Posted by Stephen G. Gordon in Divorce and Children
Is it about getting even? Or is it about getting it right? Is it about you? Or is it about your children? As a divorce attorney, I have learned that some parents do get it right and those who do, put their children’s needs ahead of their own.
When litigating through a divorce, spouses engage in an adversarial process, often for as long as a year or more. During that time, those spouses learn to approach problems as adversaries, not as parents united in their love for their children and their desire to give those children the greatest chance for success. By definition, the adversarial approach aims at producing a winner and a loser. Integral to that approach is an effort to exploit a spouse’s weaknesses and shortcomings. The worst harm parents can do to their children is put those children in a “no-win” situation where agreeing with Mom means disagreeing with Dad or supporting their father means undermining their mother. But the adversarial system almost forces parents to put their children in the middle of the battle.
The Collaborative Process, on the other hand, offers couples an opportunity to divorce through the committed exercise of problem-solving. Rather than engage in an adversarial battle of win and lose, couples engage in a concerted effort to solve the problem of re-structuring their family. They are not adversaries; they are parents working together to find a solution that works for everyone. Not a perfect solution but one that meets most of their pressing needs and their deepest concerns for the welfare of their children. Co-parenting – working together for the sake of the children, communicating with respect, making decisions through open and honest compromise, and maintaining a sense of family while reducing conflict – is achievable in almost any family. If parents keep their children’s needs foremost, setting aside anger, sadness, fear, and resentment, they can co-parent effectively.
But successful co-parenting requires certain skills. Many couples benefit greatly from their use of a professional Parenting Coordinator in developing those skills. Professionals who help parents learn to co-parent are not doing psychotherapy or couples counseling. They are educating parents in the skills of co-parenting.
A quick, true tale to illustrate:
After one short, passionate month together, Dr. D and Dr. M, went their separate ways only to learn that their passion was to bring them a lovely baby boy. They had no real common ground to build upon, no history together, no cultural or experiential ties. They came from very different backgrounds, had very different values, and understood their roles as parents very differently. To no one’s surprise, they often argued about how to raise their son. Their arguments brought them (and me as Dr. M’s counsel) to court regularly and repeatedly for nearly ten years.
The adversarial experience of litigating their differences hardened them both. And it cost a fortune in dollars, in time, in energy, and in psychic well-being. They suffered and their son suffered. After 10 years of repeating the same, sorry patterns of poor parenting, they finally agreed to employ a professional Parent Coordinator. It took only a few short months before they learned to limit their disagreements and to resolve the disagreements they could not avoid through healthy, problem solving. They have not been back to court in more than two years and their son (and they) are stronger, happier, and more successful.
Stephen G. Gordon, Esq. is a collaborative lawyer, divorce mediator, and litigator with over thirty years’ experience. He is the founder and chair of the Westchester Putnam Collaborative Divorce Group and has served as co-chair of the Hudson Valley Collaborative Divorce and Dispute Resolution Association and programming co-chair of the Family and Domestic Relations Law Section of the Westchester County Bar Association. For additional information visit: www.sgordonlaw.com. For a consultation please contact (914) 684-6840.