Clients are so overwhelmed during the divorce process that most of them “just want it over”. For most, they find that their journey as a new family unit is just beginning.
The legal case ends with the entry of a divorce decree that addresses the parenting plan for children and the various financial matters of the parents and their children. Hopefully the parents worked with a neutral mental health professional (MHP) during the divorce process. A benefit that is often unrealized during the divorce process is that the parents have developed a relationship of trust with the MHP which makes that person a valuable go to resource for conflicts or other parental issues post-divorce. Most post-divorce issues relating to children are not legal issues to be solved by lawyers or judges. A skilled mental health professional (MHP) can help parents work through issues that arise as time goes on and families change.
The post-divorce era is an opportunity for each parent to build the new life they desire. Being able to manage the issues that appear during this new phase of life is the key to success. Those main areas relate to parenting, communicating and managing money issues. Let’s look at each of these issues separately.
Parenting and Communication
Couples that have minor children generally end their divorce with some type of custody agreement or parenting plan. The parenting plan will often provide details about their future parenting, including basic schedules, holiday schedules and methods of making important decisions. While having a clear and specific parenting plan that addresses the needs of the children, the best parenting plan is merely a beginning, an outline for a better future that is likely to be revised over time.
The strength of the parenting plan will often lie in the parents’ capacity to implement and adapt the plan for many years. Often, at the time of the divorce, the parents may not have had much of an opportunity to co-parent in separate homes. Consequently, the real challenges sometimes arrive months later when they no longer have a team of professionals in place to help them.
Families are more likely to be successful after the divorce if they can develop an “aftercare plan” that gives them the support they need during the crucial months and years following the divorce. This is another area where the MHP and attorneys can work together to help your family get the best possible outcome. A successful collaborative divorce will focus on development of a comprehensive parenting plan that becomes the “aftercare plan” for the family. The MHP is an integral part of the aftercare plan and the attorneys, working in conjunction with the MHP, can incorporate the aftercare plan in the final documents and can help guide clients in following through on the long-term implementation.
Clients often need post-divorce help on the financial matters as well. In many cases, clients spend a tremendous amount of money determining just how much they will have in their post-divorce life, (often getting a fairly predictable result).
At the same time, very little is spent helping clients manage their resources after the divorce. While much of the post-divorce financial work can be done through financial experts, there is usually a very emotional aspect of the financial life as well, and many neutral MHP’s are drawn into these discussions. Therefore, interaction between your divorce attorney and the MHP might be helpful in the post-divorce financial planning as well.
During divorce, individuals and families make some of the most important decisions in their lives at a time when they feel the least equipped to address them. The Collaborative Divorce process specifically focuses on addressing the emotional, legal and financial issues that present themselves in every divorce. Wise and resourceful clients will seek out good professional help in addressing their emotional, legal and financial issues. For the most part, professionals working in these areas have operated on separate islands, preventing clients from getting the benefit of having a fully integrated plan for their future. The Collaborative Divorce model specifically integrates the three professions into a cohesive team for the benefit of the family.