Sabtu, 29 Juli 2017

Mothers Don't Get Preferential Treatment in Custody and Parenting Cases

Many of my clients have discussed with me their parenting and custody questions and have an assumption that the mother (in a heterosexual couple) will, by default, have priority in a custody or parenting issue in law. It is true that historically, courts used to assume that after a divorce or separation, the children were always best off living with their mother. This view reflected society's notion that women were naturally better caregivers than men, and that as such, children should stay with their mothers post-separation. This was an particularly prevalent view when the children were young, as children of "tender years" were assumed to need their mother's connection, and the role of the father was de-emphasized. Nonetheless, as a family lawyer, it is clear to me that family law courts now weigh a wide range of considerations in making determinations of custody, access and parenting arrangements. It is no longer true that there is a presumption in favour of the mother getting sole custody or primary parenting of the children. Conversely, there is no presumption that fathers should have a lesser or minimal role in their children's lives.

Family courts emphasize the best interests of the children. As such, any custody, parenting or access arrangement should foster the children's best interests. In almost all cases, it is assumed that the children's best interests are served by their having a good relationship with both parents. If it is possible and reasonable, children may spend roughly equal amounts of time with each parent. If such an arrangement isn't practical, the children will live most of the time with one parent, who will be the 'primary residential parent.' It would then normally be expected that an arrangement be made that maximizes the children's time with the parent they don't live with.

Courts often try not to vary the children's home life arrangements and schedule with their parents too drastically from the status quo. This means that if a child has been living exclusively with one parent and has not spent any time with the other parent, the court will be cautious in introducing parenting time for the parent the child doesn't live with. It is thought that the best interests of the children, especially young ones, includes refraining from extreme changes from their status quo. However, it is likely that, barring critical factors to the contrary, the court will see it as in the child's best interests to develop or maintain a relationship with both parents.

It is extremely rare that one parent will be excluded entirely from having time with their children. Even if there is a great geographic distance between the parents, and even if the parents themselves don't get along, if the non-custodial parent wants to see their kids, they will generally be given the opportunity to do so. To do otherwise would be to take away the children's right to grow up with both parents involved in their lives.

If a court is involved in determining a custody and parenting arrangement, the court will consider where the parents live, their work schedules, the children's activity schedules and ages, the role that each parent has played in the children's lives up to this point and the ability of each parent to care for the children in making the final determination. Courts will not give preferential treatment to a male parent over a female parent in determining custody or parenting schedules, as these are not relevant considerations as to the best interests of the children.

Let's look at an example. The parents of 10 year-old twins have recently separated and both want the children to live with themself. Parent A lives close to the school that they children have attended for the past four years. Parent A has a flexible work schedule that allows him to pick the children up after school and take them to their after-school activities. Prior to the separation between the parents, Parent A was the primary caregiver of the children. He took time off work to take the children to medical appointments, for school activities and to attend with them at their after-school hobbies. Parent B lives far away from the children's school and works long hours at work. Given her isolated location, there is nobody that could assist with after-school child care or to help take the children to after-school activities. In fact, it may not be possible for the children to continue with their hobbies if they move in with Parent B. Additionally, Parent B doesn't have a driver's license or automobile. Parent B did not have much involvement with the children's lives prior to separation. Given these factors, it is likely that while both parents will have custody of the children, they will have their primary residence with Parent A and will have parenting time (access) with Parent B.

Parents should always remember that they are entitled to draft their own parenting schedules and arrangements, which can then be made into a formal agreement or even a court order. Parents can work on their own, use a trained mediator, or seek the assistance of collaborative legal professionals to come to an agreement. Given the wide range of parenting schedules and options that are available, and the uniqueness of each family's situation, it is often the parents who can think of the best arrangement and schedule for their children. It is therefore always worth the parents' efforts to try to come to an agreement before going before the courts.

Nonetheless, should it be necessary to present your custody or parenting matter to the courts, do not make the mistake of assuming that the female parent will receive any preferential treatment. The judge will make a decision based upon his or her belief as to what is best for the children. Given that it is no longer assumed that a female parent is a better caregiver than a male parent, there are no grounds for a court to determine that the children's best interests are better served simply by living with a female parent if all other factors are equal.


Rabu, 12 Juli 2017

Effective Parent Teacher Conferences

Effective Teacher Parent Conferences (The Steps to holding)

After conducting an informal survey of elementary school parents regarding parent- teacher conferences and what they feel would better serve them as parents and you as a teacher.

The reoccurring theme throughout most of the responses was clarity of how their child is performing and recourses they can use at home to help their child. This was prevalent with Exceptional Student Education (ESE) parents.

With that in mind I have come up with suggestions that will help you, the classroom teacher, better meet the needs of both students and parents. After all, we are providing a service and the parents are our stakeholders. It's as simple as 1, 2, and 3!

