The benefits of referring your client to a parenting consultant can be immeasurably valuable, especially during custody disputes.

By Plinio Garcia, Parenting Consultant

Over the past several decades the society we live in has evolved from two-parent households, where the parents stayed together “till death do us part”, to a new society of “blended families” consisting of birth parents, step parents, same-sex parents, adopted parents, and grandparents.  The role of these parents in our society is complex.

Our parenting consulting firm was formed to provide “parent counseling” in the form of parenting classes, parenting plans, and parental alienation consultation. As a parenting consulting firm, we see clients on a daily basis who are not represented by attorneys, or if they are, have become so frustrated with their case that they are about to terminate their relationship with their attorneys because they cannot afford the high cost of preparing the case.  Letting go of an attorney is usually a huge mistake. However, the client sees the money disappearing and many times letting go or firing the attorney seems like the only solution. Parenting consultants can help attorneys retain their clients.

The biggest problem with legal costs is the preparation to go to court. The attorney is completely dependent on the information the parents provide: statements, records, data, the numbers, and the narrative.  It’s up to the client to corral all this material and to fully participate in the legal process of dissolving the marriage and work out a custody and parenting plan.  This can be a time-consuming, energy-sapping process, but completely essential. It makes no sense to try to turn over all responsibility to the lawyer.

Everyone has heard the story of the client taking a shoe box of bills and receipts to a CPA the day before filing income taxes.  Parents who are involved in huge custody battles with their ex are no different than the client with the messy shoe box.  In fact, it is usually more complicated because there is a shoe box of bills and receipts and there is a shoe box filled with emotions and children.  You, as an attorney, want to help them out.  You really do!  However, you know that to organize this emotional and financial “mess” is going to take time and it’s going to take a lot of money.  You did not go to law school to be a therapist and a clerk.  Enter the Parenting Consultant.

Time and Cost Benefits to all Concerned

Hiring a parenting consultant can help your practice tremendously.  A parenting consultant functions like an intake social worker at a hospital that determines what services the client needs and the information the attorney will need.  Just as our parent classes helped parents understand the need for children to take responsibility for their actions, the parenting consultant can help the parents to take responsibility for making child-focused decisions regarding parenting time and custody and providing their attorney with the distribution and organization of the information needed such as timelines and narratives.  This will provide significant time and cost benefits to all concerned.

The most important role a parenting consultant serves is helping the parent communicate with the other parent effectively.  This is necessary for parents to keep “the best interests of the children” in the forefront. They may need help in dealing with the highly emotional aspects of the process to find coping techniques for the objective work ahead.  It is difficult to be objective when there is so much upheaval in the family structure.  They may need referrals to therapists, examiners, evaluators, and mediators.

Benefits of Referring Your Clients to a Parenting Consultant

  • Parenting consultants help parents create a timeline.  It seems easy to ask client for a timeline.  However, parents involved in challenging custody battles are emotionally traumatized, their priorities are scattered and frequently fail to see what is really important for you to use in court. A parenting consultant can help the client create an effective timeline at a reduced rate.  The attorney can then take that timeline and do what he or she was trained to do.
  • A parenting consultant can arm your client with the tools needed to make his or her case stronger such as parenting classes, parenting advice, and parenting strategies that the attorney can then present to the court to show that the client is doing everything possible to be an effective parent.  When your client has lost custody, sometimes a letter from a parenting educator is all the court needs to have to know that a parent is trying.  More important, the parenting consultant will tailor the class to your clients needs and not just offer a generic “here’s how to change diapers” course.
  • Parenting consultants can suggest psychotherapy and counseling strategies that help your client; can relay information that the attorney does not have the time to sort out; and can truly be a powerful confidant to the attorney and the client.
  • Parenting consultants can help clients prepare for court ordered evaluations.  Judges are over burdened with caseloads and many times rely on the advice of an evaluator to help them determine custody arrangements.  Sadly, not all evaluators are the same. A parenting consultant can assist in finding the best evaluator for your case. Sometimes they know who would be best for your client; sometimes they could do the research for you.  We all know that attorneys frequently have colleagues who are evaluators and can work well together with them.  However, is that evaluator the best for your client?  The parenting consultant can help the attorney determine that.
  • When there is parental alienation an effective parenting consultant can determine if there is parental alienation or not and create an effective strategy for the client and the attorney. The first thing we advise them to do is to stop what they are doing, breathe deep and review their case so as to come up with a strategy to minimize the psychological and financial damage involved in the custody battle.  Since these clients’ socio-economic backgrounds range from baristas and gardeners, to attorneys and network CEOs, they will need specific advice on what is the best strategy to ensure the best for them and their relationship with their children.
  • Parenting consultants can help assess the financial situation without the use of a forensic accountant (usually at a cost of several thousand dollars) and can come up with financial solutions for the client that sometimes the attorney and client cannot see.
  • Parenting consultants work to resolve parenting issues and provide parents with effective communication skills so their need for a consultant diminishes over time. The amount divorce impacts children is largely measured by how well parents can make decisions together and shield the children from conflict. Parents need to learn those skills, and we can help save time, money and stress for families.  They do the same for the judicial system by cleaning out the congestion on family court dockets.  As parenting consultants save time, money and stress for families, they do the same for the judicial system by cleaning out the congestion on family court dockets.

Parents who fight in court over the custody of their children have to learn that there exists “winning” strategies that protect their children emotionally and psychologically.  Parenting consultants are here to help the focus be “what is in the best interests of the children.”

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Plinio J Garcia is the CEO of Major Family Services. Major Family Services offers classes, consulting, books and educational materials that address  a broad range of unique parental training situations that can benefit all types of parents. www.majorfamilyservices.com