In high conflict litigated cases, a Judge will often appoint Minor’s Counsel in order to assist them in determining orders that are in the best interests of the child or children of the marriage. Minor’s Counsel is an attorney who represents the children. They are not a therapist or a custody evaluator, however they will gather evidence to present arguments to the Court as to what orders are best for their client or clients [the children]. Minor’s counsel is able to access the confidential records for the child such as medical records, educational records or any records from therapists that have been treating the child.
When I have been in the role of Minor’s Counsel, I try to meet with the child in a neutral setting such as a park or a setting that will be comfortable for them. If I know that they like animals, I may bring one of my dogs with me to the first meeting. My goal in the first meeting is to provide the child with a safe space so that they can talk to me. In most litigated cases, the child has been exposed to the conflict of the parents for a long time. … Read More “The Role of Minor’s Counsel in Litigation and in Collaborative Divorce”
As family law collaborators and mediators, we know all too well how the emotional aspects of a divorce can threaten to derail what often begins as a stable and effective process toward a peaceful resolution of our clients’ family law disputes.
Clients come to us for help in resolving their family law matters with the hope and intention of staying out of court. This is a laudable goal, and most everyone comes with the highest intention of achieving that goal. But then, something quite predictable happens… and if we collaborative professionals are not ready for it, the entire process can be unexpectedly hijacked, thereby posing a threat to the successful outcome for our clients and their families. The ‘something’ that invariably shows up is our clients’ deeply held emotions about the unraveling of their marriages, including all of the uncertainty and fear that accompany such momentous changes in a person’s life circumstances. As we know, once strong emotions enter the picture, it is quite challenging to remain in option-creation and problem-solving mode during the collaborative or mediation process. However, that is what we must do, relying effectively upon our best kept secret, the “neutrals”.
By Patrice Courteau, MA, LMFT and Paula J. Swensen, Esq.
The ending of a marriage can be a minefield of emotions and reactions. A “no drama” divorce helps to shift a mindset from pain and unrealistic expectations to one of managing emotions, learning better communication skills, and gathering information in order to reduce anxiety of divorcing spouses.
In our experience of working together in a co-mediation process, the goal is to reduce the drama by reducing fear, managing both spouse’s expectations, and setting a course for the couple to be able to successfully navigate. We cannot overstate the value to clients of using well-trained collaborative professionals to help them manage the fear and emotion in order to achieve their best family-centered outcome.
While the legal professional is educating on the legal process and the issues presented, the mental health professional (divorce coach or child specialist) is gathering information from the spouses regarding their urgent issues and concerns, including any communication challenges.
By Carol R. Hughes, Ph.D., LMFT, Child Specialist and Divorce Coach
“Children are like wet cement. Everything that falls on them leaves an impression.” ~ Dr. Haim Ginott, World Renowned Child Psychologist
Often married adults include as one of their New Year’s resolutions that they are going to “start a new life” by filing for divorce. For this reason, there is an increase in divorce filings in January. This is why January is National Child-Centered Divorce Awareness Month.
When parents file for divorce, how does it affect their children? It depends.
For decades, the research about children and divorce has indicated that children report that the news of their parents impending divorce and how their parents divorced made a lasting impression on them, even into their adulthood. Most parents want to prevent emotional and psychological damage to their children during and after divorce, but they do not know how to do so.
We recommend the following article titled “Seven Reasons to do a Collaborative Divorce” by John Denny, Collaborative Divorce and Mediation Attorney. John expresses some very important views on the subject of Collaborative Divorce in the Orange County Area.
by Jann Glasser, LCSW, LMFT, Divorce Coach, Co-Parenting Specialist
1. Recognize and Deal with Signs of Distress in Your Children.
Altered sleep or eating habits
Declining scholastic performance
Frequent, sudden or broad mood changes
Acting out with anger, aggression, or defiance
Withdrawal from family and friends
Lethargy or disinterest
Infantile or other regressive behavior
Excessive catering to parents, which may signal a child’s self-blame for the divorce
If you observe such behavior, contact a mental health professional. Also consider consulting with a divorce coach who can help improve communication with your children, and your ability to care for them during your divorce.