1. Develop Respect and Rapport, 2. Be prepared, and 3. Follow through.

Develop Respect and Rapport:

• As soon as you meet the parent, maintain certain eye contact. Repeat the parent's name and acknowledge the student's name. This may happen at a meet your teacher event.

• Your demeanor and physical appearance will set the tone for all future interactions. If you act timid, uncertain or aloof, you will be treated as such. If you are too aggressive you may cause a shut down with both parties. Students will tell you how their parents feel about you, oftentimes with great joy, even after being warned by the parent not to tell.

• If you teach in a tight-knit community, your reputation will spread like wild fire. As unfair as that may seem, it is a reality. Let's make that reality a positive one.

(If you are a new teacher, never say this is my first teaching job. It is a sure way to instill doubt and uncertainty in parents. You have interned. "I've taught first grade at XYZ Elementary. It's not being deceitful, because you have.)

Be Prepared:

• When requesting a conference have a start and end time. I personally give 20-30 minutes. (If the parent is late, reschedule if you cannot finish by your end time.) Stick to the end time as it will let the parent know you are a professional and your time is valuable.

• You must have your conference notes, work samples and informal notes ready. Nothing screams incompetent like a teacher rifling through papers. Imagine your medical doctor doing that upon your visit. Scary.

• Items needed: Most recent D.R.A., Classroom weekly Tests, Running Records, class work samples and an on level text.

• Take notes. Have your clipboard ready. Start your conference with a positive. ALWAYS. Parents need to hear that you see their children in a positive light. Then address your greatest concern first. One concern. Do not inundate the parent with a grocery list of concerns. That will cause an immediate shut down. If, for example your student is below level in reading. That is the issue you need to address. There may be other issues that grow from that lack of skill, but let's keep it manageable for both you and the parent.

• SAY IT LIKE YOU WOULD WANT TO HEAR IT AS A PARENT! I cannot emphasize this enough. You are talking about their baby, their child! You must use positive phrasing and always give them a sense of hope. If you put the parent on the defensive, you might as well conference with a pencil. That parent is his child's voice. If that parent doesn't feel safe or that his child is safe, it's over. Talk to the pencil!

• You might start off with, "I need your help with a problem I have identified through these samples, Reading Comprehension." Listen to the parent. Take note of what they say. Do not let them see what you're writing. If asked, you inform them that you're noting their concerns.

• You keep in control of the conference. Avoid it becoming a gripe session about the child's past poor teachers. Redirect the parent each and every time they go off on a gripe. Statements like, "This is how I am going to help your child." Let's focus on how we can help your child now." Keep them in the here and now.

• Provide the parent with the Intensive response to intervention that will be done on your part. What does it look like? How often will it occur? How will you measure success?

• Elicit the parents' help. You will get "buy- In" if you include the parent in the solution.

• Provide the parent information (a plan) on EXACTLY how they can help. Have both an intensive plan and a minimal plan. NEVER suggest tutoring unless you are willing to pay. (That also applies to suggesting medical or psychological evaluations.) Most school districts have in place a warning that if you do suggest outside services, you will be assessed those fees. Watch your wording carefully. You are a professional, but not a doctor or psychologist.

Follow up:

• Explain how you plan to follow- up with your conference. I, for example, tell a parent that I will send home graded work with all students on Wednesdays (each week) in the Red PTA folder.

• Communicate through, Emails, texts, and a weekly behavior/ communication sheets and daily planners are ways you will here from me.

• Weekly Newsletter, sharing class news.

• Inform the parent that you will follow- up with how the plan is doing, both at home and at school.

• Allow the parents an out. Some parents cannot work with their own children. Elicit from them possible solutions to this problem. Do NOT suggest, but if they suggest on getting a tutor, you are putting the ball in their court. They suggested it. Tread lightly here. You might say,"Oh, if YOU think that might help, then by all means." You cannot be that tutor. That is clearly a breach of your professional license. Avoid giving suggestions. You clearly want to steer clear of any inferred connection.

Helpful Extras:

• Never hold impromptu conferences unless there is a medical or family emergency where you are listening only.

• Join your union! It will protect you from ineffective administrators that call you up to the office to FACE OFF with parents. (Politely respond. "I am not prepared to discuss this child at this time.)

• If your administration requires you to do so, ask that your union representative sit in with you, AFTER you have stated again to all parties you are unprepared for conference.

• Parents may not abuse you in any way. If they become unruly or begin yelling, politely stand up turn on your heal and proclaim that this conference is over and head toward administration. If you are alone, which you should not be, and in fear for your safety, have your cell phone ready by your side, call 911 and get out into the open where you can be seen by others.