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  • Writer's pictureBrendan Holt

Understanding the Role of the Mental Health Practitioner in a Collaborative Divorce

The collaborative divorce process is designed to empower you and your spouse to engage, discuss, define and fully understand the terms of your dissolution agreement. With input from financial, legal, and mental health professionals, you both remain fully present as informed participants in crafting the agreement on child custody and support, property and debt division, and any other key areas that need to be settled before the divorce decree can be issued.

Maintaining both emotional stability and remaining mindful the entire time is an obvious challenge. If the marriage was impacted by infidelity, feelings of betrayal, abandonment or disillusionment, the understandable tension and anger can derail the settlement negotiation process. Even if you are parting on comparatively amicable terms, you are still going to feel sadness, a sense of loss for the life you originally envisioned together and feelings of anxiety about what is to come. The processing and expression of these very real and necessary feelings can impact your decision-making both for yourself and even how you might choose to engage with and discuss the issues surrounding divorce with your children.

At every stage of the divorce process, it is crucial to understand where loss, fear, and anxiety might impact the language you use, the resolution you seek and the decisions you make. This is why mental health practitioners or process “coaches” are a key part of your collaborative divorce team. Below is an overview of how they can help you keep negotiations productive, on track, and aiming for an outcome that benefits your entire family unit.

Helping You Understand Your Feelings

Some divorces come as a surprise to one partner, leaving each side in very different emotional states just as important and sensitive dissolution negotiations must occur. One spouse, seemingly out of nowhere, tells the other that they’re leaving or have already moved on emotionally. In other instances the decision to divorce results from years of mutual unhappiness and even animosity. When a mental health practitioner is part of your collaborative divorce team, they can help you and your spouse work through these traumatic feelings and focus on the importance of fostering and maintaining a healthy cooperative attitude conducive to a positive result.

Encouraging Positive Communication

Mental health practitioners encourage and model how both spouses (and their lawyers) can continue to communicate in a respectful and productive manner, even while they are processing the trauma of divorce. They can reduce the adversarial aspect of the separation process by allowing for and facilitating the healthy mutual acknowledgment and expression of emotions (yes, even anger and love) and vulnerability.

Attorney Support

Working as a team, mental health practitioners support the lawyers for each party by helping them more fully understand what their clients are feeling and when emotions might be obstructing settlement negotiations. While these professionals do not diagnose or treat either spouse as part of the collaborative divorce process, they can make it easier for the couple’s respective attorneys to understand and navigate the relationship dynamics and, therefore, recognize and address behaviors that could otherwise impact a fair settlement agreement.

Advocacy for Your Children

Mental health practitioners working in collaborative divorce very often have extensive training and education in child psychology and development. They can help you and your spouse consider and develop a parenting plan that is in the best interest of your children and embrace a unified and positive outlook, together, that sustains a successful co-parenting relationship.

Some practitioners are called in to serve as child specialists. Although they don’t provide your children with therapy directly, they can correspond with other professionals with whom children might already be working and use their training and insights to help you understand the children’s experiences. Parents are often unaware of the consequences of their words and actions on children, and this information can make it easier for you to discuss the divorce and other difficult subjects with them.

Contact a Connecticut Family Law Attorney

Divorce has been identified as one of life’s most stressful experiences. By serving as communication facilitators and process coaches working with the other members of the collaborative divorce team, mental health professionals enable settlement negotiations to better recognize and process emotions and relationship dynamics, therefore, making them less contentious and more productive. The collaborative divorce process will allow you to better understand and communicate both your own needs and goals as well as listen and respond more deeply to the corresponding needs of your spouse. Taken together this can help expedite your continued journey into a healthy, thriving post-divorce life as both an individual and co-parent.

If you are considering collaborative divorce, contact Holt Law. We continue to embrace this holistic method to achieve the efficient, professional and emotionally safe resolution of divorce. To schedule a consultation, call 203-872-7218.

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