What About The Kids?

by Dr. Debra Dupree, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Relationships That Matter

Dr. Debra Dupree

You’ve made the decision to divorce. It’s been agonizing but a decision that had to be made. Now, what about the children? Never in your wildest dreams did you expect to bring children into the world so they could live in two different households. Where do you begin? What’s in their best interests? How will they be affected?

Tip #1: Even though you are at odds with the other parent, crafting a joint message is critically important.

Pull no punches here. There are plenty of websites that offer good sound guidance to parents on how to tell the children and what to expect at different ages. Here’s what Psychology Today has to offer.

The most important tip here is to assure them these are adult differences. Place no blame and never tell the children if there has been an affair or other adult misbehavior. Those are adult issues, not children issues.

Tip #2: Children respond differently to divorce depending on their age and maturity. Here is a breakdown by age:

Some common issues that surface for younger children include fear of abandonment, self-blame for the divorce, the need for reassurance, conflicting loyalties, and fantasies about parents reuniting.

Older school-age children are often angry, embarrassed about their parents’ chaos, often take sides, experience depression, experiment with drugs and alcohol to escape the home pressures. How you support and cooperate with the other parent in helping teens through the transition is crucial.

Regardless of the age, what all children need are consistency, stability and predictability.

And, don’t think the impact of divorce stops there! The young adult, ages 18 to 25, often have the most difficulty with their parents’ divorce as the life they’ve known is shattered through divorce. Studies suggest that adult children of divorce are less likely to attend or complete college, are more likely to be unemployed or on welfare, are more likely to have problematic relationships with parents and siblings, and have more trouble forming their own marital relationships. So do your homework and be prepared.

Divorce is difficult on children no matter their age. Photo: Michael “Mike” L. Baird/Creative Commons license

Tip #3: How parents handle their divorce is the single most contributing factor to how children adjust.

We’ve just taken a look at how children react to divorce differently at different ages. One of the most important things parents can do for their children is to develop a structured parenting plan that is predictable (no surprises or frequent changes) and consistent. There is already enough turmoil going on during the transition into two households. You are most likely frazzled and on edge. Having a schedule the kids can rely on helps stabilize the anxiety that can come with change. Using daycare and school as places for transitions, rather than directly from one parent home to the other, allows the kids to go through a normal day just like any other kid in school. It is also reduces the anxiety that comes from leaving one parent for the other.

It is critical that parents learn to disengage from what was their intimate marital relationship and re-engage in the business of parenting (like two professional partners working through business decisions). It might sound odd, but over 20 years of experience working with families in divorce proves this shift in mindset between the adults in the divorce is essential for minimizing the negative effects of divorce on children. After all, the divorce is ending the marital relationship between two adults, but it does not end the parent-child relationship that is intended to go on forever.

Now is the time for parents to get help through short-term counseling, educational programs, or coaching on how to parent in a post-divorce world. It is different! Children need structure and they need both parents in their lives, just not at the same time in a post-divorce world. They will adapt but much of it has to do with how the adults manage their lives and interactions with others, including new significant others.

The bottom line: divorce is a tough road to follow. Take a good look at ALL your options for recovery, both inside and outside of the marriage. And, if divorce is the only option, choose Alternative Dispute Resolution such as Collaborative Divorce or mediation as the route to follow, as this offers the greatest potential for recovery.

Dr. Debra Dupree is a forensic mental health professional, licensed as a Child and Family Therapist in 1986 and a Credentialed Mediator in 1994. She obtained her Doctorate in Psychology, specializing in Marriage and Family Systems, in 2014. Debra has an extensive background spanning more than 30 years helping people understand their communication dynamics, belief systems, and impact on those relationships that matter. She is a member of the Southern California Mediation Association as well as the San Diego Family Law Bar Association.

July 2 Workshop Helps Couples Make Good Divorce Decisions

Experts offer guidance and answer questions at free workshop

(SAN DIEGO) – No two divorces are alike, but this much is true: divorce is stressful even under the best of circumstances. It can be especially hard if you have children or economic difficulties.

The good news: It is possible despite challenges to preserve the emotional and financial resources of the family while respecting everyone’s needs during a divorce.

