New Resource for Family Proceedings

The Superior Court of Justice has developed a new guide that provides information to litigants about each step in a family law case.

For additional information to people who have a family law case in the courts, whether they have counsel or are unrepresented, refer to the mediate393 inc. website. The resources page has lots of information on several topics!

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Naming, Blaming & Claiming: Conflict is Universal

This week I am teaching community, civil and family mediation theory and skills to a group of police officers in St. Lucia. My colleagues Heather Swartz of Agree Inc., and fellow mediate393 mediators Akbar Ibrahim and Caroline Felstiner, are also on the teaching team.

The training is a part of an ambitious five-year access to justice project called IMPACT Justice in the Caribbean. Funded by the Government of Canada, the project aims to strengthen legal frameworks, improve legal services and education and facilitate increased knowledge and use of ADR processes to resolve disputes out of court whenever possible.

This is the third training Riverdale Mediation has provided as part of this project, with the other two being in Grenada and St. Kitts.

Today, our first day here, we covered the essential elements of conflict: its sources and drivers. We looked at the factors that cause people to name grievances, attribute blame for those upsets and seek remedies. We learned that the kinds of things people name, blame and claim about here in St. Lucia are different.

For example, our original case study about a barking dog upsetting the neighbours had little meaning here where dogs are routinely kept outdoors. And that the rules for defining property boundaries are often dependant on trees that may die, resulting in neighbourly disputes about whose house or goat is encroaching on whose land.

We learned that disputes are affected by things beyond anyone’s control here as everywhere. For example, we learned that with the creation the EU came a much smaller European market for St. Lucian bananas, formerly the country’s major export, leading to economic pressures that fuelled conflicts of many kinds.

But the emotions that go with the experience of conflict are largely the same. The needs we have as humans— for respect, acknowledgement and recognition are the same. As are the needs we all have to communicate our needs and concerns clearly and mutually to minimize escalation of conflict.

Which brings me to “bakes.”

I arrived to breakfast Sunday morning to an unbelievable array of delicious things to eat. Baked beans, salt cod stew, fresh fruit, tamarind juice… it was all so good that I had no room to try a “bake”. So I decided to try a bake the next day instead.

Monday morning, I arrived to claim my bake…….. to find French toast instead!

I used this example to illustrate how a “perceived injurious experience” (the absence of my anticipated bake) can escalate if the injured person chooses to blame someone for that injury and to seek a remedy. We discussed the choices I could make in attributing blame— was the hotel deliberately depriving me of my bake or had the pastry chef called in sick that morning? Perhaps they had run out of flour, or someone came first and ate them all.

The participants found this very amusing. After letting us go on about the many possible attributions a person might make when choosing to escalate a perceived injury into a dispute— someone finally informed me:

“Or you could just have learned that they only have bakes on Sunday”.

International training is wonderful, rewarding, fun, informative— and humbling!


Hilary Linton is a Toronto lawyer whose practice is restricted to providing mediation, arbitration, teaching and consulting services. She litigated family and civil disputes for 14 years and then obtained an LL.M. in ADR at Osgoode Hall Law School. She used that experience to launch her ADR business, Riverdale Mediation, which specializes in family mediation and arbitration, teaching mediation and negotiation theory and skills, and private training and consulting for corporations, government and individuals.

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Cohabitating After Separation and Nesting: Considerations for High Conflict Co-Parents

Deciding to separate is just the first of many difficult decisions facing co-parents. Once it is evident that the relationship is over, questions about the future and the family begin to present themselves, and they present themselves fast and furious. Questions such as -where will the children live? Where will I live? Who if anyone is staying in the home?

Speaking with co-parents in mediation, at the court, and at the family law information centre, it is becoming more and more common to see co-parents continuing to reside in the residence together after a separation, or deciding to implement a nesting arrangement. In these discussions, the reasons people present for adopting one of these plans often varies, and at times reflects the difficulties and challenges that people are facing as they navigate the days, months and sometimes years post separation.

Often driving the decision to live this way is the belief that these arrangements will be beneficial to children in that they maintain stability and consistency and to a degree secure a sense of routine and normalcy for the children. Underneath it all, parents may also have fears of losing rights or claims to ownership, or may have concerns about how leaving the children may be perceived by the court or framed by lawyers. They may be locked in a power struggle or simply unwilling to let go, or perhaps can’t accept change. Others may fear the loss of identity or the psychological security that a family home provides. For others, it is a question of resources, and for some it is simply a question of needing more time to prepare and gather the necessary legal information to guide them towards an informed decision.

