Conflict between separated parents can be divided in to three levels: low, medium and high.
Separated parents whose conflict is regarded as low can most often resolve their differences between themselves, or perhaps with the support of family or a trusted friend.
Separated parents whose conflict is regarded as medium or moderate typically require some third party assistance to resolve their differences. Common third party assistance includes lawyer-assisted negotiation or mediation.
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Separated parent whose conflict is regarded as high typically find themselves in long drawn out negotiations between their lawyers, or end up going to court to resolve their differences.
The Parenting Plan is the agreement between separated parents that sets out how decisions will be made that affect the children, how the responsibilities of parenting will be shared and how the children’s time between the parents will be distributed. Any other issue or matters that need to be clarified may also be included in a parenting plan.
The purpose of the parenting plan is to:
o Reduce the likelihood of conflict on matters affecting the children;
o Minimize distress while facilitating the growth and development of the children;
o Facilitate the positive relationship between parents and children and whoever else may be of significance to the children.
Depending on the level of conflict between parents, greater specificity may be required in the Parenting Plan document.
If you are in a high conflict situation with your co-parent where there has been much debate and involvement of legal assistance, courts, etc., then typically the Parenting Plan will be highly detailed.
Recognizing that even with a detailed Parenting Plan, conflict can still occur, it is important to include a section on dispute resolution. You must answer the question, “If disputes arise, how will you attempt to resolve them?”
Common dispute resolution strategies for parents who find themselves in high conflict situations include: mediation; parenting coordination, arbitration and litigation as a last alternative.
Prior to signing your Parenting Plan agreement, and in particular, for those parents who are in high conflict, it is important to have the plan reviewed by a lawyer. The purpose of the review is to make sure you understand what you are agreeing to, and that the language used is clearly understood.
A clearly detailed Parenting Plan can do much to mitigate conflict and facilitate peaceful co-existence.