HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS! – Family Law disputes.

Anyone who has seen the iconic 1980’s movie will recognise the conflict that can often arise between parents regarding the raising of children. It is hard enough to manage the differing parenting styles in relationships that are intact, but when parents separate the conflict can often be magnified.

What seemingly was once an annoying trait of the other parent during the time they were together becomes an intolerable act that places the children in alarming danger when the parents have separated. As a family law lawyer, this can often be one of the hardest things to manage.

It is understandable that a parent can ‘live with’ the disapproving ways of the other parent during the course of the relationship. After all, the parent is close by to look over the other and is able to step in if things get out of hand. But after separation, the children are spending many nights per year in a different home. Who knows what might be happening when they are not around? Perhaps, like in the movie, dad has invented a machine that inadvertently shrinks the kids!

I am certainly not meaning to be flippant about parent’s genuine concerns and of course, it is no laughing matter when children are placed in serious danger. But it is my experience, in the context of a family law dispute, it is often the case that each parent has never taken the time to consider how the other feels about what is happening. I often have to say to clients, “It is not about whether you think what you are doing is reasonable, it is how the other parent feels about it.”

That’s why communication is vitally important for separated families. I am constantly encouraging clients to find ways to constructively communicate with their former spouse. If one parent thinks the other is overreacting, what is it that can be offered to ease their anxiety about what is happening when the children are in the other home?

I accept that it is never easy. Unlike in Hollywood, there is not always a happy ending where the warring parties kiss and make up. But I find, however, that those people who try hard to look for a solution rather than fighting back fare much better in resolving their family law dispute than those who want to make the other parent understand why their view is right.