Figuring out a way to get divorced without hurting your children or destroying family relationships may seem impossible. The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego can explains how to make it happen through its “Divorce Options” workshops.

The next Divorce Options in San Diego takes place on Saturday, July 2 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at the Scripps Ranch Civic Association Community Center, 11885 Cypress Canyon Road (corner of Scripps Poway Parkway and Cypress Canyon, two miles east of Interstate 15).

Workshops take place the first Saturday of every month.

No matter what your personal situation, workshop leaders can help you navigate this difficult time in your life.

For additional information or to RSVP, call Divorce Options at (858) 472-4022 or email at sandiegodivorceoptions@gmail.com

Led by volunteer attorneys, financial specialists, and mental health professionals who are members of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, the workshop will cover the full range of choices couples have as they contemplate divorce, focusing on the non-adversarial, out-of-court options.

Divorce Options provides unbiased information about self-representation, mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigated divorce. The workshop deals with the legal, financial, family and personal issues of divorce in an informational and compassionate small group setting. There is NO solicitation of business.

The Divorce Options program welcomes anyone thinking about divorce or other relationship transitions including co-habitating couples with children or LGBT couples looking for a process aware and respectful of their unique needs. Divorce Options offers useful information adaptable to a wide variety of family circumstances.

“We could not be more pleased by the response to our workshops,” said Dan Martin, family law attorney and Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member. “The Divorce Options program gives us an opportunity to help people become more knowledgeable about the resources they can draw on to plan an effective transition that respects the needs and interests of all family members. Taking time to become more knowledgeable can go a long way to ease the anxiety about your divorce, and allows you to take control of your future,” said Martin.

Topics include:

  • Litigation, mediation and collaboration – the risks and the benefits of each process
  • Legal, financial, psychological and social issues of divorce
  • How to talk about divorce with your children
  • Guidance from divorce experts

By learning about divorce and the different process options available you can maximize your ability to make good decisions during the difficult and challenging time. Divorce Options is a workshop designed to help couples take the next step, no matter where they are in the process. It identifies strategies to help you stay out of court, and helps you identify the social, emotional, legal, and financial issues that are most pressing for you.

About the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego

CFLG San Diego’s members work together to learn, practice, and promote collaborative processes for problem solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, collaborative processes that protect the integrity and health of family relationships and eliminate the need for families to resort to litigation.

CFLG is online at www.collaborativefamilylawsandiego.com, and LinkedIn.

Collaborators Support Kids’ Turn San Diego

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego support Kids' Turn San Diego, which gives children a safe place to talk about their experiences and feelings when experiencing separation from parents due to military deployments, divorce, and other challenges.

Both groups share commitment to children navigating family separations

Contact: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR / 619-997-2495 or gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego support Kids' Turn San Diego, which gives children a safe place to talk about their experiences and feelings when experiencing separation from parents due to military deployments, divorce, and other challenges.

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego support Kids’ Turn San Diego, which gives children a safe place to talk about their experiences and feelings when experiencing separation from parents due to military deployments, divorce, and other challenges.

(SAN DIEGO) – More than 30 years of research continues to reveal negative effects of traditional divorce on children. Many of the 1.5 million children in the U.S. whose parents divorce every year feel as if their worlds are falling apart. Divorcing parents are usually very concerned about the welfare of their children during this troublesome process. Some parents are so worried that they remain in unhappy marriages, believing it will protect their offspring from the trauma of divorce.

Among the many positive aspects of Collaborative Divorce for families is lessening the potentially harmful effects of divorce on children. The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego shares this mission with Kids’ Turn San Diego, a nonprofit organization assisting children and families through separation due to divorce or military transitions.

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego has signed on as a sponsor for the third year for the Kids’ Turn San Diego Fourth Annual “Night at the Padres” Event on June 4, 2016, with proceeds benefiting its programs bringing peace to children experiencing these difficult family issues.

“The Collaborative method of divorce came about when attorneys, financial advisors and mental health professionals saw the need to better protect the integrity of family relationships, especially where children are involved,” said Myra Fleischer, family law attorney and Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego president. “Collaborative Divorce offers a healthy way to help children through divorce.

