By Bart J. Carey, Esq.
In speaking with a parent contemplating divorce, I always speak with the understanding that it is most likely the parents who best understand their children and what is best for themselves and the family. I assume parents are best situated to shepherd their children through life’s toughest challenges, including divorce, if …
Divorce is one of those times. It’s a tough time for the whole family, parents and children – of all ages. A crisis like they’ve never faced before, challenging their very identity as parents, children, family and each of their places/roles/futures in and as a family. But I also know, empowered to do so, parents will do their best to meet these challenges in consideration of the best interests of their children.
For these and many other reasons, I always assure parents I am confident, with the best advice and counsel available, they will make the best decisions regarding their children.
Uniquely qualified to advise and to equip parents with the information and insights which, when combined with their own, will empower them to best serve the best interests of their children, here are some of the ways which I have witnessed the power of the Child Specialist (CS) in an interdisciplinary process.
- Children, both minors and adults, are stakeholders and major influences “in the room” whenever the parents meet. The Child Specialist is uniquely situated to bring them “in the room” and center the clients on family goals and consensus building;
- Children are a significant part of the divorcing family dynamic and not always in the most supportive/functional way. Children who “act out” are likely children whose voices are not being heard and/or needs are not being met. The CS, by helping parents identify these needs and address them, empowers the children with a ‘voice’. Instead of becoming more ‘needy’, demanding and self-absorbed, their experience is one of empowerment and leads to adjustment/acceptance of the new family structure.
- While the ‘Neutral’ CS, being aligned with the children of the clients, is not a true neutral, being impartial in relation to the parents powerfully amplifies the voice of the children. Having a CS present communicates that reality tangibly to the parents and moderates the conversation whether the CS speaks or not.
- Parents work directly with the Neutral Child Specialist as the voice of the child(ren). This discourages them looking to their lawyers or others as decision makers and empowers them as parents and empowers parents to focus on children’s needs and interests. In this way the CS helps all professionals value the parents role. The parents keep control of the parenting decisions.
In sum, the CS brings the children “into the room”, while empowering parents with valuable information and guidance. The CS “voice of the children” empowers parents to get [back] on common ground and focus on meeting the present and ongoing needs and interests of the children. The CS is uniquely situated to empower everyone to be able to focus on something bigger than themselves.
On April 29, 2018, at Collaborative Practice California’s statewide conference in San Mateo, Family Lawyer Bart Carey, Neutral Financial Specialist Cathleen Collinsworth, Divorce Coach and Child Specialist Bruce Fredenburg, and Divorce Coach and Child Specialist Carol Hughes, all professionals from Collaborative Divorce Solutions of Orange County, are presenting a workshop about the value that the Child Specialist brings to Collaborative Divorce Teams.