In reality, there may be pros and cons to each arrangement. The success and suitability of these arrangements will depend on multiple factors, primarily the degree to which co-parents can co-operate, communicate, and create a safe and supportive environment for the children. Where this ability is compromised as is the case with high conflict co-parents, or where there is the presence of domestic violence, mental health issues, addictions, or dysfunctional parent-child relationship, these types of living arrangements may be disastrous and extremely harmful. Of concern, is that we are seeing more and more of this. Of even greater concern is some co-parents apparent willingness to continue with these harmful arrangements for years.

The hallmark of high conflict parents is their inability to disengage and the continuation, and often escalation, of their conflict after separation. Perpetuating the dysfunctional dynamic, and not just exposing but immersing the children into their toxic relational mess is commonplace for these co-parents – As is their unwillingness or inability to change the arrangement despite receiving advice or information to do just that.

Speaking with children, it is evident that in these scenarios they are re-traumatized daily not just by the conflict, but by reliving the separation – One child in a recent interview disclosing that they are reminded that their parents hate each other every day and every day is another reminder that they are separating. Further, there is uncertainty every day as she and her sibling never know where they are going to end up living and with whom. In this scenario the child was aware that her parents fight over her and her sibling, and vocalized that she felt to a degree responsible – The externalized and internalized outcomes of this already evident in the child’s functioning as this state of limbo and delay of the inevitable meant the child was not able to move forward in emotionally processing the separation in a healthy way.

It could be argued that even in scenarios where there is moderate to low conflict that these residential options should be temporary at best. Further, moving forward towards a healthier disengaged residential arrangement may provide benefits for everyone involved. The longer the arrangement goes on, high conflict parents will inevitably find ways to sabotage the other parents parenting time. The end result is that the home, which was originally supposed to be a supporting factor for the kids and the rationalization for the arrangement, is now a place of diminished safety where the child may be at emotional risk in every room.

For parents entering these types of arrangements, it may be useful to consider a number of things. Firstly, that it takes significant planning to be successful in these arrangements and to make the arrangement supportive for the children. As parents, you will have to redefine and negotiate boundaries with each other and the children. It goes without saying that co-parents can create confusion for the children, especially if it has been made clear that only one parent is acting as parent on any given day – having to explain to a child who needs you that you can’t address that issue because it’s the others parent’s day will not be beneficial to them or your relationship in any way. Another consideration is a co-parent’s ability to stick to the nesting arrangement so that a parent does not show up during another parent’s parenting time resulting in confusion as well as conflict. And what of new partners, extended family, and other people who may come and go through the home? The list of considerations is lengthy and for high conflict parents, no issue is too small to be overlooked.

Again, this is not to say cohabitating after separation or nesting is always bad. Simply that one must be cautious in choosing to implement them, especially in the presence of certain factors, especially high conflict. Working with a mediator or mental health professional with expertise in this area may be of major benefit for parents considering navigating these tricky arrangements. In any event, separating parents should ask some direct questions of themselves. Mainly, if you want to separate and the situation is so bad, why remain in the same residence? Why keep yourself locked in that dynamic? And most importantly, why model this to your children? And If there is any doubt about your or the other co-parents ability to implement the arrangement in a healthy and supportive way, seek out the assistance of a trained professional as sometimes decisions made with the best intentions, or out of a sense of perceived necessity, may have unknown consequences, especially for children.


Jared is a registered social worker and an accredited family mediator with the Ontario Association for Family Mediation. Jared has a diverse professional and practice history, and has applied his skills in numerous community and clinical settings, including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Frontenac Youth Services, and the Distress Centre of Toronto.

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New Child Support Calculation Service

A new service for determining and adjusting child support for cooperative parents has been set up by the Ontario government.

Under the new service, which launched April 4, either parent may apply online to use the service.

The goal is to give parents who can cooperate with each other  an accessible and affordable way to establish and adjust child support each year if their incomes change.

An application form will determine eligibility. For example, if either parent or child lives outside Ontario, there is split or shared custody, there are complex income issues or the child is over age 17, the service will not be available.

Although the service is being promoted in select Ontario cities, it is available now to everyone.

This is an innovative approach to child support calculation, and will be of use to FDR professionals across the province.

Please visit this website for more information on arranging child support between yourself and the other caregiver.


Hilary Linton is a Toronto lawyer whose practice is restricted to providing mediation, arbitration, teaching and consulting services. She litigated family and civil disputes for 14 years and then obtained an LL.M. in ADR at Osgoode Hall Law School. She used that experience to launch her ADR business, Riverdale Mediation, which specializes in family mediation and arbitration, teaching mediation and negotiation theory and skills, and private training and consulting for corporations, government and individuals.


