There comes a point in which energy for a marriage can be lost, maybe after years of conflict or withdrawal in the relationship. Or maybe feelings change after a betrayal. Divorce becomes a solution to a problem. Will a divorce really solve it? Could staying in the marriage be a possibility? If there is interest in preventing divorce, click here.
Knowing what to expect in a divorce is part of good decision-making, protecting children, and keeping your head above water when you feel you may drown. Divorce counseling for unavoidable divorce can give you that advantage. Call us any time for personal support for yourself or your children.
If divorce is unavoidable, our divorce services listed on the tabs below are meant to provide an alternative to a war and reduce the stress on parents and children. We can also recommend attorneys.
Co-Parenting Counseling is an active and directive process used to address ongoing conflict between co-parents that seriously affect the children. It provides new ways to co-parent, and can be used to develop and refine decisions that need to be made in the best interest of children. It can be used to rebuild a working relationship between parents, and between parents and children. Parents are actively coached how to make agreements and adjust agreements based on follow-through. No one shall be pressured to make an agreement. If there is a disagreement that cannot be resolved between co-parents, the counselor will make a recommendation.
Co-Parenting Counseling be court-directed, referred by counsel, or self-referred. It can take place pre- or post-settlement, and is useful to head off more ongoing legal conflict.
If there are serious and unproven allegations affecting custody and parenting time then Co-Parenting Counseling is not appropriate. An assessment or trial is likely a better alternative.
I am a marriage and family therapist, licensed clinical professional counselor, court-approved divorce mediator and nationally certified parenting coordinator. I have over 25 years of experience working with children and adolescents and the legal system. I currently provide therapy to children, adolescents, couples and families. I understand child development, the impact of family conflict and divorce on parents and children, and patterns of abuse, neglect, and domestic violence.
Co-Parenting Counseling has one goal: to benefit your children. Parental conflict has a high negative impact on children. Parental conflict is related to emotional problems, behavioral problems, academic/learning problems, depression and anxiety, substance use, precocious sexual activity, antisocial behavior, high school drop-out, suicide/self-harm, not attending college, poor adult relationships, and even lower career attainment for children living in a high-conflict divorce. Dr. Stephen Carter in his book Family Restructuring Therapy: Interventions with High Conflict Separations and Divorces, gives this example of a preteen girl who stated, “Genetically, I am 50 percent my mother. Since my father hates my mother, that part of me must be bad. I am also 50 percent genetically my father. Since my mother hates my mother there goes the other half. I must be all bad so what does it matter if I cut myself.” Many children do not verbalize their feelings, but instead show their allegiance to one of the parents over the other in hopes that conflict will be minimized. There is a need for parents to work together that surpasses the injustices of the relationship, unless there is ongoing abuse or neglect. Children need protection from parental conflict. Only parents working together can prevent the harmful effects of Visitation Refusal or How One Parent Undermines the Other Parent.
Co-Parenting Counseling is a therapeutic process, not an assessment or evaluation. A therapist should never make recommendations regarding custody and/or access without a complete custody evaluation.
Aside from abuse, children generally benefit from a relationship with both mom and dad. Even if there are negative aspects of a parent, children benefit from interacting with one who “brought them into this world,” and can learn crucial coping skills and expand personal styles of problem-solving. Children usually benefit from all the resources of both homes. Also, as both parents and child age the opportunity for a more comfortable relationship develops. Research indicates that not only do children benefit from a relationship with both parents, but in retrospect, children wish they had more time with the non-custodial parent and that children can still feel rejected by estranged and alienated parents. In retrospect, adult children report that they wish someone helped them with their relationship with the “other” parent.
Parents especially in divorce can become estranged or alienated. Estranged parents generally involves the deterioration of the parent’s relationship with the child due to parental factors and child behavior. The child and parent both experience the disconnection. For children of alienated parents, the emphasis is more on what the child has been told about their experience with the other parent, which may include exaggerations and negative allegations. Even if the allegations are true about the other parent, it is difficult if not impossible to accurately measure the exact impact on the child. The child may be attracted to power, and the child may either be more aligned with the more powerful parent, or the child may find power in protecting the “victimized” parent.
Reunification therapy is difficult because it requires not only the usual willingness to make personal changes but also the elusive ability to utilize (versus attack) someone else’s point of view. The earlier the intervention the better. The goal is to help kids past anxiety and avoidance to mastery and confidence. Therapeutic goals are based on each situation, but always involve the parent and child seeing the impact of their own behavior on the other, expressing remorse, the ability to refocus on a future relationship, and effective restriction on the other parent’s interference. Interventions include identifying thinking errors, improving communication, resolving attachment issues, and building self-esteem. Therapists should be active, directive and able to confront maladaptive interactions. Success is determined by parents making agreements that stick.
Supervised visitation is centered on maintaining or building a relationship between child and parent. If both parents provide a clear show of support for the importance of a relationship with both parents, the positive effects on the kids over time is powerful. It says that the kids are more important than the parent’s differences. In the case of domestic violence, abuse or neglect, kids and both parents would need to be prepared by a counselor who has been trained in domestic violence, abuse and neglect. Supervised visitation is about parents working together with a neutral third party to create a sense of safety. It gives the kids a sense of peace that parents will be okay and that a relationship with each parent will be okay. It is a chance at positive, consistent and calm interaction.
During the time together, activities and conversation about a variety of topics is facilitated. While it is not counseling or therapy, visitation supervised by a counselor has the advantage of available interventions designed to redirect communication in such a way that it is productive and resolves conflict. All participants agree how to express themselves, to not talk negatively about others, and avoid asking children to convey information about the other parent. It is in the child’s best interest that neither parent does not intentionally do anything to impair the natural development of the children’s love and respect for the other parent.
Research indicates that not only do children benefit from a relationship with both parents, but in retrospect, children wish they had more time with the non-custodial parent and that children can still feel rejected by estranged and alienated parents. Adult children reported that they wish someone had helped them with their relationship with the “other” parent.
It is essential that both parents are at ease with this process. The emotions of the parents affect the experience of the children. “It is easy to see how toxic parents can become in their ability to serve as a secure base or a haven of safety when they get so preoccupied with their own needs, pride, shame, or selfishness, or their anger at the other parent over betrayal or humiliation. How can I comfort my child when I myself am frightened? How can I tolerate my child having successes under your supervision if it is all about me, not about them?” (Everett Waters). Addressing each parent’s concerns to reduce anxiety helps increase success with supervised visitation.
Note that a parenting coordinator does not resolve the matter of parenting time, but may be used on an interim basis to address the implementation of a temporary parenting plan.
Dan Blair, LMFT, LCPC, NCPC is a Nationally Certified Parenting Coordinator and is trained to draft arbitration decisions with precision. Please call with questions, or to see sample Parenting Coordinator Agreements and Arbitration Decisions.