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Children In Divorce

One day I decided to indulge myself in a personalized license plate frame for my car. A salesman explained to me how much room I could use for whatever sentiment I wanted to express to fellow drivers. I chose, ‘No Court Divorce. Where the child comes first.’ That phrase has, over the years of my practice, become my professional motto.

When couples start having trouble in their marriages, the emotional impact is so great that the children and their needs seem to go into eclipse. Sometimes things are so disrupted for a season that children no older than nine or ten find themselves taking care of a distraught parent. No dependent child should ever, under any circumstances, have to take care of a parent.

I learned about the problems of children in divorce gradually and haphazardly as my law practice grew. My perspective was limited until I attended a seminar conducted by Judith Wallerstein in the early eighties. Through her influence, I began to see the bigger picture of what actually happens in the homes of the people who are my clients. Her book Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope With Divorce, coauthored with Joan Berlin Kelly, is a landmark.

There is nothing a divorcing parent – or any parent, for that matter – can do to shield a child completely from pain or injury. But there is a lot parents can learn that will keep them from contributing to the child’s pain and injury. And every parent can learn to help a child deal with pain appropriately and to grow through it to great maturity.

One of the ways parents can help their children is by having a peaceful divorce.  Collaborative divorce uses licensed therapists as divorce coaches to help couples deal with the emotional divorce, so that their children don’t have to.  Each spouse has their own coach who will help them examine and understand their feelings and assist with face-to-face meetings with the other spouse.  The coach helps the client state their needs and desires in ways that make them easier for their partner to hear.  The coach helps divorcing couples to understand and suitably respond to each other’s needs and desires, process and express difficult feelings,  identify and appropriately respond to triggers that may derail communication and they assist the entire family in processing the changes inherent in a divorce. The divorce coach helps the children by helping the parents work together effectively to plan the family’s future.  They help the attorneys work together productively, and help the parties achieve a divorce settlement that is fair, fast and economical.

When divorcing couples negotiate amicably, communicate effectively and co-parent peacefully, their children will thrive. Divorce is painful, but it doesn’t have to leave scars.

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