 

 

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The Power Of Lasagne

miniIMG_20160401_133258_hdrWe have been training community mediators in Grenada and St Kitts over the past month. The participants come from all walks of life and include teachers, pastors, retired government employees, social workers, police officers and youth workers. Many of the fact scenarios we have used in our role plays have their roots in North American culture but play out in any culture… some differently… but there are many universal similarities, one of which is food.

Some of you may have read in previous blogs about our neighbour with the barking dog and the other neighbour who sent an anonymous letter complaining about the noise. While the reaction in both countries was to say that dogs in the Caribbean live outside and bark, they all recognized that the real root of the conflict was the fact that neither neighbour had reached out to the other with a gesture of “welcome to the neighbourhood” or “hello I am your new neighbour”. Not surprising. We have enjoyed wonderful local dishes throughout our time here from freshly caught fish with coconut curry sauce to grilled lobster and conch fritters. But, the one angry neighbour in the role play exclaimed, “they didn’t even bring over a lasagne”. While 5 hours air travel north this would have been my mother’s welcome food of choice, it was a reminder of how some things tie us all together. Who would have thought it would be lasagne!!!!


 Elizabeth Hyde is the Principal of Medius Dispute Resolutions, the Executive Director of mediate393 inc. and an associated mediator, arbitrator, and parenting coordinator with Riverdale Mediation Ltd. Elizabeth’s practice is focused on providing effective and informed family mediation involving parenting plans, child and spousal support and property division.

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Culture and FDR

Our colleagues Christine Kim and Joanne Schaefer are on our teaching team in St. Kitts this week. They, along with Riverdale associates Elizabeth Hyde and Jared Norton are delivering training to 35 community leaders as part of the IMPACT Justice Project.


Exploring Culture in Mediation by Christine Kim

For the last few years, I’ve been exploring this idea of cultural competency in mediation. As a mediator based in Toronto, there is a lot of material to work with as it is a hub of diverse ethnic groups but culture is not just about ethnicity, it’s encompasses much more.

I am presently in beautiful St. Kitt’s teaching as part of the Riverdale Mediation team with Elizabeth Hyde, Jared Norton and Joanne Schaefer. As part of the teaching, we provide case scenarios. One of which involves a neighbor dispute regarding a barking dog. The upset neighbor gave an anonymous note to the dog owner complaining about the barking dog disturbing the sleep of her young children.

The reaction of the St. Kittitians reflects the collectivist values present in society. The shock of how a neighbor would even consider writing a note and in addition, an anonymous note did not make any sense to them as they would expect that they would come to the door and have a conversation with them. They spoke about how they all know their neighbours and had plenty of stories that reflect their relationship. Needless to say, the reaction to the anonymous letter was strong and their response to hold a community meeting to address the issue and restore the trust was a common theme in how to resolve this issue.

The desire of ADR/mediation in this community is aligned with many of the cultural values that are very much embedded in this society. The preservation of relationships and community is a priority. Although we are teaching mediation to the St. Kittitians, we have much to learn from them.

Negotiating the Heat: Day 2 in St. Kitts by Joanne Schaefer

Our mediation training team , Elizabeth Hyde, Christine Kim, Jared Norton and Joanne Schaefer are on Day 2 of our 5-day mediation training course in St. Kitts. After spending yesterday providing a high-level overview of on theories around conflict and negotiation, this morning we discussed the framework of mediation, the mediator’s role and the importance of neutrality and impartiality. We also had a lively exchange about the different skills mediators use to structure the process and empower clients to negotiate effectively.

This afternoon we are going to demo an intake interview and then hand it over to our students to work on a case study. As a group we are also going to work on reframing, re-stating and focusing exercises.


Christine Kim

Christine Kim is an experienced family mediator specializing in custody and access issues.With over twenty years experience in the social work field, Christine has worked locally and globally with diverse groups including street youth, seniors, women, and the LGBTQ community.

 

 

Joanne Schaefer is a certified professional coach and lawyer dedicated to getting, growing and keeping lawyers in practice. Joanne brings over 20 years experience to coaching law firms, lawyers and students, both as head of professional development and student recruitment and as a former commercial litigation partner.

 

 

Elizabeth Hyde is the Principal of Medius Dispute Resolutions, the Executive Director of mediate393 inc. and an associated mediator, arbitrator, and parenting coordinator with Riverdale Mediation Ltd. Elizabeth’s practice is focused on providing effective and informed family mediation involving parenting plans, child and spousal support and property division.

 

 

Jared is a registered social worker and an accredited family mediator with the Ontario Association for Family Mediation. Jared has a diverse professional and practice history, and has applied his skills in numerous community and clinical settings, including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Frontenac Youth Services, and the Distress Centre of Toronto.

 

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