Most divorce cases before the Family Court are fraught with emotion, which prevents a couple from addressing and attempting to resolve the issues between them.
If negative emotions are removed, there is a good chance of an amicable settlement being reached in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
To assist divorcing couples, I strongly advocate mandatory pre-filing counselling and mediation. These should continue even after the divorce suit is filed, until parties are able to resolve their emotional issues.
Child access is often one of the most contentious issues between a divorcing couple. The emotional stress faced by the parents is often transferred to the issue of child access. Allegations of child alienation and lack of access or restrictive access are issues that family lawyers face in their daily work.
Sadly, the parents fail to appreciate that their emotional war affects the child emotionally as well as his future relationships. The child's best interests espoused in our laws are mere displays of lip service if we do not place the child, and his needs and wishes in the centre of the parents' emotional battle.
The current state of law does not provide satisfactory legal solutions to the access-deprived parent and the child. Social service centres tasked to assist with access problems are also at their wits' end.
Enforcement of access orders or punitive remedies such as imposing fines on defaulting parents do not remedy the problems. A hybrid scheme of mediation and counselling may be the best way to assist parents to be better equipped to start their new relationship as co-parents, and to provide the child with his basic entitlement of a balanced and happy childhood and future.
This article was first published on May 23, 2014.
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