A Better Way for Families to Transition

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Separating Better Collaborative Divorce & Child Custody Lawyers

Focus on Protecting Children

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The decision to divorce is always difficult, but spouses who decide to separate and who are also parents share a special pain, as they worry deeply what impact the change will have on their child. Parents going through divorce (not only collaborative) often seek my consult, and though they have many specific questions, they all want to know how the divorce will likely affect their child now and in the future, and are desperate to know how they can minimize any negative impact on their child. The research is clear that conflict is the demon, and the more you avoid that in the process, the more you protect your child. In addition, the child maintaining a positive relationship with both parents is key to a happy childhood. So the first thing for parents to realize is choosing a divorce process dedicated to helping you keep conflict low is a wonderful gift to your children. Second, as a parent something to love about the collaborative process is within its very framework is a dedication of all professionals to focus on protecting the children in every way possible. Children are never used as pawns. They are listened to and respected. Their financial needs and relationship with both parents are vital. Protecting their emotions and well-being is paramount.

Dr. Tina Lepage, Founder, Lepage Associates

The Negative Effect of Conflict on Children

iStock_000020205200XSmall Under Pillow 2 kidsResearch has shown that it is not the divorce per se but rather the amount of conflict associated with the divorce that has the most negative effects on children. This is likely because of self-image issues, disruption in attachments, and coping skills around stress. With regard to self-image, on an internal level children see themselves as “half mom” and “half dad.” When there is a lot of conflict in divorce, parties often tear one another down, which in turn tears down the child’s own internal sense of self. Related to that, the conflict disrupts the attachment between the child and one or both parents, either on an emotional level as they try to figure out who is “right” about who is the “bad” person in the divorce, and/or on a practical level as positive/quality time with one or both parents is interrupted with either overt conflict between the parties or an undercurrent of anger and hostility. The child is left to deal with an on-going stressful situation at an age when coping skills around stress are still in development, and the child is often not able to process such negativity between parents when it goes on over time with no end in sight. Thus the time to start lessening the conflict is now, at the very beginning of the separation process, and collaborative services are a good place to start. Full Team Interdisciplinary Collaborative Divorce is especially well-suited to mitigating the negative effects of divorce on children because of the inclusion of the Child Specialist from the beginning.

Fostering Parent-Child Attachments

Research has also shown that children are healthiest and happiest when they have a positive attachment to both parents. For this to happen, the parents will need to function well as co-parents. The time spent in one-to-one parent-child interactions forms the depth and quality of that attachment/relationship; however, divisiveness between parents can interfere with it and damage it. From the moment of separation you and your spouse begin functioning as co-parents and how you manage this is vitally important to the well-being of your child. Regardless of the actual split of time spent with the child, co-parenting itself is an on-going situation, and you will both have some joint role in parenting, just by the fact that you are both parents.

If there is conflict between you and your ex-spouse, your child will be continually trying to cope with the stress within that relationship. In the collaborative process the child specialists and coaches can help you to develop a positive cooperative co-parenting relationship even through your anger or disagreements. As psychologists with advanced skills in communication and conflict resolution combined with expertise in child development and family relationships, they can help you get through the conflict, lessen it, and enjoy civil relations with your ex and positive relationships with your children. We’re not saying it will be easy, but we are saying it will be worth it, both for your children’s well-being and for your own peace of mind. Coaching can help you learn how to be amicable co-parents and effectively negotiate disagreements. The collaborative process, with the focus on amicable and mutually-agreed upon solutions, versus the traditional adversarial model, improves the chances for long-term goodwill, which is vital for co-parenting.

A cooperative co-parenting relationship allows parents to be most effective at parenting. It also strengthens the individual parent-child relationships the child has with each parent, which we know is important to the happiness of the child. Scientific research has demonstrated the long-term benefits of alternative dispute resolution such as collaborative divorce, showing such processes preserved relationships in a very long-lasting way, with the benefits seen over a decade later in positive parent-child relationships with the benefits still seen over a decade later in positive parent-child relationships.