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Working with high conflict personalities, I have always been open to approaches that can manage difficult issues with HCPs (High Conflict Personalities), without necessarily involving the courts every time there is a dispute, or transgression by a HCP.  One way of dealing with difficult personalities in divorce is to have a Parenting Coordinator involved in the case. What is a Parenting Coordinator (PC) ? Essentially, a PC acts as a middleman, referee, and dispute resolver.  The PC can make recommendations to a solution for a disputed issue.  In other words, the PC can act almost as a magistrate for the judge, and help the Court manage these difficult issues without court involvement.  Because the PC acts almost like a magistrate judge, some judges in the Family Courts do not like to appoint PCs, believing that they are essentially usurping the function of the judge.  However, for certain cases, it is my opinion that a Parenting Coordinator can be a valuable tool and resource in managing issues that arise with a HCP.

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Parenting Coordination began gaining recognition in the 1990s as a result of presentations and trainings first offered at conferences such as the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and by experienced Parenting Coordinators. Initially there were variations in role, source and degree of authority, and practice in different jurisdictions, and different titles were used to describe this innovative intervention model, including Special Masters, Co-Parenting Facilitators, or Mediator/Arbitrators. In 2003, AFCC appointed an interdisciplinary task force to develop Guidelines for Parenting Coordination to guide mental health professionals, mediators, and lawyers with respect to training, practice, and ethics (AFCC, 2006).

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Reading up today on divorce planning, the reminder was made that the summer is often the time that many people postpone thoughts of divorce. The reasons for this are many. Business during the summer with activities takes the attention away from difficult subjects like divorce. For many parents, it’s just enough making sure that the kids are having a good summer, and that summer trips or vacations are being taken before the kids go back to school.

Even if you are already decided that you wish to file for divorce, there are a number of things that you can do to make the eventual decision easier. None of these steps are disruptive, and the you and the children will enjoy the summer without thoughts of disruption or change. Here are a few themes to focus on during the summer:

1. Understand your financial position. It’s important to have access to financial records during the divorce process. It can be helpful to try to assemble as much of this information as is possible, so that when you meet with our office. we can have a general discussion of financial planning in the divorce process. Take a look at http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/forms/approved/divorce/financial_affidavit.asp in order to review the form that is now universally used in Illinois divorce cases as a guide for the lawyers and judges is assessing the financial condition of the parties.
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One of the hallmarks of my practice is the ability over the years to manage, and aggressively attack, Parental Alienation cases.  In order for an attorneys to effectively manage a case involving HCPs (High Conflict Personalities), personality disorders, and PA ( Parental Alienation), the attorney should have years of experience dealing with these cases, along with years of experience interfacing with clinicians that not only understand PA, but that are also willing to bring that expertise to the case and create, along with my work, and effective strategy to deal with the alienated children (through both legal and clinical channels), to create reintegration plans for the targeted parent, and to devise court orders that set sanctions and appropriate boundaries on the alienating parent.
Dr. Bone is a reliable expert commentator of PA and the issues surrounding litigating these cases:
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An interesting article from Florida’s Dr. Michael Bone:
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It is important to understand and recall that Parental Alienation is a form of child abuse. 
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J Michael Bone, PhD: Parental Alienation - YouTube

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My divorce and post decree clients that have people with traits of toxic narcissism often struggle with trying to explain or discuss what it can be like living with someone with such toxic traits, especially when the person is able to maintain a facade of normalcy on their work or neighborhood relationships.  Sometimes, I have to coach clients to understand that it can be difficult persuading others as to how emotionally damaging these relationships are, especially when the narcissist is “high functioning,” or otherwise able to disguise their abusive behaviors from the rest of the world.  Living with someone with a toxic narcissistic personality disorder can be brutal, especially when the narcissist uses the relationship to emotionally abuse their partner, and tries to turn children, neighbors, and even family members against the otherwise healthy partner.


Signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and the severity of symptoms vary. People with the disorder can:

  • Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
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This is a particularly good article that was sent by a past client of our Firm. I am fortunate that many of my current and past clients stay engaged with the literature and groups that deal with Parental Alienation, to the point that they wish to share the benefits and knowledge of what they may have acquired as we worked on their case, and the client witnessed for themselves the identification of these alienation scenarios and the strategies that I have developed (with the benefit of the insights of many great clinicians, authors and PA experts through the years).

This article is quite good and focuses on an important issue for today: Why We Persevere and Stay on Course for the Child Victims of Parental Alienation.   These children are being harmed by the PA.  Most love their targeted parent, but have been coerced and brainwashed to reject the loving parent.  This sentence, from Dr. Stines’ essay, captures the point: It is much easier to reject someone you know will never leave, than it is to reject someone you can barely hold on to.

Strategy, Perseverance, Patience. Three of my many keys to managing these cases.

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Questions come up from time to time about how parents are treated in Parentage cases ( where the parents are unmarried) vs. in a divorce case. Should fathers for example, be treated differently in a child custody case if they are not married to the mother of the child or children?  The answer in Illinois, fortunately, is no.  The Illinois Parentage Act borrows and connects with the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) and utilizes in Parentage cases the same child custody statutes that are used in divorce cases.  These days, parents are no longer awarded “custody,” but are awarded “allocations of parenting time.”

In a New Jersey case, the Parentage courts were expected to decide child custody issues in a speedy fashion, and it seems that this expedited approach robbed some fathers of the right to have a full hearing over child custody issues. A recent case there made the news, as the appellate court decided that the rules for parentage cases should follow the same rules and due process afforded in a divorce case.  Here’s a summary of that case for those interested in the details:

If the custody or parenting time of a minor child is at issue before a court, should the legal process differ depending on whether the parents of the child at issue were married?
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Dr. Michael Bone has a series of articles on Parental Alienation that are thoughtful and effective. One of the issues that he raised recently was the need for lawyers that represent targeted parents to “step up” and actually give voice (as I like to call it) to the reality that the other party is committing acts of PA, and making false allegations. In other words, it is not enough for a lawyer to simply defend a PA case.  In my view, the act of PA is child abuse, and if we look at PA from that angle, any parent that is committing a form of child abuse should be seen as an abuser, and the “target,”  as it were, needs to be painted on that offender’s back.  The Court needs to know that the alienating parent is guilty, culpable, and needs to be stopped and sanctioned by the Court.
Here below is Dr. Bone’s view on this issue:
” Very often, the targeted parent will have been accused falsely of being in some way dangerous, unstable or otherwise suspect as a parent. Since the court should always carefully examine any potential danger that such a parent might represent, it should then also recognize that the fact remains that parents are falsely accused of tendencies and acts that are not them.

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