Any time couples find themselves facing divorce, one of the first concerns they have is how it will effect the children. Worries about the negative impact of divorce and children has probably kept more unhappy couples together than anything else. Yet, some would assert that staying together for the children may not always be the best option.
There have been a number of studies that have indicated that the majority of children are able to adjust after divorce and go on to lead happy, well-adjusted lives. In fact, the prevailing opinion is that divorce itself isn’t nearly as damaging to a child as the manner in which parents conduct themselves during the divorce process. It is often the conflict between parents that is the most emotionally destructive for children.
In our culture the word divorce has almost become synonymous with conflict. Many have simply come to expect divorce to be an all out, take-no-prisoners, fight-it-out-in-court situation. When you combine this cultural expectation with the uncertainty and stress of ending a marriage, and then put it into the traditional court system, you have the perfect recipe for an adversarial situation. The majority of parents would do anything to spare their children the pain of divorce conflict, but something as emotionally charged as a divorce can quickly get out of control within the confines of the conventional litigated divorce process, with damaging effects on the children. It is often the uncertainty of how the other party is posturing their case, what allegations they will make, and the need to protect one’s interest that drives so much of the contentiousness.
This is where collaborative divorce can make a difference. Collaborative divorce is a voluntary alternative dispute resolution process that removes the threat associated with the uncertainties of litigation. It creates an environment of commitment, cooperation, open and honest communication and mutual respect. Collaborative divorce shifts the focus from what went wrong and who is to blame, to how can we create solutions and resolve our differences in a way that allows everyone to move forward with their lives.
Makes the Children A Priority
In collaborative divorce, not only does the couple commit to divorcing with dignity and in a respectful manner, but they also make a commitment to making the children’s best interests a priority. This eliminates the need to use the children as pawns or to think about parenting time as a negotiating strategy. With the help of the collaborative professionals, including a divorce coach and/or child specialist, the team helps the couple minimize conflict, which in turn reduces the harmful effects on the children, finding ways to work together to create parenting agreements that will help the children thrive in their new restructured family.
Anyone who is considering divorce and concerned about how it might affect the children should consider contacting a collaborative divorce professional for more information about the process and to find out whether it might be an option for them.
Guest post by New Jersey Council of Collaborative Practice Groups