North Georgia Collaborative Family Law Network

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The Role of the Mental Health Professional in Collaborative Law

A Collaborative Divorce Coach

A mental health professional can serve the process in several ways. Some act as a Divorce Coach and others work in the capacity of a Child Specialist.

As a Collaborative Divorce Coach, a therapist can work with the couple to help defuse the highly charged emotional issues which often go along with a divorce or family law problem. A Divorce Coach integrates methods from psychotherapy, consulting, and coaching to help clients navigate the difficult process of divorcing. Each spouse is empowered to maintain control over the important decision-making process and to transition to a post divorce state with integrity, confidence and new hope for their future.

A Divorce Coach will often meet with one or more of the parties to determine the specific areas of conflict with their spouse. This process often identifies underlying issues which may be preventing an immediate resolution. The coaches focus on reassuring the parties about the process. Their role is  to make parties feel confident that they are making decisions with a rationale purpose and concern about  emotional and financial health rather than from fear or mistrust. Often parties need time to digest the changes which are enveloping the family during a divorce or family crisis. Once the parties get a sense of security that their needs are being considered, it is often easier for the case to resolve.

Parties should understand that the divorce coaches do not serve in a therapeutic capacity per se. They can work with a parties individual family therapist or marriage counselor whom the parties may have utilized in the past. This can help integrate the issues and solve an underlying problem in a constructive way that leads to post divorce harmony. Those that utilize their services in a divorce are often surprised with how quickly the parties can bridge gaps of communication and resolve problems creatively with mutual respect for one another's long term positions.  It is not unusual and often recommended that both parties facing a divorce consult with a divorce coach individually and at the beginning of the collaborative process. While many parties are reluctant to initiate these meetings, the long term benefit of using these important resources to resolve the emotional issues in the beginning stages of the divorce process far outweigh the decision to ignore that component of a divorce which may ultimately cause the process to last significantly longer.

Divorce Coaches

  • help people set goals and then reach those goals;
  • ask their clients to think creatively in a way they may not have done on their own;
  • focus their clients to more quickly produce results;
  • provide tools, support and structure to accomplish more throughout the entire process of a divorce than a traditional court case can provide for the parties;
  • assist and/or collaborate on a parenting plan that encourages a cooperative spirit and provides for the best interest of the children;
  • assist with post divorce adjustment.

Ultimately, although coaching can be used concurrently with psychotherapeutic work, it is not used as a substitute. Divorce coaching is NOT psychotherapy. Coaching concentrates primarily on the issues associated with and resulting from divorce, both present and future, assuming the presence of emotional reactions to life events and that clients are capable of expressing and handling their emotions.

The Child Specialist

The Child Specialist provides children with an opportunity to express their concerns and feelings while providing parents with information to assist them in developing a co-parenting plan and helping the family adjust to divorce. This role includes offering parents guidance, education, and assistance in facilitating parenting decisions. As an integral member of the Collaborative Divorce interdisciplinary team, the role of Child Specialist will assist in reaching solutions that are in the best interest of the children.

Not all cases require the use of a Child Specialist. However, if the parties have difficulty separating their own needs with that of the child or children, a Child Specialist can often be brought into the case in a way similar to a guardian ad litem in a traditional divorce. Unlike in a traditional divorce setting, in a Collaborative Divorce structure, the Child Specialist has a more open and direct line of communication with the parties and the attorneys. In this way, ongoing recommendations can be made in a context where all of the parties can benefit from the CHild Specialist's  experience and knowledge.

Child Specialists

  • Identify and prioritize the concerns of parents regarding the child(ren);
  • Listen to each child. •Can be the voice for the child;
  • Sensitize parents to the needs of each child in the context of the divorce;
  • Give information to parents and, if applicable, legal and coaching team to assist in developing an effective co-parenting plan.

Call now for a consultation with one of our Collaborative Mental Health Specialists.