Post-Separation Visitation Disputes: Differential Interventions







An investigation limited to access based issues. This will involve limited activity based on the following criteria. This activity ranges from 10 to 15 hours of clinical intervention.


Dispute centres on scheduling problems, e.g., there has been no access for a lengthy period; allegation of interference with access/relationship; impact of the parenting schedule on the children's well-being.

Dispute centres on scheduling problems and there are concerns about one parent that have been dealt with or resolved in some manner (e.g., drug and alcohol abuse and parent is in treatment, and/or parent has criminal convictions involving assault; CAS involvement and/or documented medical evidence and/or serious suspicion of abuse).

Where the dispute centres on specific aspects(s) of parenting (e.g., supervision by a parent, leaves the child with relatives during visits, meals, punitive parenting, denigration of other parent).

Where the dispute centres on specific aspect(s) of the parent-child relationship (e.g., discouraging a relationship between the child and the other parent, over-protectiveness and anxious attachment).


Concerns raised allege sexual abuse, or a pattern of physical abuse that warrant a full exploration of the concerns. Children's Aid Society is investigating physical and/or sexual abuse allegations.

Allegations of severe parental alienation (where the custodial parent is overtly and consistently influencing the child in rejecting the other parent and the child is mimicking the parents issues).

Mental health or behavioural concerns about the child or parent that warrant further exploration of the concerns.


Questions and interventions are future-oriented. Exploration of past history is minimal. Does not include investigation and report of who caused the marriage breakdown. All exploration of the past should be limited and the questions should begin to explore how to solve the problem.

A solution focussed approach involved examining the strengths of the family, their resources and motivating them to work toward a parenting plan for the children.

Use of collateral sources to assist in the development of a parenting plan.

Help the parties understand how their behaviour/conflict impacts on the children and what they can do to change it.

Do not encourage cooperation where it is not feasible and help high conflict parents reorganize into parallel parenting with recommended structures.

Following examination of possible arrangements, suggest a settlement meeting on possibilities for the family with their counsel (where appropriate).

A focussed report will be filed which identifies the issues addressed in the report, the current situation, brief description of the parties and the children, discussion and conclusion. These reports would usually contain the recommendations (and options) discussed with the parties.

The main issue is to focus the evaluation for the parents and child to be more child-focussed/solution oriented.

  • 1. Examine what prevents the parents from settling the dispute rather than focussing on the allegations made?
  • 2. What is the relationship between the child and the parents? Have them each describe what they hope for of their child now that they are separated?
  • 3. Explore what issues are creating an impasse? (i.e. unresolved feelings from the relationship, parenting characteristics)
  • 4. How is the impasse affecting the child's relationship with the parent? Address this with the parents.

What are the strengths and resources available within the family (i.e. friends, relatives, their own) to help resolve the impasse.

This framework may be used in a combination of different types of interviews. For example, parents together, parents with the child together, individual interviews.


Includes 10 hours of direct service contact e.g.:

  • One individual meeting with each party
  • (or joint meeting with parties) 3 hours
  • Meeting with children 1 hour
  • Meeting with children and parents
  • (in some cases could be done at same time) 3 hours

Includes 5 hours of indirect service:

  • Settlement meeting 2 hours
  • Collateral contacts, if necessary 2 hours
  • Report writing 3 hours


Explain our role and what you will do and not do. (Focus on future and problem-solving). i.e. I have read all the court materials and now I would like you to tell me what is your understanding of the dispute? How does this dispute affect you?

What needs to change? What can you change to make it better for your child/ren?

  • 3. If this dispute were over and everything was settled, what would you be doing with your time? How much time do you spend thinking about the dispute? Was there ever a time when you did not spend your time this way.
  • 4. "Reframing the fight": "You're really good at this/this takes an awful lot of energy. What would you be doing with your energy if your weren't putting it into this fight?" "If you gave up this 'job' (choose appropriate metaphor), what other job would you have?" may use "energy box" metaphor.


  • 1. Describe your child/ren? What are the effects of the conflict on your child/ren? What do you think will happen to your child/ren if the fighting continues? (Outline literature regarding conflict on children). What do you think your child/ren thinks/feels about the fighting? If you were child how would you be feeling/seeing things? What do you think this means for your child (getting that feeling, perception of the situation)? If you were your child, what advice would you be giving your parents?
  • 2. When have transfers worked well? Describe a situation when the transfers have worked well? What could you do to make it better?
  • 3. If you and your partner did not fight when he/she picked up the children, how do you think the children might feel, act differently?
  • 4. What are the other parent's strengths?
  • 5. What are your strengths? What would you like to add to your strengths as a parent? What would you like to change?
  • 6. How have you and your partner resolved disputes in the past? How could you and your partner resolve this matter?
  • 7. Assume the other parent does not change. What can you still do differently?



  • 1. When have the two of you been able to work things out with respect to your child/ren?
  • 2. What was different then? What helped then?
  • 3. What were you able to do to contribute to this more positive situation?
  • 4. What can you do so that he/she does not "push your buttons"? How can you react differently when he/she "pushes your buttons"?
  • 5. What can you do to build trust between yourself and the other parent?
  • 6. What would the other parent say about you if he/she were here?
  • 7. How could this be resolved using each of your strengths as parents?


  • 8. Tell me some solutions to this stalemate with the other parent that would be good for your child? There are a range of "good enough" solutions, so what other arrangements would meet the needs of your child/ren?
  • 9. What can you do to protect your child/ren from the fighting?




with both mother/father or individually depending on situation and orienting parents to process

explaining the process and our role (focus on problem-solving/future) i.e what do you think you are here for/I have read all this material, now tell me in your own words what the problem is? What is it doing to you?

ask what needs to change/how will they change it to make it better for the child

can give take-home exercises i.e. come back with an example of what the 2 of you resolved around your child

use metaphor of other problem-solving in other areas of life

have each parent describe child/parent relationship

explain the effects of conflict on children's adjustment i.e. use this session as an orientation for education


parent/child interview

can get each parent to explain about what they are doing there/what is happening (seeing the child early on shifts the parents into problem-solving and more child-centred paths)

have each describe their hopes for their child now separated

child interview alone if necessary and if old enough

contact school collateral if needed


work out different plans/options

work out problem scenarios for transfers


disclosure/settlement meeting with both parties and lawyers




(see Children's Lawyer Manual for more information)

Provides a picture of the family and its conflicts. Identifies who are the parties, children, parent-child relationships, parent-child history, the issues in dispute (custody and/or access), who brought the dispute to the court, why, relevant marital history and court history. Also describes current living arrangements, current and past visitation arrangements, including schedule and nature of contacts and daycare/after school arrangements. Assesses the current conflict, both in terms of the issues and concerns identified by the parents in terms of the individual family members' levels of adjustment and functioning as well as the child's. Information is obtained from significant collateral sources and a report is written with the view to addressing how the parents are able to meet the needs of the children.

The overall evaluation ranges from 25 to 35 hours of social work intervention.

Date modified: