Divorce Mediation & Co-Parent Counseling
When couples decide to divorce, they face the difficult task of negotiating a divorce settlement in an atmosphere that is often highly emotional. If the couple has children, then competently handling the divorce process is vital to the psychological health of the children. Getting the right kind of help, at a price you can afford, can be one of the most important decisions you make.
Divorce does not have to be a tragedy for your family. While the process can be very painful, it can lead to a healthy two household “binuclear” family. Research on families has shown us what factors associated with divorce often make adjustment difficult for both children and adults. The better you handle these risk factors the smoother your transition will be. The major factors are:
- Loss of contact between a parent and child.
- Exposing children to parental conflict.
- The psychological health and parenting skills of the custodial parent(s), and
- Financial stress and instability.
My Services: Custody Mediation and Co-parent Counseling
If you are divorcing, please call me and let me help you learn how to divorce in a way that will help your family stay healthy through a difficult transition. My doctoral dissertation focused specifically on the needs of divorcing couples. In my practice, I offer divorce counseling and custody mediation. As a therapist, I can offer custody mediation at about half the cost of an attorney-mediator. I can also refer you to sliding scale divorce services, collaborative practice attorneys, financial specialists, child psychologists, good books, and other resources that can help your family create a healthy divorce.
Options for Negotiating Divorce Agreements
Assistance with negotiating a divorce settlement is available across a broad spectrum. The options are briefly outlined below:
Do it Yourself Divorce
With help form the Nolo Press book, How To Do Your Own Divorce, couples who have a quite low level of conflict and rather straightforward parenting and property settlement issues might be able to negotiate their own settlement. Then, they can simply hire a paralegal or attorney to draw up their paperwork and have it filed with the court. Personally, I would advise these couples to consult with a family therapist about co-parenting their children through the divorce process. Many possible mistakes can be avoided with informed guidance in the early stages of divorce.
In mediation, a single, neutral facilitator helps a couple negotiate a divorce settlement, including parenting agreements and financial issues. While the court may offer “mediation” the process with a court mediator is often problematic. Because of poor funding, court mediation is usually rushed, time limited, and not completely confidential. Typically, it is offered by a court employee with too heavy a case load to really give your family the attention you deserve.
Mediation with a private mediator can be more responsive to your needs and completely independent of any court processes. Private mediation is an excellent choice for many divorcing couples, because you stay in charge of the process all the way through. No settlement is reached until both parties are satisfied with the whole agreement. Good mediators do not pressure either party into sacrificing or compromising something essential to them. Rather, the mediator helps both parties to identify the various interests the each have and the interests they share. Then instead of arguing, a creative process helps craft a solution that addresses the needs of both parties. In the end the solution is yours.
Mediators are usually attorneys or therapists. An attorney-mediator may have fuller knowledge of legal issues in divorce. A therapist-mediator is likely to have greater insight about communication skills, parenting, and child development concerns. Keep in mind, however, that attorney-mediators cannot give either party legal advice in mediation. Couples are thus advised to each consult a personal lawyer prior to finalizing their agreement in mediation, even if their mediator is an attorney. Likewise, therapist-mediators do not conduct therapy during mediation. Couples seeking divorce therapy or co-parenting counseling will need to do this work in addition to the mediation process, which is focused on negotiating a divorce settlement.
Higher conflict couples may need more help than a single mediator can effectively offer. A new model, called collaborative practice, can help higher conflict couples negotiate a settlement without going to court. In collaborative practice each of the divorcing partners retains a collaborative attorney. These attorneys sign an agreement promising that neither will take the case to court. Committed to negotiating a solution, the divorcing couple and their attorneys meet in four-way sessions to craft a settlement. Both divorcing partners have ready access to their attorney throughout the negotiation.
Sadly, many divorcing couples, unfamiliar with their options, start the divorce process by retaining a litigation attorney. When divorce is attempted through the adversarial law model of the court system, the potential tragedy of divorce is often realized. Divorcing partners often become estranged from one another as they fight for their rights through their attorneys. Tactics that undermine trust and cooperation are commonly employed. The basis for a successful, cooperative, ongoing co-parent relationship is taxed and sometimes destroyed in the process.
In the end, the couple, battered by the process, either negotiates their own settlement, or submits to the verdict of a judge who has very little time to really get to know their family. Even if the judgment is favorable to one party, the other side can always appeal the decision, and the fight will go on. The real losers are the children, whose parents have chosen to fight, rather than cooperate for their benefit.