Resolving Family Disputes Respectfully

Family Law - Litigation or Collaborative Practice?

By: Robert H. Croezen, MSW, RSW, Therapist, Collaborative Practitioner

(Note to Reader: I am sharing my Professional Opinion after 30 years of Professional Practice as a Mental Health professional. These views are my own. They may or may not be shared by the Professional Colleagues with whom I work.)

I have worked as a Mental Health Professional for over 30 years. For the past 18 years, I have worked primarily in the Field of Separation and Divorce. I conducted Custody Evaluations for 18 years and Supervised Custody Evaluators for 13 years in Ontario with the Office of the Children's Lawyer.

I moved to BC in 2013 and have been involved in Collaborative Practice since November 2013. In short, I practiced for 18 years in cases where there was active Family Law Litigation. Since moving to North Vancouver in 2013, I have been focusing my practice in Collaborative Practice as a Divorce Coach/Child Therapist. Since June 2014, I have been working as an Associate of Alyson Jones & Associates as a Parent Therapist/Coach; Child Therapist; Therapist within the "Family Forward Reunification Program and Collaborative Practice."

Despite being "Semi-Retired", I continue to be dedicated to working with Separating Parents who find themselves in a High Conflict Separation/Divorce. I have come to that stage in my career where I have concluded that there are very few "truths" when we examine cases involving High Conflict. And so I will share my clinical observations for the rest of this blog post.

I have practiced long enough to recognize a few things:

  • 1) What we believed 5 years ago, has changed dramatically! And 5 years from now, those of us who continue to be involved in this field of work will be surprised by what we believed to be true in 2015.
  • 2) The more we know through research/clinical practice, the less confident I become that we will ever find "The Truth". Our knowledge and our culture continues to change/evolve. We need to be OK with that.
  • 3) Clinical programs that complete "self evaluations", for the most part, create biased questionnaires, which often inflates actual success rates for marketing purposes.
  • 4) Family Law Litigation destroys families and parent-child relationships, making the development of child-focused, effective parenting plans virtually impossible.
  • 5) While the Family Law in BC holds the "Best Interests of the Child as Paramount", Family Law Litigants who go to trial get caught up in "winning or losing"! The children get lost and caught in the "Crossfire". It is very expensive, but more importantly, it costs children who may never recover.

Here are some common statements that I have heard from clients over the past 18 years: (Many of them have become "Common Myths".)

  • 1) High conflict cases can only be resolved through Family Law Litigation - MYTH
  • 2) High conflict cases are not suitable for Collaborative Family Law Practice - MYTH
  • 3) Collaborative Practice is more expensive than Family Law Litigation due to the number of Professionals who provide this service - MYTH

There are a handful of truths that I have come to truly believe, which include:

  • 1) Children's mental health and well-being is directly related to parental conflict.
  • 2) Children do better in the long term by having positive parenting relationships with both parents.
  • 3) Family Law Litigation destroys families, parent-child relationships, and children's health/well-being.
  • 4) Collaborative Practice offers an effective alternative to Family Litigation.

Collaborative Family Law Practice

Imagine a group of lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial specialists joining together with one Key Purpose - To assist parents to:

  • 1) Develop "Child-Focused Parenting Plans"
  • 2) Assist parents resolve easy to complex financial issues in a cost effective manner
  • 3) Develop protocols for minimizing conflict and maximizing child-focused remedies
  • 4) Allow parents to remain in charge of how they will parent their children.

Collaborative Family Law Practice is not the only method for resolving issues related to separation and divorce. However, I think it's one of the most effective approaches we have today.

For further information, feel free to contact one of the Collaborative Practitioners on the Collaborative Divorce Vancouver team.