The issues involved in divorce or relationship separation are often complex, and the level of emotional stress placed on all parties involved is enormous. This includes children of the relationship. Witnessing conflict between two parents can have a serious and long lasting psychological impact on children. The best interests of all children of a broken relationship are paramount and Collaborative Practice is a shining example of a dispute resolution process that caters for the overall well-being of all family members and provides a non-adversarial settlement option.
An interdisciplinary Collaborative Practice approach through the inclusion of Family and Child Specialists and Financial Specialists, who with the parents and the collaboratively trained lawyers, can provide the least amount of conflict and the best possible settlement position so as to allow for a functioning relationship post settlement that in turn reduces any exposure of children to conflict. It is of primary focus to separate the legal aspects and the emotional aspects of the settlement as the intermixing of the two is often where conflict arises.
The reality of a divorce or a relationship breakdown on children is that it changes the family dynamic on a day to day basis. The biggest challenge facing parents is to ensure the children maintain resilience to the situation. The best way to achieve this is by a) minimizing any exposure to conflict, and b) maintaining structured and effective parenting. The collaborative approach involves many therapeutic aspects to assist in these desired outcomes. Research shows that in the absence of parental conflict, a child’s best interests can happily be met in a two household family structure that nurtures their emotional and social development into adulthood.
There are several factors that are important in ensuring the resilience of children when the family unit has broken down. Some of these include;
1. Effective co-parenting
2. Access to both parents, and
3. Lack of parental conflict.
The use of Collaborative Practice as a form of dispute resolution addresses these factors and in fact they are the keystone of any Collaborative approach. The use of experienced, well trained Collaborative Practitioners is something that all separating couples should consider when deciding on how best to proceed with their settlement process.