Friday, February 15, 2008

7 Ways Collaborative Law Helps Kids

Collaborative Law is presented as being a kinder and gentler way to get divorced or resolve other family legal matters. Attorneys like being able to help people through family transitions in a more positive and productive manner. Clients who have used Collaborative Law almost always sing its praises for helping to create better solutions and allowing them to control the outcome. In addition to all those factors, Collaborative Law also helps children in a number of ways that don't get mentioned as much, but which are, in reality, very important and beneficial. Consider the following 7 ways that Collaborative Law especially helps children.

1. Collaborative Law teaches parents better communication skills. Most parents don't naturally use "I" statements. In Collaborative cases, the parents are taught to make careful word choices before speaking. They learn to avoid saying "you" and instead to make statements about themselves ("I felt angry/confused when Mike didn't get home on time", instead of "You made me mad when you didn't bring Mike home on time.") Such subtle differences from word choice can make a huge difference. There is also a great emphasis on listening skills and being respectful to the other spouse. Actually, a lot of the communication skills would be great things to learn during a marriage.

2. Parents model good behavior. Even with the divorce going on, parents are able to function well and minimize fighting. By having a series of civilized negotiating meetings, the parties show their children that the parents can still act like adults, even when they disagree on some vital topics. Children learn from their parents they don't have to lose their temper or throw a fit to get their way; they learn how to disagree nicely.

3. Parents can improve their parenting skills. In many cases involving children, a neutral child expert is brought in help the parties be aware of a wide range of possibilities. The parents can polish up their skills or learn new ways to work with children. The child expert can help the parties come up with new solutions consistent their underlying goals and needs.

4. Brainstorming leads to better decisions and plans. Spending time generating multiple possible solutions can lead to completely new ideas or lead to creative possibilities. Even silly ideas may change into great ideas with a small adjustment. Following the stage of generating multiple options, the parties spend time analyzing the effectiveness and practicality of each option, instead of shooting them down as they are originally brought up. Eventually, what's left is one or more great ideas that will work to help the parties meet their needs.

5. Parents get along better, which reduces long-term stress on children. It is undisputable that divorce is often very stressful on the children. When the parents get along with each other and cooperate in finding solutions, the children do not get as upset as they do in confrontational divorces. And that's not even mentioning how bad it gets when children are put in the middle of custody or visitation fights.

6. Kids can maintain good relationships with both parents and don't have to choose sides. Children benefit from having close, loving relationships with both parents. Usually, each parent brings some unique value to the children, so the children really lose out if one parent becomes distant or uninvolved because that parent can't get along with the other parent.

7. Collaborative Law is a better use of the money for the family. The parents don't waste their resources. They cooperate and share information with each other instead of going through a largely wasteful "Discovery" process used in litigation. They use one neutral expert to handle specific tasks, instead of having two -- one for each side -- in litigation. They also skip expensive and unnecessary actions, such as ordering a Social Study, psychological evaluations and bringing in battling experts to testify.

Collaborative Law clearly is beneficial for parents and children. The benefits for children have been under-publicized, but, in the long run, may be the most important value of the process.

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