In March, 2013, the new Family Law Act was launched in British Columbia. Although a number of changes had been made in all matters governed by this act, what has stood out for me are first, the emphasis on encouraging parents to engage in alternate dispute resolution rather than court process, and second, and most importantly, that the only consideration in developing parenting plans are the best interests of the children. The law clearly specifies the factors to be reviewed in determining their interests. The law also states that children will have their voices heard unless there is good reason to refrain from doing so, rather than the other way around as it had been. There has never been more reason to engage a child specialist in a separation than there is now.
During a separation, even parents who have functioned as an effective parenting team – both largely sharing a common perspective and understanding of their children’s needs and their parental responsibilities of meeting them – can experience conflict about what their children need and what family life should look like post-separation. This is because it is a very emotional time and fears arise for the well-being of their children and of their parent-child bonds. During this time, children may well be talking with their parents about their concerns, but the parents may be hearing different things. Just as parents need emotional support to manage their own feelings and behaviour during such a turbulent time, children also need emotional support.
Within a collaborative process, the child specialist has clearly defined parameters for involvement as part of the collaborative team. It is largely a consultative role, where feedback is given to parents in the presence of their divorce coaches, who then carry on working with parents in developing the specifics of their parenting plan. The child specialist may be further consulted as required through the process.
I am available to provide child specialist services to parents who may be utilizing a different legal process. Every situation is unique and together we can explore what my role can be given who is involved in the negotiation and what the specific concerns are.
However, I do not provide reports for court purposes. It is important to me that parents be able to engage with each other in using the feedback provided constructively. We need to work together in developing a parenting plan that meets the needs of your children as ultimately, children most need their parents to be allies in the business of raising them.