If you visit the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas’ website, you might notice that when looking up our members, mental health professionals are listed as well as lawyers. That portion of our member roster highlights something important about the collaborative law process: It’s a process that has each participant’s long-term well-being in concern.
In divorce cases involving children, the parties involved typically don’t stop interacting once the divorce is finalized, and the divorce doesn’t necessarily resolve the great number of emotions that can result from two people coming to the realization that they can no longer be a married couple.
Some of our mental health professionals have commented eloquently on why they’re involved in the collaborative law process, and what value they see in it.
Mark Otis, a Dallas-based clinical psychologist, notes that despite the pain and confusion that often arises in divorce, “collaborative family law offers a humane and effective way to reach agreements based upon a joint effort to understand and meet all family members’ most important concerns and interests – a way for all family members to win, even during a time that much is being lost.”
For Patrick Savage, co-director of the Park Cities Counseling Center in Dallas, the collaborative law process contrasts from a traditional divorce in a way that provides long-term benefits to everyone involved. “The divorce model of past has involved, at times, intense litigation and conflict which prevented families from moving forward with positive momentum,” he said. “I have trained with attorneys who are learning to move from an adversarial approach to a collaborative approach in order to perform the helpful services they can provide as counselors at law. I have seen collaborative attorneys assist their clients in resolving their conflicts in order to find closure by the end of the divorce. This helps the couple understand their role in the divorce which enables them to better problem solve, explore appropriately the best interests of themselves and their children, co-parent their children, and move into new relationships without the continued baggage from the previous marriage.”
Another CLI-Texas mental health professional from the Metroplex, Linda Solomon, sees the potential for skills developed in collaborative negotiations to specifically carry over to how divorced parents raise their children. “Divorce is a time of many confusing and conflicting emotions,” she said. “It is also a time when decisions have to be made that will have a huge effect on the lives of each spouse, as well as the children, for many years to come. Many couples begin this process with a breakdown in their ability to communicate, negotiate, or focus on the future. Through the modeling of effective communication and interest-based negotiation that occurs between attorneys, the couple has the ability to develop similar skills. Doing so will only aid their potential to effectively co-parent in the future.”
Why is this so important to children? Consider psychologist Michael Gottlieb’s observation: “Scientific research tells us that ongoing parental conflict is the single most likely factor to harm children of divorce. Collaborative law reduces conflict, increases cooperation, keeps parents in charge and allows decisions to be made without the children being drawn into the conflict. In my view, it is a revolutionary concept that will be of great benefit to many families, and I support it wholeheartedly.”