By: Ellen S. Fischer, Esquire
When I first started practicing Collaborative Divorce more than 20 years ago, the “team” consisted of two lawyers and two clients. We would schedule four-way meetings where we could sit comfortably at a table and have meaningful discussions that resulted in the divorcing couple reaching resolution with dignity and respect. It seemed like the perfect alternative to ugly divorce litigation. But oftentimes, there was much emotionality and much sadness reverberating from these folks that simply was not addressed at our meetings. While these feelings were not ignored, they were not taken care of either.
In more recent years, Collaborative Divorce has grown to become an “Interdisciplinary” process. Our “team” now consists of trained divorce coaches who are mental health professionals and financial experts who work alongside the lawyers and help provide for a holistic approach to the divorce which results in more positive outcomes.
But I remained skeptical about the need for divorce coaches as part of every collaborative case and especially when the divorce involved older adults who are able to communicate and who continue to get along reasonably well. I believed quite strongly that with the help of two collaboratively trained lawyers guiding them through the process, we would have a successful outcome and that was good enough. Certainly, with young children, custody issues were often at the heart of our discussions, but custody discussions involving grown children seemed completely unnecessary.
I was so very wrong.
Older children need to be considered too.
As collaborative practitioners, we are required to attend many continuing education classes and to share stories with each other. I just recently heard a story from a colleague about a couple in their 60’s who had decided to divorce. The couple had married children and grandchildren and were hearing rumblings from their children about their decision. The children wanted to meet with the divorce coach, because they were suffering terribly and felt incredibly lost and sad about the future with divorced parents. They had no idea what to expect. Which parent would they see on the holidays and with what schedule? What about the grandchildren and overnight visits? Should these grown-up children consider a custody schedule for when to visit with which parent? How do they show equal support to both parents? How do they generally cope with the fact that the family they grew up with is so very changed?
Enter the divorce coach who met with the adult children and helped them work through their grief and uncertainty. Her involvement lessened the emotional difficulties the adult children faced and gave the entire family a chance to evolve peacefully into a new family unit, where each one of them can continue to share family memories and to dance together at the grandchildren’s weddings.
For additional reading on the impact of divorce
on grown children, please see the article by
Jane Gordon Julien of the New York Times titled
“Never too Old to Hurt From Parents’ Divorce” at
our Collaborative Law Group website: