Divorce impacts many aspects of the parties’ lives, including parenting. Whether the conflict surrounding a separation and/or divorce is high or low, the children need to remain a priority in the decision-making that must take place. Two processes for divorce encourage healthy ways of co-parenting. This article addresses the benefits of collaborative divorce and mediation as they relate to children. In both processes, the focus is on what will work moving forward and negativity is discouraged. This promotes a healthier transition for the children to their new normal. I have outlined some of the benefits below.
Collaborative divorce and mediation may provide a healthier way to address the needs of the children.
Both the collaborative divorce and mediation processes are intended to be non-adversarial. Rather than a contentious “winner take all” approach, these processes allow for the parties to work together to create mutually beneficial settlements. Although the divorce process is often stressful and it may be difficult for parties to work together, the professionals encourage respectful dialogue and a cooperative, problem-solving approach rather than an adversarial one. Trained professionals are employed in each process to help facilitate the discussions and keep settlement meetings productive. Because the goal of each process is to reach a mutually beneficial settlement, the negotiations are then able to focus on the needs of the children and how the parties can provide for those needs post-divorce. The goal is to keep the children out of the middle.
Collaborative divorce and mediation provide the parties with the opportunity to make their own decisions.
In a traditional courtroom setting, the parties make their individual case with their respective attorneys, and the final decisions are often left to the judge. Parties do not always have an opportunity to feel heard. While most cases settle, the way in which a case settles can impact the result and the family relationships going forward. In collaborative divorce and mediation, the parties are able to have meaningful discussions about the issues, and may work with a specially trained team of professionals to ultimately reach agreement. In mediation, the mediator acts as a neutral third party to help the parties navigate through the issues while ultimately leaving any decisions to the parties themselves. While attorneys are often used to ensure informed decisions are made, facilitate negotiations and formalize the agreements, the decision-making ultimately lies with the parties.
Collaborative divorce allows for a child specialist to be a part of the collaborative team.
As mentioned above, the collaborative divorce process allows trained professionals to work with the parties. In some cases, the parties may choose to have a child specialist be part of the collaborative team. The child specialist can serve different functions in the process, including a role to educate the children about how the divorce process works and how adjust to their new situation. The child specialist may also gather information from the parties and allow the voice of the children to be heard while acting as a neutral party. More information on the role of the child specialist can be found on my website.
The child inclusive mediation model is similar to the use of a child specialist in the collaborative divorce process. In this mediation model, a child consultant will meet with the children and then provide feedback to both the mediator and the parties. The child consultant will not become an actual participant in the mediation itself, but is there to provide feedback and information based on meeting with the children in a neutral environment. More information on child inclusive mediation can be found on my website.
There are many benefits to both the collaborative divorce and mediation processes. The process chosen in a divorce should be carefully considered and tailored for the unique needs of each family. While no one process can guarantee a stress-free divorce, the collaborative law and mediation process choices are specifically designed to reduce unnecessary tension and negativity between the parties. The focus on working together for the benefit of the children helps to create a lasting and mutually beneficial settlement.