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Steps to intervene and effectively address Hostile- Aggressive Parenting
- Symptoms of HAP

- Underlying causes of HAP

- Observable effects from
  exposure to HAP

- Severe HAP

- Addressing & dealing with HAP

- Role of the community

- Sanctions for HAP

- How to help

- HAP documentation (PDF)
In all cases, identifying an HAP parent is not meant to vilify any parent in the process, nor should a person who has been identified as HAP be automatically deemed incapable of being a good parent. Identification of HAP is part of the process to clearly identify what a parent is doing wrong and to clearly show what kind of behaviours the parent is engaging in that is wrong. When it comes to HAP, it is not the past history of HAP that is the most important, but the ability and willingness of the person(s) involved to correct their undesirable and harmful HAP behaviour and to work towards a more productive relationship with their child and with other members of the child’s family.

In all cases, one of the main purposes of the intervention process is to give all parties (usually both parents) the fair and equal opportunity to correct their behaviour during a process of education, while at the same time provide relief to any children who may be adversely affected by HAP. One main objective of the courts and those in the community when helping families of separation and divorce should be to help make all parents in the community the best parents possible, not to just vilify those identified as problem parents based solely on their past history. Unfortunately, the current court process is far too focused on laying blame on one parent and then to make decisions which punish one parent by making one parent less of a parent than the other, often relegating that parent to the role of being an “every other weekend” non-custodial parent.

During the intervention process any parent/party identified as HAP should feel reassured that their right to have a meaningful lifetime relationship with their child will be assured should they demonstrate their willingness and ability to act in the best interest of their child by correcting their HAP behaviour. Fairness and equal opportunity must be ensured to parents during every step of the intervention process as unfairness is one of the primary causes of conflict which in turn helps to fuel HAP behaviour in the first place.

STEP ONE : Voluntary mediation, arbitration or family group conferencing (Most Ideal situation if successful)

Before the courts intervene in the parent’s dispute, at least one of the parents should be able to show the court that a reasonable attempt to resolve ongoing problems through some form of meditative or family group conferencing approach was made prior to asking the court to intervene. The courts should always be the option of last resort in settling disputes. To minimize the potential for conflict or false allegations during mediation or arbitration, communication should be done with the assistance of at least one trained, neutral third party. Any attempts to enter into an out-of-court process prior to a dispute being taken to court should be monitored and documented by the third parties who are familiar with the process and trained to facilitate communication between the parents. If mediation is used as one of the processes, ideally “open” mediation is preferable as the mediator will be allowed to submit a report that may be helpful to the court in determining the willingness of each parent to negotiate in good faith during the alternate dispute resolution process.

In most cases, this first step is initiated by the friendly and cooperative party as they are the party who is adversely affected the most and the parent who most desires a solution to the Hostile- Aggressive Parenting to be found. The friendly parent, with the assistance of a third party, should make a documented proposal to the other side which they feel will address the difficulties being created as a result of Hostile-Aggressive Parenting. Generally, a parent who initiates the mediation process, especially one who is willing to involve themselves in an “open” mediation or conflict resolution process, likely is the parent with the least to hide and the most willing to work in the best interest of the child. At this time, those involved with mediation or arbitration should explain to both parents, the process of resolving the problems through the court process should a voluntary agreement not be successful.

In many cases, except in some severe cases, once a hostile-aggressive parent sees that a fair a comprehensive review of matters will be undertaken by the court and that this is going to create nothing but expense and inconvenience to them, they may at this point elect to become a willing participant to a process that will avoid court. For those remaining parents who are unable to reach a reasonable agreement because of the resistance of a hostile-aggressive parent, then the process of dealing with the situation should move on to step two. It is important, however, that the parents, especially the hostile-aggressive parent, know that the Court will not be tolerant of Hostile- Aggressive Parenting behaviour and that it will take the effective steps as outlined below to deal with it. The purpose is to motivate parents to settle matters fairly between themselves without intervention of the court.

Family group conferencing approach to resolving HAP

Early in the process during or after mediation has been attempted, as many of the family members and friends of the family should be contacted and asked to participate in a family group conference (FGC). Family group conferencing can be very effective because in the vast majority of cases, parents using hostile-aggressive techniques do not want others in the community, especially their family and friends to see what they are doing or for others to see the true facts. In most cased, HAP parents will modify or improve their parenting if they feel that there is a chance that others will see the truth. As a result of fear of the truth being exposed, these parents will modify their behaviour if they feel that others in the community, especially family members, take a direct interest in their family matter. The modification of the parenting style by an otherwise abusive parent through community and family involvement uses the age old concept of “it takes a village to raise a child”. This approach to resolving family relationship problems can be a powerful influence on parents and extended family members.