“Kids have a safe place to talk about their experiences and feelings at Kids’ Turn San Diego. They meet other children dealing with similar challenges in their lives, so they don’t feel so alone. Caring adults offer effective coping strategies to help the children navigate these major family changes in a positive way,” said Fleischer. “We applaud the group’s work. It is important to us to support these efforts.”

Cindy Grossmont, LCSW, Kids’ Turn San Diego Executive Director, said, “We thank the professionals of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego for their ongoing support. We know the members share our mission and we value our partnership to help children make their way toward a healthier, happier future.”

To support Kids’ Turn San Diego through “Night at the Padres,” by purchasing tickets or making a donation, visit the donation page here.

About Kids’ Turn San Diego

Kids’ Turn San Diego is a caring nonprofit organization for children and parents experiencing family separations or military transitions. We offer specially designed programs facilitated by trained and experienced mental health professionals and credentialed teachers for never married, separated and divorced families, step-parents and children and families experiencing military related transitions. Visit http://www.kidsturnsd.org/ to learn more.

About The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego members work together to learn, practice, and promote collaborative processes for problem solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, collaborative processes that protect the integrity and health of family relationships and eliminate the need for families to resort to litigation.

CFLGSD is online at www.collaborativefamilylawsandiego.com.

 

Collaborating From Afar On Collaborative Divorce Cases

Long distance Collaborative Practice can work effectively with the right team and approach.

Long distance Collaborative Practice can work effectively with the right team and approach.

by Meredith G. Lewis, CLS-F, CDFA

In most Collaborative Divorce cases, the parties and professional team members reside and work in the same city, and are able to have in person meetings throughout the process. What if a situation arises when one of the parties, or even one of the chosen professional team members, lives in another city, state or country? Is a Collaborative Divorce case even possible under this scenario? Depending on the circumstances of the case, it is absolutely possible.

Based on the success of a recent Collaborative case, my colleagues and team members Shawn Weber, CLS-F, Anna Addleman, CPA, CDFA, and Robert A. Simon, Ph.D will offer tips in our upcoming presentation titled “Collaborating From Afar: Strategies For Overcoming Obstacles in Long Distance Collaborative Cases” at the Collaborative Practice California (CP Cal) “Celebration XI” conferencein Redwood City, California in late April.

(L to R) Anna Addleman, Shawn Weber, Robert Simon, and Meredith Lewis will discuss long distance Collaborative Cases at the upcoming Collaborative Practice California Celebration XI Conference.

(L to R) Anna Addleman, Shawn Weber, Robert Simon, and Meredith Lewis will discuss long distance Collaborative Cases at the upcoming Collaborative Practice California Celebration XI Conference.

With the availability of technology, if a party or team member is not local, he or she can still attend Collaborative Divorce meetings and be completely involved in the process. We had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a Collaborative case where one of the parties resides outside of the United States. Though the team and the parties have faced some challenges with the process, it has worked well, and has enabled the case to proceed using the Collaborative Process without requiring the spouse who lives in another country to travel to San Diego.

Our team has developed several requirements for assessing whether your long distance Collaborative Divorce case can be successful. Note, however, that these are based on our experience with only one case and, therefore, these criteria are evolving.

  • Use of Technology: The professional team and the party who resides outside of the area needs to be familiar with the necessary communication technology to be utilized. There are several programs such as GoToMeeting, WebEx or Citrix which allow a person to appear remotely at a meeting.
  • Ability to Cooperate: The parties have a reasonable level of mutual respect for one another or have the ability to communicate.
  • Professional Teamwork: The professional team must be cohesive and flexible.

There are also ethical dilemmas that should be addressed by the team the Collaborative Team should address:

  • Is there an advantage or disadvantage with one party appearing remotely?
  • Are there power imbalances that would make such a process ineffective?
  • Is it better to have the party participating remotely have a local mental health professional as a coach, or one who can attend the meeting in person?

