If current statistics are correct, about half of marriages end in divorce. All too often we see angry and bitter couples fighting out their divorce battles at the emotional and mental expense of their children, leaving them scarred and traumatized. We try to remind couples that one of the best predictors for how children adjust to divorce is the level of conflict between the parents. When parents are hostile and disrespectful to one another, and alienate their children from the other parent, children suffer. When parents can be civil and respectful to one another, children can process the divorce in a healthier manner.
Sometimes, parents will seek out divorce counseling as to how best to approach their divorce for the sake of their children. In these cases, we help clients understand that in order to get divorced, the main issues that have to be resolved are the division of assets and the custody arrangement for their children. Custody is divided into two main areas, Physical Custody and Legal Custody. Physical Custody has to do with where the children will reside and visitation schedules. Legal Custody has to do with the decision making about the children in four main areas; Medical, Education, Activities, and Religion. We encourage clients to try to resolve the issues on their own or with the help of a psychologist specializing in divorce. If they are unable to, they will have someone who does not know them or their children such as a judge or jury deciding the fate of their children. Additionally, they will likely spend thousands of dollars and countless hours fighting it out in court.
When divorcing couples are unable to resolve their custody issues outside of court, often times the judge will appoint a custody evaluator to help the court determine what is in the best interests of the children. This is typically a psychologist who will conduct interviews with each party, the children and various collateral sources. The psychologist will also administer psychological testing to the parties and their children and observe each parent with the children. This too, can be a very expensive and lengthy process. At the end of the process, the custody evaluator usually will make a recommendation to the court regarding custody issues.
Due to the nature of high conflict divorces, these couples have great difficulty communicating effectively about their children. Judges will often order these cases into co-parenting counseling. This process is not to help the couple reconcile their marriage, but to help them learn to communicate more effectively about their children and reduce the conflict between them. We encourage these couples to have regular communication about their children and to support each other's relationship with the children. Crucially important is to help these high conflict couples keep the children out of the middle of their conflicts, to not use the children as go betweens, and to not disparage the other parent to children.