Alternate dispute resolution puts children’s needs first
Supporting Island families -
When parents separate, there can be a lot of wrangling over major decisions. It's Darrell Gallant’s job to help them put the fighting aside and deal with the important decisions about the children they share.
As a mediator in the Family Court counsellors’ office, Gallant offers the option of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to help parents reach agreements that work for the parents and the children. He says when parents have issues around custody and access, ADR agreements can be a less expensive, and less adversarial alternative to the court system.
Gallant said his work involves helping parents recognize their shared interests and goals in raising a child. He helps them move away from seeing their disagreement as a win-lose situation and instead to consider approaches that allow both sides to have their needs met.
“Sometimes, it is a bit of perspective shifting that may be needed,” he said. “You may start looking at it like ‘he never does what he promises’ or ‘she always has to get her own way.’ It may be better to take a different perspective such as ‘What do you think your five-year-old needs?’”
“Children need to feel safe and most children want to spend good amounts of time with each parent and not be away from either parent for too long. Children want to feel loved. They need to be able to transition between homes without being exposed to conflict.”
Gallant begins every mediation session by working with each parent individually to establish what they want and need when it comes to child custody and access. He said the initial talk may be focused on anger or disappointment with the other partner, but parents can generally move on to effective, child-focused negotiation.
“It may be surprising, but sometimes people who can’t be in the same room or look at each other can work effectively with the alternative dispute resolution approach. It can be a question of identifying common goals and working toward them.”
Government is working to protect children in high-risk situations, prevent high-risk situations from occurring, and to give children a stronger voice. Alternative dispute resolution is part of government’s efforts to support Island families by helping children when they need it most.