This post is a follow-up to Christmas and High Conflict Divorces | Putting the Children First, published in December 2011. Sheri Keller, Domestic Supervisor of court-sponsored classes for parenting in the family court in Topeka, Kansas wrote to tell me more about the Horizons class she teaches with psychologist Bud Dale for parents going through a high-conflict divorce. Sheri wrote:
"Janey is a remarkable woman. She returns to class every session to share her strengths and growths since attending our class. She called me out of the blue about a year after attending our program and said she thought she was at a point that she would like to come back to class and share her experience with others. While attending our class she has also in college at Washburn University. She wrote a paper called 'irreconcilable differences,' the term used in divorce decrees in 'no-fault' divorces. She talked about the powerful words and what it meant for her kids and her as she looked to her future. How can 'differences' be so irreconcilable that they change your course in life. She got an A and shared the paper with Bud and I. Right after that she started speaking to the other parents in our class.
"It is very rewarding to teach this class and I am so thankful to Bud for his expertise, humor and good nature. He is truly a gift to this program, plus he volunteers his time and talents to help me teach this class. I consider myself so lucky to have this program with people like him and the support of our court."
I loved Sheri's quotation just above her signature block; you read it at the beginning of this post. It certainly epitomizes the goals she has when working with parents in high-conflict situation. I asked Sheri whether she had ideas about how to share these classes with other family courts and what materials are being used in the Horizons classes. She wrote back:
"We also have a basic 2 hour divorce class that is called Divorce Works. [Note: This sounds a lot of the S.M.I.L.E. Program Michigan Courts use.] It is required for all divorces with children. Horizons class is for high conflict cases that have a continued history with the court and failures in mediation or other alternative dispute. The book we use is “Cooperative Parenting and Divorce” by Susan Boyan and Ann Marie Termini. I order my books from Active Parenting Publishers which have the entire start up package, including the leader books, 10 parent books and the DVD that goes with the package.
"We are the only high conflict program that I know of that includes a children’s program at the same time. Our children’s piece is only once a month, where the adults come twice a month. The kids program is taught by a clinical social worker and two other volunteers. Since we have a law school in town, we always have law student volunteers who want to help out. We have one person who started as a law student in her 1st year of law school. She is still with us two years out from graduation. She is an attorney for the legislature and Topeka is a capitol city.
"Bud and I hope some day to provide the training for our program at AFCC and bring our whole crew with us."
I encourage judges and Friend of the Court personnel who read this blog post to consider bringing this training to Michigan. Please consider sending a permalink to this post to your colleagues to stimulate some interest. [You can copy and paste this permalink into an email.] Perhaps a good venue would be a Friend of the Court annual conference or the annual Probate Judge's Conference. Given the large number of high conflict cases we are seeing in these troubled economic times, it sounds as though the Horizons Program would be a wonderful addition to our existing S.M.I.L.E. program. Sheri Keller's contact information is Sheri Keller, CSOII, Domestic Supervisor, Horizons Coordinator, 200 SE 7th, Ste. 104, Topeka, Kansas 66603, 785-233-8200 ext. 4504, SKeller@shawneecourt.org
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi