Tuesday, March 29, 2011

HCI Interviewed by Deborah Moskovitch @ The Smart Divorce

This morning HCI was interviewed by Deborah Moskovitch regarding High Conflict People. We'll be back with an audio link ASAP. We talked about HCPs, Splitting, Child Alienation, and our New Ways for Families methodology.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Divorce and Mediation in Sweden

I just gave an all-day seminar to approximately 300 family law social workers in Sweden who do divorce mediations and evaluations. Sweden does not have weapons screening at court (because they can’t have weapons in the cities) and only about 7% of cases even go to court (closer to 15-20% in U.S.). But they also have domestic violence, abused and alienated children. So they were very interested in learning about methods for handling high-conflict families. Beautiful people! Beautiful country!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

CLEBC All Day Training

I was in Vancouver, British Columbia, recently giving an all-day seminar on Handling High Conflict Personalities to nearly 100 family lawyers. A sharp group of people who really want to help their clients – from dealing with domestic violence to alienated children to difficult opposing lawyers. They see both sides of these problems and really seem committed to calming cases while seeing that the best decisions are made. And I got to see Vancouver - rain and sun!

Bill and a CLEBC staff member in British Columbia (Continuing Legal Education for British Columbia)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Should there be a 50-50 Parenting Presumption in Divorce?

In general, I am a strong proponent of shared parenting, at least 70-30, and many of my clients have 50-50 shared parenting. Even in high-conflict cases, I find that “parallel parenting” can work - with no contact between parents, but each with significant time, even up to 50-50 depending on the case. In high-conflict cases there is such a tendency for family and professionals to become emotionally hooked by a high-conflict personality (HCP) parent, that decisions often go against the more reasonable parent at the beginning and possibly throughout the case.

Therefore, to protect against the risk of restricting or eliminating the wrong parent, I believe it is best to have both parents have significant time. Even with 30% of the parenting time, a reasonable parent can help the child learn the important lifetime skills of flexible thinking, managed emotions and moderate behaviors, even when the other parent is demonstrating the opposite.

However, I’m not yet ready to go as far as a presumption for 50-50. I believe that the best approach is for the court to require parents to strengthen their conflict-resolution skills before the big parenting decisions are made, such as with a program like our New Ways for Families method developed by High Conflict Institute. If the court imposes a 50-50, some research shows that children feel trapped and resentful, and I have seen some high-conflict parents do everything they can to sabotage it. I believe it is better to require high-conflict parents to learn some skills to help them make better decisions, rather than just sending them on their way with an order that they will be unlikely to fulfill.

From everything I have observed, as a social worker and as a family lawyer, I think it would be better for the courts to stay out of making custody and access decisions, and just focus on protective orders when necessary – such as in cases of abuse and cases of alienation (which are a form of emotional abuse). The courts should resist the urge to make parenting decisions for competent adults. Instead, the courts should expect parents to make these decisions in mediation, collaborative divorce or other negotiation settings. If they have difficulty doing so, then the courts should require parents to learn/strengthen skills to make their decisions themselves – so long as they are within a reasonable range (such as 70-30). This way the children and the reasonable parent have a chance for a more normal life, in contrast to having a 50-50 imposed and then dealing with the subsequent chaos with an HCP parent who is outraged and has no new skills.

With all of that said, I think the existing “parenting contest” to determine who is the “better” parent is not working and often harmful, especially to the children. Therefore, unless a better approach is developed, I predict that 50-50 will become a presumption within 5-10 years, even though it’s not my first choice.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Huffington Post talked to HCI about High Conflict People and Divorce

Excerpted from the above article...

Charlie Sheen keeps telling us he's special, but is he really that unique? We've read volumes about the king of custody battles, Alec Baldwin. We've followed the ranting of Mel Gibson, most recently from recorded tapes leaked by his ex-girlfriend during their child support battle.
And now we have Charlie Sheen's statements as he fights with CBS executives over his sitcom, Two and a Half Men. As CBS takes steps to "divorce" Sheen from his TV role, Sheen is quoted as saying: "[We're] definitely at war. The war is that they are trying to destroy my family, trying to take all my money, leaving me with no means to support my family."
Click on the provided link to read the full article by Alison Patton.