As noted in my initial blog about collaborative law, one distinction of a collaborative divorce from a traditional adversarial divorce is the role of agreed neutral third parties to assist the husband and wife in reaching a resolution. In addition to the collaborative attorney and financial neutral, another potential member is the child specialist. In a collaborative divorce, the parties may agree to a child specialist, typically a mental health professional with a focus on children’s developmental needs who have been trained in collaborative law.
Unfortunately, children often are the most damaged by divorce and are the least able to express their concerns or feelings during the divorce process. The child specialist provides a resource for the children to discuss their feelings and ask questions about the process in a neutral setting. It should be noted that the child specialist is not aligned with either side and can also meet with each party to discuss the impact of the divorce on the children and how they are reacting. The child specialist’s goal is to help the parents realize what is in the best interest of the children throughout the entire divorce process.
The child specialist may meet with the children separately and convey their concerns about the future and feelings about the process to the collaborative team. They also meet with the parents separately to discuss their concerns and hopes for the resolution of issues pertaining to the children. The child specialist remains available to the children to discuss their feelings throughout the collaborative process.
In adversarial cases, a judge may order a custodial evaluation at the request of one or both parties. A custody evaluator, also a mental health professional, meets with both parties, the children and any other persons deemed relevant and ultimately makes a recommendation to the court. The focus is on assisting the judge in determining the custody arrangement for the parties. Either party may dispute the evaluation with another expert.
In collaborative law, the child specialist works with the parties to develop a parenting plan that incorporates the concerns of the children and also serves the best interest of the children. The child specialist can make recommendations to the team if requested. It should be noted that all not all collaborative cases with children need a child specialist. If the parents have been separated and already arrived at an arrangement that works well, then the collaborative process can work that plan into the ultimate resolution of the case.
If a child specialist assisting you through your divorce sounds like something that would work for you, please contact us for more information about collaborative law divorces.
If you’d like to schedule a case assessment with Melanie Hogg or another Held Law Firm attorney, please call 865-685-4780.