2. Step AWAY from the Buttons!
Spouses in dysfunctional marriages know well how to expose each other’s vulnerabilities and provoke each other’s anger. Use that knowledge to avoid pushing your spouse’s buttons, because anything that increases parental conflict increases the prospects for harm to your kids.
Also, use what you know about your quarrelsome co-parent to avoid confrontations. During any encounters with your spouse be careful not to convey disrespect in front of the children either by words or by body language.
3. Confirm Substantive Conversations with Your Co-Parent.
In speaking with a parent contemplating divorce, I always speak with the understanding that it is most likely the parents who best understand their children and what is best for themselves and the family. I assume parents are best situated to shepherd their children through life’s toughest challenges, including divorce, if…
Divorce is one of those times. It’s a tough time for the whole family, parents and children – of all ages. A crisis like they’ve never faced before, challenging their very identity as parents, children, family and each of their places/roles/futures in and as a family. But I also know, empowered to do so, parents will do their best to meet these challenges in consideration of the best interests of their children.
For these and many other reasons, I always assure parents I am confident, with the best advice and counsel available, they will make the best decisions regarding their children.
Uniquely qualified to advise and to equip parents with the information and insights which, when combined with their own, will empower them to best serve the best interests of their children, here are some of the ways which I have witnessed the … Read More “The Power and Empowerment – Child Specialist”
Both parties may consult with attorneys, but decide to represent themselves in or out of court. Both parties are ultimately responsible for the agreements and paperwork that goes to the court for filing including the final Judgment.
2. One-Party Representation
One party is represented by an attorney and the other is not. Generally, the party who has the attorney is responsible for drafting the paperwork, and the unrepresented spouse would get advice as to what he or she wants included in the final Judgment.
3. Both Spouses Have Representation
Both spouses have their own litigation counsel, and try to settle parts of the case through settlement discussion. If they are unable to settle some or all of the issues, the case goes to court for a judge to make the decisions for the spouses.
Both spouses retain the same mediator who acts as their neutral facilitator and does not represent either party. Depending on the style of the mediator, and whether or not the mediator is an attorney, the spouses may have the benefit of being educated as to the law, available options, recommendations, … Read More “Your Six Different Divorce Alternatives”
“Divorce is a different experience for children and adults because the children lose something that is fundamental to their development – the family structure. The family comprises the scaffolding upon which children mount successive developmental stages, from infancy into adolescence.” — “Second Chances: Men Women and Children a Decade After Divorce”
How many times have you taken your child through a divorce? Helped your child navigate an emotional and transitory life experience that is difficult and opaque for you? Successfully rebuilt the family structure in ways that support your child? And all at a time when you and your spouse are not on the same page.
When it comes to helping your child through a divorce, consider turning to a child specialist to get the best advice and counsel based on the advantages of their specialized education, training and experience.
Here are nine reasons why you should have a child specialist assist you through your divorce process:
It’s not therapy. No one is going to mess with your child. The child specialist’s role is to listen to you and
by John R. Denny, Family Law Attorney Hittelman Strunk Law Group, LLP, Newport Beach, California
The team approach helps you get through the process without going to war.
You will work with a team of legal, financial, and mental health professionals who are specifically trained in the Collaborative Process. They agree to work with you to reach a settlement outside of court.
You make the decisions, not the judge.
In the Collaborative Process, the parties do not go to court. They resolve their differences through cooperative negotiation. Thus, all orders are made with both parties’ agreement.
The process is less expensive than a litigated divorce.
While all cases are different, studies show that a successful Collaborative case is less expensive than a litigated case, even one which settles before trial.
Coaches help you and your spouse learn to communicate in ways which can reduce the adversarial nature of the divorce.
In a full team Collaborative Divorce, each party will work with an assigned mental health professional acting as a coach. Among other things, the coach will assist the party to avoid the type of communication which will further divide the parties, and make settlement more costly and difficult.