Children and DivorceMajor family transitions such as separation and divorce can bewilder and frighten children, especially when parents are struggling with a wide range of strong emotions, too. Unfortunately, the litigation process can tend to exacerbate this volatile and confusing situation by casting the parents against each other in custody battles and discouraging communication between them. When the dust settles after the litigation process has concluded, the parents are left ill equipped to co-parent and communicate effectively, much to the detriment of themselves and their children.
Thankfully, Collaborative Divorce is uniquely suited to ensure that the best interests of the children remain paramount, encourages parents to develop healthy co-parenting skills, and promotes respectful communication between them. Family law attorneys restricting their practices to Collaborative Divorce are trained in conflict resolution and effective communication techniques and coach their clients during the process to express themselves honestly and constructively. The fear and anxiety with which clients often begin the collaborative process diminishes during the process and is replaced by confidence that the clients and their children will be able to transition effectively into two homes.
Collaborative Divorce also provides a unique opportunity for parents and children to receive the support of a psychologist who serves as a child specialist in the process. The role of the child specialist is not to provide therapy, but rather to be the children’s advocate during the process and to provide support to the children and parents as they navigate a major transitional period of time.
The child specialist meets with the parents individually or together and meets with each child in a very encouraging and non-threatening session. These meetings allow the parents to express their hopes and concerns about the children, co-parenting, and transitioning from one home to two. Children often do not fully express their deepest concerns and feelings about their parents’ separation to the parents. The child specialist provides a trained and supportive professional to the children and a safe place to voice their true feelings.
After the child specialist has met with each family member, he or she will join the clients and attorneys in a five-way conference where co-parenting issues are discussed. Unlike the litigation process, where the role of psychologists is to provide a “custody evaluation” that recommends a specific custody schedule to the judge, the child specialist joins the conversation as the “voice of the children” and provides information to the parents to help them make optimal decisions about the children.