When you think that your happy marriage is coming to an end, but deep down you know that your children will be severely affected by it, you might want to consider Collaborative Divorce or Mediation first.
To avoid any misconceptions and /or confusion: collaborative divorce and mediation are not the same. However, both are protective of children and prevent a potentially destructive and traumatized experience. Other authors have called a collaborative divorce “The Good Divorce”.
Mediation is for couples who can each compete on a relatively even playing field, where there is a minimal, if any, power imbalance in their relationship. It is simpler and usually more affordable than collaborative, but it is also a child-friendly option like collaborative.
Mediation does not require each party to hire his/her own divorce lawyer but, instead, one neutral mediator facilitates a negotiation between the parties to reach a meeting of the minds for settlement. If the mediator is also an attorney, then the mediator can also draft the Separation Agreement.
Collaborative divorce is for couples who may have a significant power imbalance in their relationship, and who still want to avoid a bitter contested divorce fought in Court. Like mediation, a collaborative divorce considers the needs and interests of both parties and the children, with the goal of making a fair and long-lasting settlement with a good aftermath to the divorce.
When it comes to children, previous psychoanalytical studies have shown that a collaborative and hence “healthy” divorce, will probably give parents the ability to offer better care and a better family environment for their children. By reaching a no court divorce settlement, they can avoid lingering feelings of guilt, anger, resentment and in some cases, hatred.
A good divorce mediator knows that, if possible, regular and frequent post-divorce parent and child contact is very beneficial for children. This is more likely to be achieved where both parents had a positive and healthy relationship with the children and were involved in child rearing prior to the divorce.
Whichever divorce process is chosen, predivorce parenting arrangements need to be considered in resolving custody and visitation issues for the sake of the affected children.
The presence of a child specialist is advisable and recommended in a collaborative divorce.
If the custody arrangement is agreed upon by the parents, the parent-child communication after divorce is found to be more effective. When a lack of communication between parent-parent or parent-child is intense, that can be due to high levels of conflict during the divorce . Therefore, by choosing mediation or collaborative vs litigation, parents can save their own children from developing negative, combative parental modeling.
Last but not least: if the couple opts for a collaborative divorce, as already highlighted by a Symposium held by the Siben & Siben at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University (FAMILY COURT REVIEW, Vol. 56 No. 3, July 2018 434–436, Association of Family and Conciliation Courts ), their collaborative attorneys should build “an interdisciplinary legal team” for that particular case so as to enhance the benefits of collaborative law for their clients and the children. This is called “collaborative team”.
To sum up, a collaborative divorce developed by a collaborative team can minimize or even eliminate the psychologically harmful effects of a broken marriage on children, who are the ones affected the most.