Encounters        (continued from page 3)

The following are just a few of the many challenging situations that PC’s deal with that create ethical and process dilemmas. The PC process involves first a consensus building phase in which the PC attempts to assist the parents to mediate and reach consensus on issues on which they are unable to agree. If this is unsuccessful, then we move into a second phase where based on the information from the consensus building phase as well as other sources of information, the PC can make a determination which is a binding decision on the parties. This two phase process requires that the parties enter into the mediation, consensus building phase with a requirement that they disclose all relevant information, however if that phase is unsuccessful then that information can be used in the determination phase and if one parent disagrees with the decision, they may perceive that the information disclosed during the consensus building phase was used against them. I am sure you can appreciate that this can create a dilemma both for the PC and the parents as disclosure during a PC process differs from disclosure rules typically seen in a mediation process where information disclosed in mediation is kept confidential and not allowed to be used in any decision making process. This process dilemma can put a strain on the relationship between the parents and the PC, particularly for the parent who feels the decision went against their views and wishes. Potentially, it can damage the trust that has been established between the PC and the parents. It is essential that the PC clarify with the parents the rules of disclosure prior to entering into the consensus building phase. This is outlined in the PC agreement and can be discussed during their orientation.

A second dilemma occurs when one parent decides to unilaterally withdraw from the PC process. Although this is not allowed as stated in the PC Agreement and may even be outlined in a Court Order, there are occasions when parents do withdraw from the process because a decision did not go their way. This obviously creates a dilemma for the PC in that the PC is faced with several options; continue to act as a PC in the absence of the participation of one parent so as not to punish the other parent who is continuing to participate in good faith; write correspondence to the parties and their Counsel stating that the PC cannot act effectively and then withdraw from the file; thirdly, continue to act as a PC and invite both parties to submit information on issues for which there will be a determination, hoping that the non-participating parent will respond to the invitation; and fourthly, if a PC has been appointed by Court Order, then advise the Court in writing that this parent has withdrawn from the process and request direction.