How to have a quality co-parenting relationship? Communication tips

This entry is a continuation of the post on April 30, 2014, regarding both parents having a quality co-parenting relationship.

Let’s discuss communication options. In co-parent relationships where there is high conflict, I recommend a simple formula for communication. Brief. Informative. Friendly. Firm. BIFF. This model is from Bill Eddy ( This formula applies to both verbal and written communication. Long, defensive, and accusatory emails will not likely get you what you want nor will they help your children. Expecting the other person to know what you need or want also does not usually work. Here’s an example of a non-BIFF email.
“I can’t believe that you sent our daughter to school without her homework done AGAIN. Can’t you ever get this right? What is so hard about sitting down with her to go through her homework from that day and ensuring she does it? Clearly you need to improve your parenting or she is going to fail grade three! This reminds me of all the times you shirked your duties with our older son as well. I’m sure you’ve got lots of time to spend with your new spouse and step-children, how about giving the same attention to your own daughter…[this goes on for a page of venting]”

Now, here’s the BIFF version.
“I’m concerned about our daughter’s school performance. Her last report card said that she was frequently missing assignments and the teacher called me last week to say she missed another two assignments. I’d like to talk about how we can support her together to get her homework done. I know you’re also interested in her doing well at school. I’d like to share the responsibility for helping her with her homework with you. What do you think about that?”

Why negotiate?

This is Conflict Resolution week in BC and I will be posting several blogs over the week highlighting some conflict resolution themes from my work as a mediator.  Here is my first entry.

In any dispute, there are alternatives to negotiating.  According to Fisher an d Ury (1991) there are best (BATNA) and worst (WATNA) alternatives to negotiating an agreement.  Before deciding to negotiate, it is helpful to be clear on one’s BATNA and WATNA.

In divorce mediation, going to court is often identified by people as the worst alternative due to high costs, time delays, and stress.  Other WATNAs could be not having a close relationship with the children, or emotional harm to the children due to the parental conflict.  A best alternative may be family law arbitration due to less time delays, and potentially lower costs.  In this case, neither the BATNA or WATNAs are ideal, which may mean that negotiating an agreement has a lot of benefit for the parents and children.  Additional benefits to negotiating are increased compliance with negotiated agreements and developing an ongoing productive co-parenting relationship.

So when you have a dispute, consider what you have to gain from negotiating.  For more information on negotiation and mediation, see The Benefits of Mediation for Separating Couples.  and Collaborative Communication Tips.


How does the new BC Family Law Act define guardianship?

On March 18, 2013, the new Family Law Act came into effect in BC.  As a result, many legal concepts and definitions have been updated or changed.  Over the next few months, I will be writing about different aspects of the new Family Law Act as well as providing you with legal resources.  This information should not be interpreted as providing legal advice.  I will be providing legal information only and I strongly recommend that anyone involved in a family dispute get independent legal advice.  If you would like a list of lawyers to choose from, please email me and I will be happy to provide this.

In the Family Law Act (FLA), there are some changes regarding the definition of guardianship.  According to the Legal Services Society, the FLA defines a guardian as the person who has the right to make decisions about a child, such as where the child will live or go to school; medical and dental care; and what religion the child will be raised in. (p. 4, Guide to the BC Family Law Act,

You can find a more detailed description of guardianship and legal options available for parents at,_Parenting_Arrangements_and_Contact.

In mediation, this is significant because the FLA states in Section 39 (1), “While a child’s parents are living together and after the child’s parents separate, each parent of the child is the child’s guardian.”  Parents can then use mediation to negotiate how parenting responsibilities will be divided between the guardians.  These responsibilities are listed in Section 49.

As a family mediator and dispute resolution professional, I can assist parents to negotiate how they share parenting responsibilities between them.

How much does workplace conflict cost?

According to research on workplace conflict, 60%-80% of all difficulties in an organization stem from strained relationships between employees, not from deficits in employee’s skills and motivation (Dana, 2005; Kreisman, 2002).  The typical manager spends 25%-40% of his/her time dealing with workplace conflicts. That’s one to two business days per week (Washington Business Journal, 2005)!  Multiple authors report the costs of losing and replacing an employee can range from 16% to 300% of the departing employees salary.   (Blake, 2006,; Sneyd, 2012,  Research also indicates that harassment in the workplace is significantly underreported (Bruno, 2013). The good news is that organizations that adopt conflict resolution processes, like mediation and arbitration, report a 50%-80% reduction in litigation costs (Stipanovich, 2004).   If you’re encountering destructive conflict in your workplace, consider conflict management services such as coaching, training or mediation to transform the negative conflict into a productive and positive work environment.

Welcome to Peace Talks

Olive Branch Peace Talks is a discussion regarding collaborative strategies for resolving conflict within families, workplaces, and communities. The focus is on strategies and ideas for encouraging productive responses to conflict and minimizing destructive responses. This blog is collaboratively biased. We welcome positive ideas to overcome destructive conflict.