Collaborative Divorce: Dealing With Children.
One of the most difficult challenges of going through a divorce is to get out of the mindset of vindication and retribution caused by the negative emotions of anger, hurt and betrayal. With the help of healthcare professionals and attorneys committed to the collaborative divorce process, many separating couples are able to summons the resolve and willpower to rise above this negativity and work collaboratively with each other towards a resolution of their marital differences. Their shared need to work together on a collaborative basis to solve their disputes can drive them towards an out-of-court resolution. For divorcing couples who are not able to work together collaboratively, and who become involved in a knockdown drag out court fight, there is the prospect that once the divorce is completed, their paths may never cross again. Unless they have children!
Both divorcing spouses will continue to be their children’s “father” or “mother” well beyond the date of divorce and well beyond the date the children reach the age of majority (18). The imperative of constructively dealing with the psychological, emotional and physical needs of children during a divorce cannot be overstated. Long after both spouses have gone their own ways and have established new lives and new relationships, there will be a continuing need to appear together at school programs, graduations and other family events including weddings, funerals, and the births of grandchildren. When both parents do appear in the same space at the same time, they should not want their children and grandchildren to be under a cloud of tension waiting for the impending thunderstorm of hostility to erupt. Children are the common denominator that changes the need for collaboration from a one-time divorce event to a lifetime process. The bonds of marriage can be dissolved by the State of North Carolina. The bonds of the parent-child relationship are forever.
A divorcing couple with children may well have different values, different child-raising philosophies, different tolerances for risk, different cultural sensitivities, different communication styles, different views on discipline, and other personal or psychological differences, any one of which may have contributed to the marital breakup. But the emotional stability of children is dependent on the ability of the divorcing parents, despite their differences, to effectively co-parent with each other for the best interest of their children. The ability of parents to collaborate (work together) with each other during and after a divorce will have a direct impact on the mental health of their children and their children’s ability to function as fully engaged, well-balanced adults.
A collaborative divorce offers the divorcing couple who are parents an atmosphere more conducive to the constructive resolution of child rearing differences without the added antagonism of a nasty divorce court fight. A child psychologist can be brought into the mix not as a weapon, but as an aid to both parents in their attempt to help their entire family get through the divorce process with the least amount of emotional trauma. In a traditional divorce proceeding involving children, the parties often abandon direct communications with each other, and speak to each other primarily through their attorneys. While this approach might be a rational choice for a spouse who is so emotionally upset that he or she cannot make rational decisions, it is not conducive to co-parenting children. Attorneys by practice, habit, custom and ethical canons of conduct are trained and conditioned to jealously advocate for their clients. However, besides being cumbersome and expensive, this method of indirect communication diverts the parents from the need and duty to communicate directly (to “collaborate”) with each other in all matters dealing with their children. The emotional impact on children being sucked into the divorce fight is a hidden “cost” of divorce often not fully appreciated until the damage has been done.