The best way to protect your children during a divorce is to stop fighting and don’t put them in the middle of your disputes.  Don’t use the children to hurt each other–make your divorce about protecting them.  A high-conflict divorce is harmful to children’s social, personal, and intellectual development–so avoid fighting.  A child-centered collaborative divorce can minimize damage to children.  Rather that litigate your divorce and postpone healing until after the trial, choose a collaborative divorce and begin healing your family immediately.  

Children’s Fears

Preschool children are concerned about abandonment during separation, but adjust better than older siblings after the divorce.  To avoid harming young children, keep their routines constant and help them feel secure.  Make sure young children feel loved by both parents and avoid fighting in front of them.  Older children understand more about what is happening, but because they don’t adjust well to change, they show more long-term negative effects from high–conflict divorce.  Also, older children remember life prior to the divorce and are more traumatized by change.  Try to keep things consistent during and after the divorce to help your older children adjust.  Stay in the house, keep your children in the same school, and live close to their friends if possible.  Most important, if older children see their parents being mature adults and working out their problems in a collaborative manner, they will be better adjusted and suffer fewer developmental problems post-divorce.  On the other hand, if older children see their parents fighting all the time and acting like children, that will do even more developmentally damage during the divorce.

Choose a Collaborative Divorce

The best way to have a child-centered divorce is to choose the collaborative process because it offers privacy, transparency, client control, better family relationships, protection for the children, and minimal post-divorce conflicts.  Most people find these benefits compelling.    

Privacy

A major benefit of the collaborative process is privacy–which tends to lower parental stress and gives a divorcing couple room to be reasonable and positive when parenting their children.  Everything that happens during a collaborative divorce is confidential so family secrets doesn’t get broadcast throughout the community and poison children’s relationships with their peers or teachers. 

Transparency

Participants in the collaborative process agree to voluntarily produce all relevant financial and family information so they avoid lengthy and expensive court fights and the associated anger.  Because the parties are honest during the collaborative process, they develop trust, which helps them work out a settlement that meets the goals and interests of both parties and allows them to appear mature and reasonable to their children during and after the divorce.

Client Control

A collaborative divorce is settled through interest-based negotiation so clients control the outcome and don’t have to trash their spouse in a courtroom to protect themselves.  The result is that collaborating parents can interact with their children in a mature manner and avoid the anger, bickering, and bad-mouthing that often characterizes litigated divorces.

Better Family Relations

The collaborative process helps divorcing couples learn to communicate, respect each other, and work together to reach a settlement so they avoid fighting in front of their children.  High-conflict divorce is known to cause serious developmental damage.  A litigated divorce brings out the worst in people, makes them hate each other, and destroys any chance they can work together constructively post-divorce.  The result is that when parents opt for a litigated divorce, their children see constant fighting and that makes them feel insecure, isolated, and fearful.

Protection for the Children

Children are never put in the middle of a collaborative divorce because the parents learn to cooperate rather than fight.  If the collaborative team needs information about the children, a child specialist is engaged to interview them and produce a report.  In a litigated divorce, children are often put in the middle and forced to meet with the judge in chambers to tell the court where they want to live after the divorce is final.  Litigation is destructive of the parent-child relationship, makes children anxious, and harms their emotional, intellectual, and social development.

Minimal Post-divorce Conflict

Parents who participate in a collaborative divorce learn to communicate, respect each other, and recognize that fighting is not productive.  Consequently, they can co-parent effectively after the divorce and they rarely go back to court.  By contrast, many litigated divorces end up back in court to resolve disputes that could be worked out between the parties if they were reasonable.  

For all these reasons, you should seriously consider a child-centered collaborative divorce rather than litigation if you are untying the knot.  You and your children will be better off, it won’t cost as much as a litigated divorce, you will be able to co-parent effectively post-divorce, and your children will adjust more quickly with less developmental damage to their cognitive, emotional, and social adjustment.

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