Last week, in my article I talked about the complexity of divorce, citing some examples a friend of mine gave me in response to a rather naive comment on my part. I realized very quickly, as she continued her list, that a good many of her concerns centered around their children.

When a couple gets a divorce, it is not just the husband and wife who are affected. The children go through the divorce as well. Their two-parent, secure home is destroyed, and they are impacted to their roots. They have to adjust to many new situations at a time when their world is falling apart.

Many couples will “tough it out” until the children are grown, thinking somehow that will be easier on them. When I was a sophomore at the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), I lived in a dorm that had “living units” of five rooms sharing a common bath and living room. When we got together after Christmas Break, there were two earth-shattering announcements. One junior told us that her mom was expecting a baby. Her comment was that “I should be having the babies in our family!” We laughed, but one freshman started to cry. She had gone home only to find out that her dad had moved out and her parents were getting a divorce. The impact on her was incredible. “Have my parents been living a lie all my life?”

Collaborative professionals focus, among other areas, on decisions that divorcing couples must make regarding the children. Will there be a main “residential parent” or will there be equal residential time? What will be the financial arrangements? The essence of the discussion is, “What will our children’s lives look like from here on out.” That is an important question, one fraught with emotion and uncertainty.

Some of the Collaborative professional groups available in this process to assist the attorneys are child psychologists, family specialists, and financial advisers. I recently listened to Jeff Shushan speak at a King County Collaborative Law meeting. He is one of the family coaches on the Collaborative professionals list assisting couples as they walk through the emotional minefield of preparing for divorce and creating an ongoing “family legacy” in the process. He ended with a cogent message which could help keep the number of “It would be better if” statements low.

“Imagine that the birth of your first grandchild is about to occur. Your eldest child would like to invite both of you, the about-to-be grandparents, to the hospital to share in the birthing experience. Imagine what circumstances would lead your adult child to feel comfortable inviting both grandparents and what circumstances would likely prevent this invitation from being granted.”

When children are involved, their needs must be considered. The Collaborative process is in place to make sure the divorce is done well. Doing it incorrectly could mean the exclusion of one of you, the parents, in important life events down the road. That is another good reason Collaborative professionals need to be part of the process!

Copyright 2013. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.

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