Children in divorce simply want their parents to stop fighting, and collaborative divorce is the best way to achieve that.
Among the mixed pleasures of my career as a lawyer are the many court appointments I have had representing children whose parents were going through divorce. I say a mixed pleasure because, in many ways, I was very limited in my ability to achieve what my young clients almost invariably asked of me: “Please make my parents stop fighting.”
Unfortunately for the children I represented, their parents were caught up in an adversarial system that had the effect of polarizing them, rather than bringing them together. And, unless both of their parents’ attorneys were on the same wave length, determined to assist their clients in looking past their anger and disappointment at the failure of their marriage, the demands of the court system served to open wounds that might never heal.
The training I received in law school prepared me to devise tactics and strategies to “win” in the courtroom, not to help clients heal and make peace with their spouses. That was the purview of marriage and family counselors, not lawyers. So, after 33 years of practicing family law, I was burnt out from being part of the “family wrecking crew” and contemplating retiring from the practice and finding something more rewarding to do.
And then I heard about collaborative divorce. I attended a training, and discovered that I could continue practicing family law, but in a new and different way. This was a divorce method designed to help clients find ways to reach agreements with mutual respect and civility, and to protect their children from the pain of seeing the people they love the most grow angrier and angrier with each other. So in a way, even though I no longer represent children in divorce, I am able to achieve what is they had been asking of me when I was appointed to protect their best interests — I finally could help their parents stop fighting and focus on what was best for their whole family.
About the author: Norma Trusch is a Houston-based collaborative family lawyer and collaborative divorce proponent, and a former board member for the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas (now Collaborative Divorce Texas).