (2013), Association of Family and Conciliation Court Guidelines for Child Protection Mediation. Family Court Review, 51: 605–636.
  • Ballard, R. H., Holtzworth-Munroe, A., Applegate, A. G. and D'Onofrio, B. (2011). Factors affecting the outcome of divorce and paternity mediations. Family Court Review, 49: 16–33. 
  • Applegate, A. G. and Beck, C. J.A. (2013), Self-Represented Parties in Mediation: Fifty Years Later It Remains the Elephant in the Room. Family Court Review, 51: 87–103.

Back to top What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative Law is a means of settling divorce and custody-related conflicts with a minimum of litigation. Parties employ a collaborative attorney to assist in an open negotiation with the understanding that the attorneys involved in the collaborative process and the contents thereof will not be allowed in litigation, should any become necessary.

Read more here:
  • Mosten, F. S. (2011). The future of collaborative practice: A vision for 2030. Family Court Review, 49: 282–291.
  • Otis, M. R. (2011). Expanding collaborative divorce through the social sciences. Family Court Review, 49(2), 229-238.
  • Macfarlane, Julie (2010). Forrest Mosten's collaborative divorce handbook: Effectively helping divorcing families without going to court the past, present, and future of collaborative law. Family Court Review, Vol 48(3), 566-570.
  • Behrman, Lauren (2010). Roles for psychologists in collaborative divorce practice. In Walfish, Steven (Ed), Earning a living outside of managed mental health care: 50 ways to expand your practice. , (pp. 32-35). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.
  • Andrew Schouten, (2007). Breaking Up Is No Longer Hard to Do: The Collaborative Family Law Act, 38 Mcgeorge L. Rev. 125, 134.
  • Larry R. Spain, (2004). Collaborative Law: A Critical Reflection on Whether a Collaborative Orientation Can Be Ethically Incorporated Into the Practice of Law, 56 Baylor L. Rev. 141, 144.
  • Macfarlane, Julie (2004). Experiences of Collaborative Law: Preliminary Results from the Collaborative Lawyering Research Project. Journal of Disposion and Resolution, 179, 192.

Back to top What is Early Neutral Evaluation?

Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) gives litigating parents the chance to be heard by impartial family law professionals in brief form soon after filing for divorce. The professionals provide an informed opinion regarding the likely outcome were the case to run the full course of litigation. In practice, ENE prompts a large percentage of would-be litigants to settle and keep the process out of the courts at tremendous savings of money, time and stress.

Read more here:
  • Pearson, Y., Bankovics, G., Baumann, M., Darcy, N., DeVries, S., Goetz, J., & Kowalsky, G. (2006). Early Neutral Evaluations: Applications to Custody and Parenting Time Cases Program Development and Implementation in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Family Court Review, 44(4), 672-682.
  • Pickar, D. B., & Kahn, J. J. (2011). Settlement‐focused parenting plan consultations: An evaluative mediation alternative to child custody evaluations. Family Court Review, 49(1), 59-71.
  • Salem, P. (2009). The emergence of triage in family court services: The beginning of the end for mandatory mediation? Family Court Review, 47(3), 371-388.
  • Boshier, P., Taylor, N., & Seymour, F. (2011). Early intervention in New Zealand family court cases. Family Court Review, 49(4), 818-830.
  • Santeramo, J. L. (2004). Early Neutral Evaluation in Divorce Cases. Family Court Review, 42(2), 321-341.


Back to top

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