Family group conferencing (FGC) is a participatory approach to case planning that was originally developed by the Maori people of New Zealand, in response to concerns that the child welfare system was removing Maori children from their homes and cultural ties at a disproportional rate. Based upon the success of this approach in New Zealand, FGC has been utilized as a case planning approach in many other countries and is spreading to many countries and jurisdictions. An and capacity to create safe and caring plans for children within their family unit. Family group conferencing can be extremely effective in dealing with Hostile-Aggressive Parenting.

Studies show that FGCs engage more family members than other case-planning methods, result in high degrees of family and professional satisfaction, and expand the quality of support available to families who have participated (for a review, see Lupton, 1999). Findings from child welfare studies where there was not a FGC provide support for the importance of active family involvement. Gleeson et al (1997), for example, found that an absence of active family involvement in case planning and decision-making can create a barrier to achieving permanence.

It has been found that FGCs did a better job than regular case planning approaches in promoting family unity, increasing safety for all family members, and reducing reports of child maltreatment and domestic violence. The study found that overall levels of abuse & violence had decreased significantly for the families using FGC approach.

Although the actual process of facilitating a family group conferencing process is not described in this site, using the process of family group conferencing as a first step in resolving issues relating to Hostile-Aggressive Parenting can have significant impact in the elimination of child abuse and maltreatment by HAP parents. Another tool that can be helpful is the appointment of a parent mentor. A parent mentor is another parent in the community who has a successful track record of raising children and who volunteers his/her time to help other parents in parenting their children.

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STEP TWO : Implement first stage of intervention plan for family

Quite often the HAP parent will refuse to participate in mediation or any other process intended to resolve conflict. They know that by entering any kind of process that involves others in the process, that their hostile-aggressive behaviour may be exposed and that this will likely disadvantage them in the court. Hostile-aggressive parents will sometimes give lip service in an attempt to sway those involved to their line of thinking, but they are seldom successful providing those involved are properly trained.

If the friendlier parent has demonstrated that they have attempted to resolve issues through a reasonable process but that because of the response of the hostile-aggressive parent this has failed, then the court at this time must provide whatever support it can to help the parent most willing to participate in a process intended to reduce conflict. This would be accomplished by ordering both parents into a program or process specifically designed to end or effectively control the Hostile- Aggressive Parenting. It is important that both parties be ordered to participate in any program or process so as not label one parent as all “bad” and the other parent as all “good.” The process of dealing with Hostile-Aggressive Parenting should equally involve BOTH parents as it is a matter of education which ultimately will benefit both parties and any child of the relationship.

Ordering the non-cooperative parent or HAP parent to attend a family group conferencing session and providing the authority for the family group to provide recommendations to the court can be very effective and powerful tool to eliminate litigation.

First stage interim court Order to implement provisions below (if required) The court should provide a court order ordering the following to be implemented and completed within 90-120 days.

  • Have the family support group meet and submit recommendations (optional)
    In order to provide valuable input from the child’s family unit, a family group conference should be organized with the family providing its recommendations to the court to resolve the conflict. The concept of family group conferencing is somewhat new and its use will depend on the availability of trained facilitators in the area and the ability of the parents to gather a group of family members and willing supporters. Input regarding the child’s wishes and preferences should be provided by the child to the family group at the conference.

  • Immediate adjustment of parenting schedules to minimize damage to child caused by Hostile-Aggressive Parenting
    To prevent any further chance of the child being emotionally damaged by the hostileaggressive parent, the parenting schedules should be modified to promote greater influence of involvement of the non hostile-aggressive parent in the child’s life and lesser influence of the HAP parent. If one of the parents can put forth reasonable arguments to show that this adjustment of the parenting times may be of benefit to the child, then the court should approve such a schedule as an interim measure.

  • Review of parenting history and parenting capabilities
    Before the court gets involved in making any decisions relating to the most effective steps to eliminate problems between parents caused by Hostile-Aggressive Parenting behaviour, it is important that a thorough review of the parent’s parenting patterns as part of a formal family evaluation process be undertaken. This evaluation process should include an analysis of the parent’s past behaviour as it relates to the best interest of children and the rights of children in order to determine the suitability and capability of both parents to parent their own child.

  • Submission of parenting plans by parents
    During the time that a formal assessment is being undertaken, both parents should prepare a comprehensive parenting plan which they feel is most suitable for the child. Each parent’s parenting plan will be reviewed as part of the assessment process for the purpose of determining which parenting plan is best for the child. Parents should be encouraged to obtain help from competent third parties to complete their parenting plans. Some of this help could come from attending parenting education courses.

