Nicola Byrne is the Regional Services Manager at Better Place Australia. Nicola is a highly qualified and experienced mediator, with over 10 years’ experience as a dispute resolution practitioner. She has worked in the areas of family dispute mediation, elder mediation and alternate dispute resolution. Nicola has a Graduate Diploma in Family Law Mediation from La Trobe University, with a strong literary background and experience in the non-profit sector.
Reducing the risk of harm for a child with special needs when parents are separating (Oral Paper Presentation)
Better Place Australia has found that in a high percentage of mediations where there is a child with special needs, parents are often very divided over their perception of the child’s needs. It is quite common that one parent does not agree that there is anything wrong with their child. Their child is “normal” and “just needs more discipline”. They will state that the other parent does not know how to manage the child and that they never have any problems when parenting them. Both parents have usually had the initial consultations with pediatricians, GP’s, hospital and feedback from schools.
However, the common consequence is that one parent ends up taking the child to all their specialist appointments, and following a treatment plan, which the other parent will not use when the child is with them. Children with special needs require extra advocacy after separation. This means that some children are at risk of having one parent break all contact with them after separation. Other children are put in the predicament of their medication/treatment plan being stopped when they are with one parent.
Better Place Australia has been reviewing cases where separating parents have a child who has special needs and outlines the characteristics of these cases and has developed a model of care that is responsive to these situations.