Can Collaborating Save Your “Life”?

Collaboration Can Save Lives. That’s what the billboard read. Our Orlando Health Heart Institute is celebrating Heart Health Awareness Month and this is one of its slogans. This catch-phrase is referring to the power of collaboration between medical professionals and doctors and patients – a life-saving dynamic.

When I saw the slogan, I instantly thought of collaborative divorce. While the choice to use this non-litigated settlement process instead of litigation may not be a choice of life over death, I contemplated how collaborative divorce could save lives in the metaphorical sense.

For those of you new to the subject of collaborative divorce, it is an alternative to litigation in which both spouses contractually commit to respectful, constructive communication. They commit to taking transparent and constructive action to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.

The couple is assisted and encouraged by a team of collaboratively trained professionals consisting of their lawyers, a neutral mental health professional and a neutral financial planner. During this process, the groundwork can be laid for successful and constructive co-parenting.

How, you may ask could this possibly save my metaphorical life or the metaphorical life of my children, let alone the metaphorical life of my soon-to-be ex-spouse? Furthermore, why would I even want to make things easier on my spouse?

If you have minor children and are divorcing, you are going to be co-parenting with your spouse until the youngest of your children reaches age 18, or in some cases, longer. You will follow a parenting plan that either you negotiated together or one that the court has created for you. You will continue forward as a restructured family.

The manner in which you and your spouse deal with the new situation can have far-reaching implications for your children.

According to Bill Eddy, a well-respected lawyer, licensed clinical social worker, and co-founder of the High Conflict Institute, the average age of children living in conflicted arrangements is becoming increasingly younger.1

Because of this, children are experiencing not only less stability in their young lives, but also greater exposure to parents in conflict or suffering the loss of contact with one parent.2 Borderline and narcissistic personality disorders while affecting 10% of the U.S. population, affects about 15% of young adults ages 20 through 29.3

One of the causes of these disorders is instability in early childhood.4 Stability is necessary for children to develop relationship skills, confidence and the ability to cope with life challenges.5

Creating stability for your children after divorce is crucial for their development into adulthood. Children model the behavior of their adult caretakers and carry these behaviors, including relationship skills, into their grown-up lives.

The collaborative process fosters open and constructive communication between the spouses. In addition, through the help of the neutral mental health professional (MHP), the spouses can begin to learn how to effectively co-parent while living separately. Quite often these parents will continue on as a parenting team attending co-parenting counseling sessions with the MHP.

What better way to create stability for your child than to have a constructive, civil relationship with their other parent? By cooperating and effectively communicating with your ex-spouse you are not only providing crucial modeling behavior for your children (they will emulate your behavior), but also you are creating an environment of harmony and function for them.

The wonderful side effect of this is that because you now are communicating in a more effective way with your spouse, you are not engaging in what I see all too often: the useless expenditure life force spent over battling your ex.

Please consider the collaborative process for your divorce. A new life awaits you, your children and your spouse after your divorce. Collaboration can “save” lives. You can “save” the lives of your children.

 

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  1. Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. Marriage is Declining Rapidly! Does it Matter? available here.
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