Specialized Forensic Services
Parenting Plan Evaluations
When parents cannot agree on issues surrounding decision-making for their children, parenting time, or other separation related issues, the Courts or parents, may request the appointment of a Parenting Plan Evaluation (formerly known as custody/access assessment) under Section 30 of the Children’s Law Reform Act.
A parenting plan evaluation is a complex and comprehensive process. The assessment involves a detailed investigation of a family’s situation through extensive interviews of parents, the children, significant family members and community contacts, such as the child’s school, therapists, and doctors. At times, psychological testing may be required. Additionally, observations of each parent with the children will take place in various settings.
After obtaining detailed historical information and a fulsome understanding of the current dynamics perpetuating the conflict recommendations are provided with a focus on the best interests and developmental needs of the children involved.
A disclosure meeting is typically held whereby all findings are reviewed together with the parents and legal counsel. It is hoped that the development of a detailed parenting plan can facilitate settlement between the co-parents with the restoration of healthy relationships. Assessments typically take between 45 to 60 hours and average around four months; however, this can vary from family to family. A comprehensive report may be provided upon request.
Voice of the Child Reports
When parents separate, significant decisions are typically made impacting the day-to-day lives of the children involved. Finding ways to include children’s participation in these decisions is often referred to as promoting “the Voice of the Child”.
There is growing recognition in the social science research literature on the value of children expressing their views and preferences and parents’ considering their input during their post-separation planning. This is particularly the case among older children who may wish to share their views about major decisions impacting their lives. Parents are also more likely to settle their disputes if they understand how their children see their situation and understand what is important to them.
Given the recent demand in meeting with children prior to drafting post-separation parenting plans, clinicians at Mackenzie Clinic will meet with the children to understand their views and preferences. The clinician will ensure the child(ren) understand their role to avoid feeling potential loyalty conflicts or pressure during this difficult time.
A report will be prepared and issued to parents and respective counsel. This report shall detail the themes discussed with the child, and his or her perspectives on a range of issues identified during the meetings. On its own, a Voice of the Child Report does not provide a thorough mental health assessment or a complete analysis of the child’s needs or best interests.
Family mediation is a dispute resolution method commonly used for resolving issues related to separation and divorce. It is a voluntary process where a neutral third party helps clients discuss and resolve family issues that often arise in the context of separation.
Decades of research findings reveal that mediation is less expensive, less time consuming and less stressful than litigation. The advantage of mediation is that it allows parents to make their own tailored agreements regarding the care of their children making for more personally satisfying agreements. The mediation process also encourages better communication skills and provides an opportunity for parents to work cooperatively and collaboratively with one another.
Dr. Polak is an accredited family mediator in Ontario. She has been trained to act as a neutral professional when mediating disputes between parents and families. She is able to combine this skill with education and information specific to child development within the context of separation and divorce. Through the process of mediation, Dr. Polak will help you develop a detailed parenting plan customized to the needs of your family and developmental needs of your children.
“We came to the mediation process with Dr. Polak with the goal of creating the best possible parenting plan for our children, while minimizing conflict, resentment, and cost. And that’s exactly what we have achieved. We now have a comprehensive parenting plan that we believe in, and which is easy to follow. Dr. Polak has facilitated this process with all the compassion, professionalism, and efficiency that we could hope for. She helped us resolve our differences on many issues, avoid conflict, and always (always) put the children’s best interest in the center.”
Parent Coordination Services
Parenting coordination is another dispute resolution service designed to assist high conflict parents. A Parent Coordinator (PC) is a mental health professional or lawyer with experience and knowledge in the areas of separation/divorce, high conflict, child development, parenting plans, family systems, domestic violence and relevant legislation.
While parents may have a final separation agreement or a final Court order, there are often small day-to-day matters that do not get included in the parenting plan but present a significant amount of conflict between co-parents. Research shows that this type of inter-parental conflict has the most detrimental effects on children’s emotional and psychological well-being and long-term outcomes. The assistance of A PC can help reduce this type of inter-parental conflict.
