Co-parenting in divorce

Divorcing Parents in Westchester County, NY: Meet Your Child’s Needs — Choose Collaborative Divorce or Mediation

With April being Autism Awareness Month, I am reminded that – for a divorcing couple who has a child with special needs – a collaborative divorce offers the best way for the parents to come to an agreement on addressing the needs of the child.

About ten years ago, I worked on a collaborative divorce in Westchester County in which the couple had two children, one of whom had been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. I represented the husband, and another collaborative attorney, “Lisa,” represented the wife.

The parties were having heated arguments about parental decision-making.

The defining moment in the case occurred at a four-way settlement conference when, after a few niceties were exchanged, the wife suddenly lashed out at the husband, exclaiming how upset she was at his criticism of her decision-making with respect to their child, and the various therapies she wanted him to undergo.

Specifically, she accused her husband of telling her that – if she wants the child involved in certain programs to treat his autism and the child becomes labeled “handicapped”— then it will be “on her”(her responsibility) for “ruining the child’s life.” The husband then expressed his strong feelings in his own defense.

At this point Lisa […]

Divorce, Children and Holiday Plans

For divorced parents, the holidays are often beset with conflict and stress, even many years after the divorce. We have all heard about couples who go back to court several times after their divorce to re-litigate holiday visitation issues that were supposedly settled through the adversarial process. This year, with Christmas and Hanukkah falling on the same day, interfaith co-parents face a scheduling conflict they have never faced before.

6615_Christmas-gift-boxes-golden-backgroundFor couples who choose a collaborative divorce, however, the stress of the “holiday shuffle” is eased, if not eliminated. The collaborative process allows the divorcing parents to structure a holiday plan for the children tailored to the needs of their specific situation. However, interfaith co-parents face a unique holiday scheduling challenge this year, one that probably wasn’t anticipated when their divorce settlement agreement was written.

This brings to mind an important reason to consider a collaborative divorce. The collaborative process takes couples through a healthy, respectful way of dealing with contentious issues and conflicts. Having experienced this model, the two divorced partners know that it is possible to address the reasonable needs and concerns of both parents – and their children –without “going to […]

Divorce Involving a Child with Autism

With April being Autism Awareness Month, I am reminded that – for a divorcing couple who has a child with special needs – a collaborative divorce offers the best way for the parents to come to an agreement on addressing the needs of the child.

About ten years ago, I worked on a collaborative divorce in which the couple had two children, one of whom had been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. I represented the husband, and another collaborative attorney, “Lisa,” represented the wife.

The parties were having heated arguments about parental decision-making.

The defining moment in the case occurred at a four-way settlement conference when, after a few niceties were exchanged, the wife suddenly lashed out at the husband, exclaiming how upset she was at his criticism of her decision-making with respect to their child, and the various therapies she wanted him to undergo.

Specifically, she accused her husband of telling her that – if she wants the child involved in certain programs to treat his autism and the child becomes labeled “handicapped”— then it will be “on her”(her responsibility) for “ruining the child’s life.” The husband then expressed his strong feelings in his own defense.

At this point Lisa and I “reframed” […]

Your Children and Divorce

When parents divorce, children undergo stress. Of course, divorcing parents are dealing with their own stress: grieving the loss of the marriage, anger at their spouse, anxiety over finances, worries about the children, and fear of the unknown. Nevertheless, helping your children cope with this major disruption in their lives is a must. Moreover, your child needs a good relationship with both parents, regardless of how the parents feel about each other.
An excellent resource for divorcing parents is a Parent Handbook produced by the New York State Parent Education and Awareness Program. This 75-page booklet, written by mental health professionals, is full of practical advice for divorcing parents. For a pdf of the Handbook, click here: http://www.nycourts.gov/IP/parent-ed/pdf/ParentsHandbook.pdf
I encourage divorcing parents to get some coaching on co-parenting from a mental health professional with expertise in this area. Look for a therapist who provides a focused form of counseling that teaches specific strategies to help divorcing parents understand and meet their children’s needs. Many of the therapists who belong to the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals (NYACP) are very experienced in this work. You can search for a mental health professional with this expertise […]

Divorcing a Narcissist

In my 35-year career as a divorce attorney, I have encountered some individuals – clients or the partner on the other side in a divorce – who were extraordinarily difficult. People who seemed to be in the divorce for the fight. People for whom “winning” was the sole consideration – at the cost of depleting their assets (“I’d rather go broke paying you [the attorney] than let my spouse get a penny.”) or – even worse – using their children as pawns in the conflict with their spouse.

Don’t get me wrong. The stress of a divorce often brings out the worst in people. The pain of rejection can cause even the most rational and/or kind person to be overcome with anger. But fortunately, most people seem to be able to step back from their anger long enough to look at financial issues rationally and to behave in the best interest of their children. Not so, the difficult people I described in the prior paragraph.

