Protecting Children in a Divorce

Ask The Experts by Sean Cleland

Q: I am considering a divorce, but I am worried about the negative effect that a divorce will have on my children. What can I do to protect my children?

A: You are right to be concerned. Children of divorce are at increased risk for problems such as depression and diminished academic performance. If staying married is still an option, it will take collaboration with your spouse and counseling to improve your marriage. If the decision is made to divorce, it will also take collaboration with your spouse during the divorce to help your children avoid the negative effects of divorce.

The best possible divorce for children requires both parents to remain in control over the divorce process and will rely upon collaboration to resolve conflict.

The traditional approach to obtaining a divorce through litigation is not the best approach to divorce for children. Combative by design, the traditional approach discourages parents from communicating or collaborating. Conflicts are resolved by competitive negotiation controlled by attorneys and the Court. This puts children in the middle of a fight that the parents no longer control.

When the divorce is final, the parents are rendered less capable of working together than ever, bringing conflict with them into their post-divorce family.

There are two alternatives for parents to the traditional approach to divorce through litigation: mediation and collaborative practice. Mediation utilizes a neutral third party (a trained lawyer mediator) helps to educate and guide couples through all necessary decisions and documents needed to complete a divorce. With Collaborative Practice both spouses are represented by attorneys who agree to work cooperatively and constructively to find a mutually acceptable resolution.

Both methods keep the parents in control of the divorce, rely upon communication and collaboration, and are proven to help parents transition to a post-divorce family.

Sean Cleland is an attorney/mediator with Cleland Collaborative Solutions. Cleland Collaborative Practice assists couples to select the best option for them and provides clients with full mediation, collaborative practice and litigation services. Cleland specializes in divorce mediation, divorce collaborative practice and family law (litigation.) He can be reached at 586-876-9165 and is a member of The Family Center's Association of Professionals.

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