Article written by Nardine Collier
Family Lawyer Cairns & Alice Springs
Another role I have is what is called an Independent Childrens Lawyer (ICL). The job of the ICL is to present an independent view to the court as to what is in a child’s best interests, and one of the best things about the role is that you can talk to children who are involved.
An ICL is only appointed once there are court proceedings and usually where there is high conflict between parents. So, it’s hardly surprising that what a lot of kids say is the one thing they want more than anything, is for Mum and Dad to stop fighting. It makes children feel incredibly sad when their parents fight. Even with the best intentions kids end up right in the middle of their parent’s conflict and often feel they have to choose. Mostly, kids don’t want to choose. They love both parents and they don’t want to upset either one. An adult would find it very hard to choose between two loved ones, so imagine how hard it is for a child.
Conflict between parents puts an incredible burden on children and can result in poor performance at school, emotional issues, behavioural problems, often long lasting psychological trauma. Every parent will say they would never hurt their child, not realising that unresolved parental conflict does just that.
I heard something very powerful in court the other day from Judge Willis, Federal Circuit Court Judge. She had two parents before her, who had been in high conflict for years. She told them that it “was time to lay down your weapons”. “Put up a white flag”, she said, “just be parents, and help your child through this.”
She also made the comment that it is hard enough to co -parent when you are together let alone when you are not. Any separated parent knows how true that is and how hard it can be when the conflict between you prevents you from talking to each other as parents. How can you move forward?
This where family dispute resolution – mediation – can help. Even if there has already been an attempt at mediation (which in most cases has to happen before an application can be filed) – give it another go. It is never too late. Resolving conflict is like quitting smoking, as soon as it stops, the damage starts to heal!
There are a number of excellent private mediators in Cairns who specialise in family law disputes; and there are great services such as Relationships Australia and the Queensland Legal Aid Conferencing program.
Mediation gives you the chance to ‘lay down your weapons’, to find ways to put aside the conflict and focus on the way forward for your children.
Not only can Mediation resolve disputes, it helps you come up with strategies to improve communication between you so you can get on with the job of being the very best parent you can be.