Halloween is my favorite holiday. I always dress in costume even if I am not going to a Halloween party. In the past, I have dressed as Ms. Piggy, Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy, the Medusa, a Cone Head, the Pinball Wizard, and stuck my head inside a carved pumpkin, just to name a few. It’s the time of year for tricks or treats. While treats are the standard fare, I sometimes think it would be fun to give out tricks instead. Tricks are not appropriate, however, in your divorce process. But many people feel they have been tricked when they find out later they agreed to an ill-conceived settlement. Even if technically there had been no trickery in the settlement process, what was probably missing from it was the transparency and education needed to make informed decisions. By using the collaborative divorce process, you and your spouse are assured of complete transparency of all facts relevant to making an informed decision about your settlement. Furthermore, you both receive the added value of consulting with the appropriate expert to thoroughly understand what the facts mean, be they financial facts, child development facts, legal facts, or communication and relational facts. Making informed decisions is critical to achieving a successful and durable settlement customized to the future needs of your family. No tricks. And yes, treats are still possible despite a divorce.
If you are going through or thinking about starting a Collaborative Divorce, you might wonder why you need a Child Specialist. After all, if you and your spouse agree on custody and parenting time (previously called “visitation”), why spend money on a Child Specialist? As a Collaborative Attorney and Mediator, I enjoy helping parents with the parenting piece; however, I am not an expert in child development, and I don’t meet with the children. Furthermore, I don’t want parents to come up with just any old plan – my wish for them is to succeed in their post-divorce co-parenting relationship and raise happy, healthy kids. A Child Specialist helps you and your spouse create not only the day-to-day and holiday/vacation schedule, but helps you identify your goals and values as parents, so you can create a custom-made plan specifically addressing the unique needs of your children. As parents in a fast-paced world, we need to determine the appropriate age for our kids to have a cell phone. We need to think about how much screen time per day is healthy. Is texting at the dinner table OK (not!)? These are issues parents need to deal with at some point, but parents residing separately really need to be on the same page. Child Specialists can assist with these decisions. Clients often tell me how glad they are they hired a Child Specialist, because they are more in-tune with their children, and are therefore, better parents. Child Specialists are valuable members of the Collaborative Team and are wonderful resources for parents. Believe me, I know this personally because I consult with them when I have questions about my own kiddo! Although you know your children the best (their funny little quirks, favorite color, best friend’s name, and so forth) Child Specialists know what makes children tick from a developmental perspective; thus, they are treasure troves of information. Why not tap into that? Think of it this way: would you rather spend the money on an expert who can guide you now to the land of great co-parenting or spend two, maybe three times or more on therapy for your kids later, because you and your spouse did the bare minimum to just get through the divorce (understandable – it’s a painful ordeal). Consistency in parenting, as well as respecting and understanding your different parenting styles and personalities, can be the difference between a “so-so” parenting plan and a “so-good” parenting plan. It’s easy to spend time and money on gadgets, toys, clothes, and activities for kids, so consider taking the time and money to invest in utilizing a Child Specialist to craft a parenting plan that will help you and your spouse co-parent effectively post-divorce. I bet you’ll be glad you did!