Divorce is rarely easy. When children are involved, it becomes that much more challenging. Parents are often too involved in their own personal drama and self-serving missions to focus appropriately on how a divorce could impact their children. The risk of collateral damage increases.
This is where collaborative divorce can be invaluable.
What is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative divorce is a process couples who have decided to end their marriage can go through to determine a path that is mutually beneficially to both adult parties, and when kids are involved, their children. A couple works with professionals including collaboratively trained lawyers, coaches, child specialists and financial professionals in avoiding the more uncertain outcome of going to court. It is designed to result in a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parents and their children without the threat of legal action.
Why Collaborative Divorce Is Beneficial for Children
Most parents have no experience going through a divorce with children. Throughout the angst of divorce, parents, sometimes unwittingly, can put their own interests ahead of everyone else including their children. In a collaborative divorce, steps are taken by a team of professionals to ensure the interests of the children have a significant place in the negotiations. Coaches and parenting professionals work with parents to help them better understand the value of quality co-parenting to achieve results that are in the best interest of children in the short and long-term. Collaborative divorce puts the needs of the children first. This makes divorce much less traumatic on children than traditional divorce litigation.
Research indicates that less conflict is not only better for the parents, but for the children. It is also worth noting that collaborative divorce can be less expensive and stressful than traditional divorce litigation.
“Don’ts” for Parents of Children Going Through the Divorce Process
Parents with children who are going through the divorce process frequently become involved in similarly destructive behaviors. Parents should avoid the following:
- Speaking negatively about each other in front of the children. This is an unfortunate, and potentially damaging behavior parents often take part in. Your children are a part of both of you and speaking negatively about each other may be internalized by your children as if you were speaking of them. This can be particularly damaging when a son is faced with disparaging remarks from his mother about his father. It may make him think his mom feels the same way about him. Negative feelings are not just expressed verbally, but in body language as well. If, as a parent, you wish to vet about a spouse, do so with adult friends, relatives or a therapist. The children are not equipped to handle negative input from parents about each other.
- Parents should also avoid using their children as messengers. It is unfair to put children in the middle of a frigid relationship by asking them to “Tell your mother…” or “Let your father know…” etc. Always keep in mind you are the adults, and if you can’t communicate effectively and maturely with your spouse, don’t expect your children to. If you find it difficult communicating verbally or through email, use a competent coach through the collaborative divorce process.
Have Someone Available for Children to Talk To
Throughout a divorce, it can be helpful for everyone in the family to have a professional available to talk to. Many times, insurance will help cover the costs of this counseling. In the collaborative divorce process in Los Angeles County, we recommend getting a child specialist involved. This is not someone who is there to provide therapy but to meet with the children and learn more about the children’s perspective. That specialist then brings that information to the coaches and parents in an effort to create a better solution with the children’s needs at the forefront.
In high-conflict cases, parents can view their own coaches as their teammates, placing coaches in the middle of the conflict. The child specialist can serve as a neutral representative of the children’s interests, helping move the process forward even in challenging situations.
In any divorce, revenge, egos and competitiveness can supersede overall fairness and an equitable result. This is challenging enough when just a couple is involved but can be devastating when a child or children are concerned. A collaborative divorce can be the solution.