Divorce & Conflict

To many people going through a divorce, using our services of Separating with Civility & Divorcing with Dignity® seems an obvious choice: it reduces costs and is less stressful. However, couples in high conflict who cannot imagine at this moment agreeing with their estranged spouse on big issues such as children or finances wonder if our services are a good fit for them. We think they are, and we’ll share why.

CONFLICT AND YOU

Intense sadness, intense anger, hopelessness, frustration, fear, confusion, a sense of betrayal… the list goes on of painful feelings experienced throughout the process of divorce. It is not surprising that people experiencing painful emotions engage in conflict. That conflict then has many adverse effects on one’s mental health due to the stress it causes, and in addition to increasing depression, anxiety, and anger, on a cognitive level the conflict and stress interfere with clear thinking, all at a time when clear thinking for decision-making is vital. Ultimately people are able to think more clearly and have more of a sense of contentment and well-being in their lives when they are not in constant conflict. We can help you move through the conflict, lessen it, and enjoy more peace of mind and hope for the future. Using our professionals, with the focus on amicable and mutually-agreed upon solutions, is a good place to start. Versus the traditional adversarial model, our models improve the chances for long-term sense of satisfaction.

CONFLICT AND CHILDREN

THE NEGATIVE EFFECT OF CONFLICT ON CHILDREN

Research has shown that it is not the divorce per se but rather the amount of conflict associated with the divorce that has the most negative effects on children.This is likely because of self-image issues, disruption in attachments, and coping skills around stress. With regard to self-image, on an internal level children see themselves as “half mom” and “half dad.” In a high conflict divorce, parties often tear one another down, which in turn tears down the child’s own internal sense of self. Related to that, the conflict disrupts the attachment between the child and one or both parents, either on an emotional level as they try to figure out who is “right” about who is the “bad” person in the divorce, and/or on a practical level as positive/quality time with one or both parents is interrupted with either overt conflict between the parties or an undercurrent of anger and hostility. The child is left to deal with an on-going stressful situation at an age when coping skills around stress are still in development, and the child is often not able to process such negativity between parents when it goes on over time with no end in sight. Thus the time to start lessening the conflict is now, and our Separating with Civility & Divorcing with Dignity® services are a good place to start.


FOSTERING PARENT-CHILD ATTACHMENTS

Research has also shown that children are healthiest and happiest when they have a positive attachment to both parents. We can help you to develop a positive cooperative co-parenting relationship even through your anger. As psychologists with advanced skills in communication and conflict resolution combined with expertise in child development and family relationships, we can help you get through the conflict, lessen it, and enjoy civil relations with your ex and positive relationships with your children. We’re not saying it will be easy, but we are saying it will be worth it, both for your children’s well-being and for your own peace of mind.

With the exception of the rare cases in which one parent meets criteria for “unfit” as a parent, regardless of the final custody arrangement, you will both have some joint role in parenting, just by the fact that you are both parents. We can help you learn how to be amicable co-parents. Using our Separating with Civility & Divorcing with Dignity® services, with the focus on amicable and mutually-agreed upon solutions, is a good place to start. Versus the traditional adversarial model, our models improve the chances for long-term goodwill.

THE POSITIVE EFFECT OF MEDIATION ON POST-DIVORCE PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS

Recent scientific research demonstrates the long-term benefits of mediation for custody disputes or divorces involving children. Dr. Emery’s studies at the University of Virginia’s Center for Children, Families and the Law were conducted with the highest scientific standards and contrasted the long-term experience of couples randomly assigned to mediation rather than litigation of their divorce or custody disputes. (Learn more about Dr. Emery’s research at: emeryondivorce.com/index.php.) Completely random assignment was used to ensure that both divorce mediation and litigation groups included the full spectrum of couples as characterized by their styles of relating with each other. Divorce or custody dispute couples evaluated as “cooperative,” “distant,” or “angry” were randomly distributed to both groups. These studies demonstrated an astonishing and persistent benefit to the families of couples taking control of their own destiny and attempting to work out their own agreements in mediation.

Consider that twelve (12) years later after an average of only five (5) hours of mediation at the time of the parties’ divorce:

  • 28% of the nonresidential parents who mediated saw their children at least once a week, in comparison with only 9% of parents who were assigned by the study to resolve their divorce or custody dispute by litigation!
  • 36% of nonresidential parents who litigated had not seen their children in the last year, in comparison with 16% of divorcing parents who were assigned to mediation!
  • Among divorce families who mediated, fully 59% of nonresidential parents talked to their children weekly or more often, compared with just 14% of nonresidential parents who litigated!
  • Finally, in comparison with families who went to court, the residential parent of divorcing couples who mediated consistently reported that the nonresidential parent discussed problems with them more and participated more in the children’s discipline, grooming, religious training, errands, special events, school and church functions, recreational activities, holidays and vacations!

In short, by utilizing more civil and respectful modes of negotiation, mediation helps parties avoid the emotionally destructive battles that we know have harmful effects on the parties and especially on their children; mediation preserves relationships in a very long-lasting way, with the benefits seen over a decade later in positive parent-child relationships.

REDUCING CONFLICT IN DETERMINING THE PARENTING PLAN / CUSTODY

SAVE TIME: HELPING HIGH-CONFLICT COUPLES MEDIATE A RESOLUTION

On a practical note, did you know that if you and your spouse cannot agree upon a parenting plan/custody arrangement, mediation will be court-ordered? This is done in hopes of avoiding going to trial. So if you are high conflict, you’re going to end up in court-ordered mediation eventually, but with a mediator who is likely a lawyer or ex-judge and has no expertise in child development. It makes more sense to use our Separating with Civility & Divorcing with Dignity® services up front and avoid the court-ordered mediation all-together by reaching your own agreement. FYI, if court-ordered mediation fails and you don’t reach agreement, then you go to trial, and most likely get a custody evaluation to utilize in the litigation. At that point, you come to us for a formal custody evaluation, which we are happy to provide… but if you needed that level of scrutiny into deciding upon a custody arrangement, we could have done that for you up front and let you and your spouse use that information to help you decide, instead of you paying high litigation fees and giving up your self-determination to judicial discretion.

SELF-DETERMINATION MATTERS

Judicial discretion. That is what litigation ends in. You pay tens of thousands or over a hundred thousand dollars… and you don’t even have the final say. Nor does your spouse. Nor do the attorneys you’ve been working so closely with. The irony is that the judge may come up with conditions that neither you nor your spouse are happy with. Using our services of Separating with Civility & Divorcing with Dignity®, at least you have a direct say in the negotiation of the final settlement that you and your spouse agree upon. Though it may require some compromise, you ultimately maintain shared control of the negotiation process and self-determination of the outcome.