  • Appointment of a neutral third party to assist the family and monitor their ongoing progress and report to the court.
    The court should order the involvement of third parties (family coordinator, parent referee, etc.) to be part of a two person monitoring team. It will be the job of this team to help deal with any problems and to provide solutions to the parents to resolve any problems encountered. It will also be the responsibility of this family support team to report to the court any behaviour considered relevant to the best interest of the child. Persons on this team can also be given the responsibility of reviewing the past history of the parents as outlined in (b) as well as all mitigating factors relating to children. At least one person of the monitoring team should be knowledgeable about the identifying signs of Hostile-Aggressive Parenting behaviour as well as Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome.

  • Parent education
    Any parent who has engaged in Hostile-Aggressive Parenting behaviour should be ordered by the court to attend at least one course specifically about teaching parents how to parent cooperatively and how to best understand what is in the best interest of their children. It is recommended that both parents attend such education so that even the parent who may not be considered as HAP, will be familiar with all aspects of good parenting. Having both parents attend also removes the stigma of one parent being considered the “bad” parent.

  • Professional Counselling or anger management counselling(* Optional)
    Parents should be ordered to obtain professional help to deal with their behaviour problem when reasonable evidence would suggest that a parent may be exhibiting behaviour patterns that would be considered in the “severe” category of Hostile Aggressive Parenting. In the event that one or both parent’s behaviour involved intense anger, violence or unacceptable levels of abuse, then the parents responsible for this more serious form of abuse should be required to attend and complete anger management courses.

  • Evaluation of parenting plans
    The parenting plans submitted by the parents should be reviewed by independent third party persons or agencies, having the specific training to properly review and evaluate such documents. Based on a review of all the factors relating to the best interest of the child this evaluation should clearly state which of the two parenting plans best meets the best interest of the child. Reasons for determination must also be clearly provided for the court and the parties to review. The purpose is to ensure that where more than one parenting plan has been made available, that only the one that best satisfies the criteria considered relevant to the best interest of the child be used.
Once the court has ordered the above components, in the vast majority of cases, the hostileaggressive parent will modify their parenting behaviour in a positive direction. Early and effective intervention by the court could eliminate further emotional damage to the child and motivate the hostile aggressive parent to focus on positive parenting skills.

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STEP THREE : Implement second stage interim court order (90-120 days)

When the components (a) to (g) of Step Two have been completed, the next step will be to have the parties come back to court to update the court on all of the requirements that were set down in step one. The court will now have reasonable evidence before it so that a realistic and effective court Order can be crafted. There is a good possibility by this time that the Hostile-Aggressive Parent has curtailed much of their destructive behaviour as they now are conscience of the fact that a continuation of their Hostile-Aggressive Parenting behaviour will likely result in sanctions against them by the court. Again, many of the hostile parents will be willing to settle at this point with only the very extreme and most contested cases left unresolved.

At this time, should a voluntary consent agreement be reached between the parties, then the Court should order that the one parenting plan which has was previously identified as being most child focussed become the current parenting arrangement ordered by the court. Ideally, the most suitable parenting plan should include an interim joint custody arrangement and meet all of the minimum criteria for the best interest of the child.

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STEP FOUR : Third stage final court order

After the interim period has expired as stated in the court Order from step three, the matter will be brought back to court for a final determination of parenting arrangements. A second review of the family’s compliance to the previous court Order will be made by the third party team and a final report with recommendations will be submitted to the court. This may also include a revised parenting plan which may address any others issues not previously identified at Step Two of the process.

In most cases, the final court order will be just a formality with the court being asked to endorse a final consent order based on the most current recommendations of the family’s monitoring team. Quite often this can be dealt with by the parent’s solicitors or agents without the parents even having to attend court in person. In only a few rare situations will the court be required to significantly change any of the provisions of the previous court order and this will be in cases where the hostile-aggressive parent continues to disobey the court and to continue with their pattern of abuse. Those parents who demonstrate this level of defiance most likely have deep-seated emotional or mental problems which may make them unsuitable as primary caregiver to the child. At this point it may be necessary for the court to impose sanctions on the hostile-aggressive parent which may even include awarding sole custody to the friendly parent or giving the friendly parent enough control over the child’s environment so as to lesson the impact of the hostile-aggressive parent’s behaviours on the child Should matters reach this stage, however, the court will have very reliable evidence before it, including recommendations which will make the court’s final order a rather simple matter.

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