Parenting Coordination includes elements of education, coaching, mediating, and at times, arbitrating. A PC will attempt to minimize parental conflict by helping co-parents develop more effective problem-solving skills, communication skills, and enhancing mutual trust and respect.
In cases where there is a dispute and parents are unable to come to a mutual agreement during the mediation phase of the PC process, the PC has authority to make final and binding decisions while keeping the children’s best interests at the forefront.
Alternatively, a two-person PC model can be suggested whereby the use of a neutral co-retained family lawyer is used to fulfill the arbitration function.
A clinician from Mackenzie Clinic will work with an individual parent or co-parent dyad in a confidential setting to help improve skills and coping in high conflict situations. A co-parenting coach will assist parents recognize behaviors that may cause more conflict or make life more difficult for children growing up between two homes. A co-parent coach can help you learn to replace unwanted behaviors with those that encourage more favorable transitions for your children. Further, the clinician can provide orientation and consultation to assist you in navigating the compounding legal process.
Therapy for Parent-Child Contact Problems (i.e. reintegration therapy)
Clinician’s at Mackenzie Clinic have been trained to provide reintegration therapeutic services for families in which children resist-refuse contact with a parent post-separation. These circumstances are complex with multiple factors contributing to the dynamics of the parent-child contact problem. Clinician’s employ a family systems model, working comprehensively with all family members to assist in building healthier alignments and repairing strained parent-child relationships when these dynamics are present.
Dr. Polak also conducts an intensive multi-day reintegration therapeutic program. Please see familiesmovingforward.ca for more information on this intensive residential reintegration program.
“We came to Mackenzie Clinic during a difficult time in our family’s lives. We found Dr. Polak and the rest of her team to be highy skilled professionals who dealt with our complex situation with sensitivity, care and most important compassion. I would highly recommend Dr. Polak, and her associates, to parents going through the difficulties encountered with separation.”
“Exceptional clinical service and care”
Individual counselling for children/adults involved in high conflict divorce and/or court system
Counseling around separation and divorce issues can be useful for any family member that is struggling with some aspect of the separation/divorce process. This may include any of the following:
- Children who are being negatively influenced by one parent about the other parent.
- Children facing challenges with the transitions resulting from the separation
- One parent facing difficulty emotionally disengaging from his or her ex-partner.
- A parent or child who has a lot of negative emotions towards another family member (i.e. anger, fear, betrayal, lack of trust).
Healthy Relationships and Healthy (Co)Parenting
Ms. Furman is now offering the Healthy Relationships and Healthy (Co)Parenting Therapeutic Program. This program is specifically designed for father’s post separation/ divorce and is focussed on building parenting capacity and improving their interpersonal relationships.
Individuals who participate in this therapeutic process will deepen their understanding of the impacts of conflict on their child(ren), have a deeper understanding of how their own experience of being parented influences their parenting style and choices as well as understanding and developing skills abilities and confidence in setting loving limits and boundaries for their child(ren). Our work together is centered on developing an awareness of and responsibility for your parenting choices and parenting actions which may have included hurtful behaviours and negative choices.
Dr. Polak provides Case Consultations for mental health and legal professionals in the following areas:
- Parenting plan evaluations
- Parent-child contact problems
- Reintegration therapy
- Domestic violence
Mackenzie Clinic provides safe, secure and structured visits for children visiting a parent or other significant adult(s) where there are concerns in regards to the safety of the children or the adults’ ability to provide appropriate parenting is in question. We provide complete visitation services to allow for independent, neutral observation and reporting on all activity during the visits.
Supervised access services provided by Mackenzie Clinic ensures that Court Orders are followed and directions are adhered to while, at the same time, allowing for a positive child/parent visit void of conflict and other parental issues.
Our visitation services are provided in home, in the community, and in other neutral settings. We can also offer an office environment in Richmond Hill, ON. The dates and times of our visitation services are flexible, to meet the needs of individual families, and services are offered seven days per week.
For supervised visitation services, we provide, upon request, observation reports that detail all child/parent activity that occurred during the visitation period. These reports are not assessments or evaluative in nature.