The biggest concern of almost every parent who is getting divorced are the kids. How are they going to adjust? How am I going to get them through this? Will they be scarred for life? Below is a guest post by Paulette Janus, LCSW, who is a therapist, mediator, collaborative divorce coach and child specialist. Because she has worked with so many families going through collaborative divorce, Janus knows firsthand the benefits that come with hiring a child specialist during what is probably the most difficult time in a child’s life.
Collaborative Divorce: Keep Divorce Child-Focused With A Child Specialist On Your Team
by Paulette Janus on behalf of the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois.
If you have children and are contemplating divorce, you are most likely worried about how your children will respond and how best to help them through this transition. Take solace that you can minimize the effects by minimizing the amount of conflict in your co-parenting relationship. Yet this can seem like an insurmountable task given the heightened emotions associated with divorce.
With that in mind, when thinking of divorce, it’s important to first think of process, that is how you intend to divorce. One such process is Collaborative divorce, which, compared to litigation, is private, future-focused, external to the court, and utilizes a team-based approach.
In a collaborative divorce, your attorneys, along with additional professionals, work together to help you reach agreements in a mutually beneficial manner rather than an adversarial one. The professionals who practice this approach recognize the importance of both the co-parenting relationship and the parent-child relationships, so a Child Specialist is part of the team to ensure discussions are child-focused.
Here are 3 reasons to consider having a Child Specialist on your team.
- A Child Specialist is a mental health professional with expertise in child development, family relationships, and communication skills. When you are making decisions that significantly impact your child, working with such an expert can be invaluable. As part of your Collaborative Team, the Child Specialist uses this expertise to help you develop a parenting plan, maintain the focus on your children, and move forward with a healthier co-parenting relationship.
- A Child Specialist is a neutral professional who does not take sides and does not make parenting-time decisions. This is different than in a traditional litigated model when a custody evaluation is ordered. The role of a custody evaluator is to evaluate you, as a parent, and make parenting-time recommendations to help the judge make a decision. In the Collaborative Process you makes the decisions and the Child Specialist helps you to discuss options from a place of helping your child rather than judging either parent, which is important for setting the stage for your post-divorce co-parenting relationship.
- The Child Specialist will meet, typically at least once or twice, with your children. This is not to put them in the middle or to have them choose between you or to dig up dirt on either of you. Rather, the Child Specialist helps your child to express their thoughts and concerns and then brings this back to you to help guide in the development of your parenting plan. The divorce will impact your child no matter; they do not have a choice yet they should have a voice. Children feel comforted knowing that their concerns are being heard and that their parents are working with someone to facilitate the transition.
The parent-child relationship transcends divorce and your child deserves a positive relationship with both parents. A Child Specialist can be the person to guide you in this endeavor.
To find out more about Collaborative Divorce, including a searchable list of professionals in Illinois, click here for the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois.
If you live outside of Illinois, click here to locate Collaborative Divorce professionals near you through the International Association of Collaborative Professionals.