When I began training in collaborative divorce and mediation some 15 years ago, I attended a seminar on dealing with “difficult people” in divorce. I learned that many of the difficult people I described above are […]

Co-Parenting and Holiday Schedule After Divorce

When a couple going through a divorce has had children together, there will have to be an ongoing co-parenting relationship. Co-parenting during the holidays is often fraught with conflict and stress, even many years after a divorce. We have all heard of couples who go back to court multiple times after their divorce to re-litigate holiday visitation issues that were “settled” through the adversarial process.

The stress of the “holiday shuffle” can be reduced— or even eliminated –- when couples choose a collaborative divorce. The collaborative process allows the divorcing parents to structure a holiday plan for the children tailored to the needs of their specific situation.

This brings to mind one of the most important reasons to consider a collaborative divorce. The collaborative process makes it possible for both divorcing partners to shape the provisions in a settlement agreement. The agreement can be fine-tuned to deal with the reasonable needs and concerns of both parents. This pre-empts the ongoing conflict that often ensues after a settlement arrived at in the adversarial process – either through adversarial negotiation or a court ordered provision. (Indeed, a very fine judge that I know refers to court-ordered custody and visitation arrangements as […]

Divorce via Mediation or Collaborative Practice: A Gift to Yourself

A priceless benefit that a divorcing couple can give to their children – and to themselves – is a mediated or collaborative divorce.

Having just spent a delightful Father’s Day with my family, I was moved by an essay I read in TIME magazine by Susanna Schrobsdorff: “Happy Father’s Day to my ex-husband (really).” Eight years after her divorce, Schrobsdorff shares the hard-earned wisdom that “the kids need both of you. If you are lucky, you will be sitting next to this person [your ex-spouse] at graduations, weddings, baby showers and, yes, funerals for the rest of your lives. There is no divorce from the kinds of celebrations and crisis situations that require both of you to show up for your children and each other.”

Divorce is painful and difficult, but it doesn’t have to be toxic. No matter how hurt and angry you are, you don’t have to let those emotions drive the negotiations. Divorce attorneys skilled in mediation and collaborative practice can help you and your spouse bring your best selves to the negotiating table. They can empower you to keep the long view in mind. Schrobsdorff articulates beautifully the “Why” of choosing the diplomatic way to divorce. To […]

After Divorce: Co-Parenting and the “Holiday Shuffle”

When a couple going through a divorce has had children together, there is going to have to be an ongoing co-parenting relationship. Having just spent an enjoyable Easter holiday with my own family, I was reminded that co-parenting during the holidays is often fraught with conflict and stress, even many years after a divorce. We have all heard tales of couples who go back to court multiple times after their divorce to re-litigate holiday visitation issues that were “settled” through the adversarial process.

For couples who choose a collaborative divorce, however, the stress of the “holiday shuffle” is reduced, if not eliminated. The collaborative process allows the divorcing parents to structure a holiday plan for the children tailored to the needs of their specific situation.
This brings to mind one of the most important reasons to consider a collaborative divorce. The collaborative process makes it possible for the two divorcing partners to “own” all provisions in a settlement agreement. The agreement can be fine-tuned so that the reasonable needs and concerns of both parents are addressed. This can prevent the ongoing conflict that often ensues after a settlement arrived at through traditional adversarial negotiation or after court ordered provisions. (Indeed, […]

Collaborative Divorce and a Special Needs Child

With March being Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, I am reminded that – for a divorcing couple who has a child with special needs – a collaborative divorce offers the best way for the parents to come to an agreement on addressing the needs of the child.

About ten years ago, I worked on a collaborative divorce in which the couple had two children, one of whom had been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. I represented the husband, and another collaborative lawyer, “Michelle,” represented the wife.

The parties were having some very heated arguments about parental decision-making and access to the children.

The defining moment in the case occurred at a four-way settlement conference when, after a few niceties were exchanged, the wife suddenly lashed out at the husband, exclaiming how upset she was at his criticism of her decision-making with respect to their disabled child, and the various therapies she wanted him to undergo.

Specifically, she accused her husband of telling her that – if she wants the child involved in certain programs to treat his autism and the child becomes labeled “handicapped”—  then it will be “on her”(her responsibility) for ruining the child’s life. The husband then expressed his strong feelings in […]

Co-Parenting and Collaborative Divorce

Co-parenting during the holidays is often fraught with difficulty, even many years after a divorce.

For couples who choose to divorce the collaborative way, however, the stress of the “holiday shuffle” is reduced, if not eliminated. The collaborative process allows the divorcing couple to structure a holiday plan for the children tailored to the needs of their specific situation.

Because both parents have played an active role in the process – working in partnership with each other and their attorneys – both parents have a sense of ownership of the holiday plan. They are less likely to resist it or try to undermine it each year when the holidays come along. Moreover, some flexibility can be incorporated into the plan when negotiating collaboratively.

This points out one of the most important reasons to consider a collaborative divorce. When a couple has had children together, there is going to have to be an ongoing co-parenting relationship.

The collaborative process makes it possible for the two divorcing partners to “own” all provisions in a settlement agreement. This can prevent the ongoing conflict that often ensues after court ordered provisions or a settlement arrived at through traditional adversarial negotiation. Indeed, we […]