Just as not all family law cases are appropriate for the Collaborative process, not all Collaborative Divorce cases are appropriate to be conducted remotely. Deciding the appropriateness requires a detailed review of the situation by the potential Collaborative Divorce team, and the willingness of the parties to understand and accept the benefits and drawbacks of the remote model. However, geography alone does not necessarily have to be a bar to a successful Collaborative Divorce case.

Concerned whether your long distance divorce can be resolved using the Collaborative Process model? Contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego at 858-472-4022 to discuss your questions and schedule a consultation. Or attend one of our free “Divorce Options” seminars the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at the Scripps Ranch Civic Association Community Center. To reserve your space, email sandiegodivorceoptions@gmail.com

Do You Need A Child Specialist For Your Divorce?

Working with a Child Specialist through the Collaborative Divorce process can help your children move forward without lasting emotional damage.
Working with a Child Specialist through the Collaborative Divorce process can help your children move forward without lasting emotional damage.

Working with a Child Specialist through the Collaborative Divorce process can help your children move forward without lasting emotional damage.

by Frann Setzer, Esq.
MBA/Certified Family Law Specialist
Lewis, Warren & Setzer, LLP

The holidays can be a stressful time of the year, but for those going through separation or

Attorney Frann Setzer

Family law attorney Frann Setzer

divorce that stress can be magnified. This is especially applicable for children, whose reactions to changes in holiday and family traditions may be difficult to measure. Perhaps this is the right time to add a Child Specialist to your divorce team.

Along with their attorneys and a financial neutral working with clients during the Collaborative divorce process, clients also have their coaches to lean on. Coaches are licensed mental health professionals who help clients identity intense feelings and play a key role in keeping emotions from derailing the process. While clients have strong feelings tied to finances, in my experience as a family law attorney, it is often the parents’ emotions surrounding the children that result in the most intense feelings and correspondingly, the most intense conflict, during the divorce process.

Parents worry about how their children are dealing with the divorce. They worry about establishing a routine that will work for their children. They worry about differences in parenting styles. Situations where the children might have special needs or where a child has a troubled relationship with one parent can cause particular concern. A Child Specialist is a licensed mental health professional with special expertise working with children.

A child specialist can help with these issues in a number of ways:

  1. Resolving differences in parenting styles or skills. A Child Specialist can help parents understand the impact of the divorce and their children’s developmental needs. While the Child Specialist will not make recommendations, he or she can convey the potential risks and protective factors unique to their children. This information can help you make parenting decisions and adapt your parenting style to the situation.
  1. Establishing an optimal schedule. The Child Specialist can also help parents by meeting with the children and then conveying to the parents an understanding of their children’s stress tolerance, developmental needs, as well that their hopes and wishes. This information can be used to help parents craft a parenting plan that works for their children, taking into consideration various factors such as how often the children should transition, whether the children stay together on the same schedule, how flexible the schedule should be. The specialist can also provide examples of schedules that might work well for the children.
  1. How are the children doing? Children often will open up to a neutral trained Child Specialist- someone who is focused on their needs and has no bias. The specialist can assess how the children are coping with the divorce. If the children need further support, the Child Specialist can make referrals to therapists in the community who specialize in divorce-related child therapy.
  1. Working with children who have special needs. Children with special needs such as autism, chronic illness, or learning disorders may benefit from the input of a Child Specialist. The specialist can help parents understand the unique needs of their child and how to structure a parenting plan that will keep the child stable and safe.
  1. Some children may have a difficult relationship with one parent. Sometimes children are drawn into loyalty conflicts and feel they must choose to align with one parent. These children are caught in the middle of their parents’ conflict. The Child Specialist can meet with the children, assess the situation, and help the parents understand the dynamics that are harming the child, the emotional needs of the child, and how the parents can co-parent successfully to support their children. The specialist can help develop a plan to heal or reconnect the estranged child and his/her parent and can make outside referrals as appropriate.

Working with a Child Specialist to address your childrens’ needs during a divorce is one of the advantages of the Collaborative Process. By recognizing and addressing the impact on your children and the outcome moving forward, family relationships can be preserved and everyone can emerge from the experience with a healthy outlook toward the future, avoiding the pain and conflict of a contentious litigated divorce. Contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego to learn more.