Sunday, May 11, 2008

Collaborative Law is Good for Children

The Science Daily headline from May 8, 2008 contained the full message: "After Divorce, Stable Families Help Minimize Longterm Harm to Children".

One of the best things about Collaborative Law is that it encourages and relies on cooperation between the parents. Co-parenting skills are often taught and sometimes a child specialist works with both parents in creating a parenting plan that provides stability and access for everyone. Avoiding a tug-of-war contest between parents is really beneficial. Add to that planning and forethought, and a healthy environment can be maintained or created for the children.

The Science Daily article discussed a study at Ohio State University. "The study compared children who grew up in three different situations:
  • Children who grew up in always-married households (5,303 children).
  • Children whose parents divorced before the study began, but who lived in a stable family structure between ages 14 and 18(954 children).
  • Children whose parents divorced prior to the beginning of the study, and whose family situation changed once or twice between ages 14 and 18(697 children).

"In the two divorced family groups, children may have lived in single-parent families or ones with a stepparent. The key for this research was whether that arrangement – whichever it was -- changed between ages 14 and 18).

"The researchers compared how children in these groups fared on measures of education, income and poverty in 2000 when they were 26.

"Results showed that young adults who grew up in stable post-divorce families had similar chances of attending college and living in poverty compared to those from always married families. But they fared less well on measures of the highest degree obtained, occupational prestige and income.

"However, the young adults who lived in unstable family situations after their parents divorced did worse on all measures. In fact, they fared more than twice as poorly on most measures compared to their peers who had stable family situations."

Here's my interpretation and opinion:

Although there have been no scientific, long-term studies about the effects of a Collaborative divorce on the children, it is reasonable to surmise, considering the Ohio State study, that the Collaborative skills used by the parents to produce an agreement will often or even usually carry over to the post-divorce lives of the parents and children. Clearly, one of the most important advantages of Collaborative Law is that it enables the spouses to maintain important family relationships on relatively good terms in spite of the divorce. That will help create a more stable atmosphere for the children.

In addition, the parties may be better off financially after a Collaborative divorce as compared to a typical litigated one. While we really can't compare the costs of a divorce with the cost of how a divorce might have been (too many variables), it appears that there can be some savings in a Collaborative approach because of the cooperation and avoidance of unnecessary busy-work steps. The result is that the parties often are going to be not as financially devastated as they are in a typical litigated divorce. Starting post-divorce life in better financial shape will make it easier to be financially stable, which can be a major part of overall family stability.

My conclusion: Collaborative Law will encourage and enable a safer, more stable environment for children after a divorce, and that's certainly better for the children in terms of education, income and poverty.

Thanks to Jeffrey Lalloway of the California Divorce and Family Law blog for the mention of the Ohio State Study.

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