Last week, I posted about the interests of third parties and how these can throw a wrench into negotiations and poorly effect outcomes for separating couples.
The grey area when it comes to these “Figures in the Shadows” are the children of separating couples. Though in Collaborative, we strive to put their interest’s front and center throughout the process, this is often not the case in other approaches—even though research shows it is the children that are affected most.
Divorcing Couples With Children
In traditional litigation, parents are often encouraged to adopt polarized positions in which the children become pawns and bargaining chips. In the few cases that reach trial, children are sometimes called to testify in court and forced to declare on the record their preference for one parent or another—a preference that is given very little weight by most Judges. Even in the cases that do not reach trial and settle “on the courtroom steps,” the interests of children are rarely taken into account as anything other than attempts at manipulation between the parties.
Neutrality for The Child’s Sake
Having seen this play out time and time again during my time as a litigator, it is one of the features of the Collaborative Process that I appreciate most: the Process calling for a trained mental health professional who can take on a neutral role and bring clarity to the children’s interests in the Process. It is often very difficult for children, even adult children, to quantify and express their fears, desires, and needs as their parents go through separation. They are often scared of hurting their parent’s feelings or being rebuked for expressing wishes which may be contrary to what one or both parents has in mind. The Neutral Child Specialist is absolutely invaluable in helping navigate this difficult landscape and ensuring the parents understand their children’s needs and strive to address those needs within the course of their negotiations.