When a family dissolves from it’s original form, it creates stress for everyone involved. However, divorce does not have to create trauma or suffering. In fact, research indicates that children from divorced families can do just as well in every aspect of life as those from intact families, and sometimes even better, depending on the circumstances. What makes the difference in the outcomes for children is how the parents deal with the dissolution of the marriage and transition to a new family structure. Specifically, parental conflict is the most important variable negatively affecting children’s adjustment to divorce.
Cooperative, mutually supportive and non-confrontation co-parenting following a divorce is beneficial for both parents and children. Unfortunately, research indicates that this is achieved by approximately only a quarter of divorcing couples. Another quarter of divorcing families are described to have acrimonious relationships.
What does it take for parents to make the most successful transition that allows them to co-parent in a manner that protects the children’s emotional well being, fosters resilience and serves the children’s best interests and even their own?
- Parents need to accept the dissolution and be willing to move toward transitioning to a new family structure. Your children will be able to accept the new situation on the extent that you are able to.
- Parents need to take responsibility for working through their own feelings, grief and loss and other issues regarding the divorce so that they do not spill over onto their children. In addition, taking personal responsibility allows you to be fully available to meet you children’s emotional needs during this transition.
- Parents need to refrain from talking negatively about one another and, instead, show the utmost respect for their ex-spouse as the father or mother of their children. No one is the perfect parent. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses as a parent. Your ability to accept your co-parent for who he or she is, despite your reservations about particular issues, will only make your children stronger, more resilient and able to accept others and life as it is instead of taking on a victim role.
Being able to work together to make decisions and develop a parenting plan that incorporates the child receiving the best of both parents will result in emotionally healthy children who thrive despite your divorce. Your ability to do to work together in your children's best interests shows the highest level of respect and love for your child and for yourself.
However, if parents stay stuck in ongoing conflict, anger, fear, resentment and/or use the children to serve their own needs—intentionally or unintentionally—children suffer greatly in all areas of their lives. This is when divorce creates emotional, educational, social and even physical problems that can continue on for a lifetime.
It is estimated that about 30 percent of divorces fall into the high conflict category. For the children in these families, life can become very difficult and result in varying degrees of fear, anxiety, depression and a whole gamut of other symptoms. Parenting through a high conflict divorce can feel like an unending battle. Such high levels of continuous stress make it difficult to function on a daily basis and/or to be the parents they would like to be. Parent-child relationships can become strained, distant or alienated.
I offer the following services for families in need of support in transitioning to a new family structure.
- Parent Counseling – I will support you in working through your own process, which may include grief and loss, anger and resentment; co-parenting issues; transitioning to being a single parent; creating a new life for yourself; and new relationship issues
- Co-parent Coaching – I will work with both parents to assist you in creating a parenting plan, creating ways of communicating and decision making, and/or becoming the co-parents you would like to be for your children.
- Child Therapy – I help children who are struggling with a divorce that is affecting them emotionally, behaviorally, socially or physically. If your child is experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, concentration and/or other behavioral or emotional issues, therapy can be highly beneficial during this time.
- Re-unification Therapy - Disconnection between parent and child can occur for multiple reasons including lack of or deficits in bonding and attachment, parent alienation, issues of parental skill or communication, relational trauma and neglect. These issues can be resolved through a model of therapy known as Re-unification Therapy.
- Custody Evaluations ( for more details, see consultation services)
What is a Custody Evaluation?
Custody evaluations are most often utilized in highly contested custody disputes. In the course of investigation, a custody evaluator will interview both parents, observe the children with each of the parents, conduct age-appropriate interviews with the children and interview other significant people such as teachers, daycare providers, healthcare providers, extended family members and friends. It is not unusual for the professional to administer some standard psychological tests. It is also helpful to the evaluator to visit the child's home or to visit the place where the child may live.
A custody evaluator is a mental health professional who makes a written recommendation to the Court as to what custody-visitation arrangement would be in the best interests of the children involved.
In the interest of objectivity, the professional selected to conduct the custody evaluation should not be a person who has previously treated any member of the family. It is also recommended that each party pay one-half of the costs of the custody evaluation to avoid the appearance that the professional may be biased toward the parent who paid the fee.
A well-drafted report will contain a summary of the information collected, an assessment of the family and the needs of the children and a recommendation concerning a custody/visitation arrangement. The custody evaluator's recommendation is just one factor that the Court will take into consideration when deciding what custody/visitation arrangement is in the children's long range best interests.
How my evaluations are unique…
- Having specialized in attachment/bonding, trauma and severe behavior issues with children over the last 15 years, as well as working as a family based therapist to understand the dynamics in many different family systems, makes my background an asset for providing a comprehensive and insightful evaluation.
- My evaluations aim to uncover both the strengths and weaknesses of each parent and make recommendations that specifically accommodate the children receiving the best of both their parents. Each parent has strengths that their child can benefit from. Thus, custody, visitation and other recommendations are made so the children can experience the benefit of both parents’ strengths.
- The assessment tools I use include look at the emotional health and capabilities of each parent. They also aim to determine how the child views and experiences each parent.
- I am skilled at assessing, discerning and treating the underlying issues regarding parent/child relational issues, including disconnection due to relational trauma and/or neglect, parent alienation, deficits in bonding and attachment and issues of parental skill.
For more information on the process for receiving a Custody Evaluation, how to prepare and what paperwork is needed to get started, please see the Custody Evaluation section, here.