HARTFORD, CT - The start of a new year is a time to push the re-start button on major aspects of life including weight loss, professional growth, financial responsibility and coming to a place of peace with your ex. For those who have gone through a contentious divorce, the bitterness often continues long after the divorce. And in some cases, this bitterness and anger does not allow the parties to co-parent their children after the divorce.
“It’s important to recognize that your family has not been destroyed. It is changing, but it’s still there,” said Psychologist Dr. Bruce Freedman. “How it changes and keeps working is in your control.”
Psychologist Dr. Bruce Freedman is a member of the Connecticut Collaborative Divorce Group known as CCDG. CCDG is comprised of attorneys, financial and mental health professionals all with the unified goal of facilitating amicable divorces and post divorce relationships.
“Your ability to compromise is essential. Focus on what your ex has to offer your children and how you can work together to give your kids the benefit of both of their parents,” said Dr. Freedman.
The parents must learn to communicate and cooperate so that the children are not left out and so that the children are not part of the battleground between their parents. It is important to establish guidelines for both to follow. The healing process post divorce is often the biggest hurdle because it means getting past the reason for the divorce and opening oneself up to forgiveness.
"Realize that holding on to your anger and the bitterness of the divorce is more harmful to you and your children than it is to your ex. The best revenge is your happiness and well-being," says Attorney Barbara Aaron. "When you feel triggered, do not react immediately. Use the 24 hour rule before responding so that your response is less emotionally charged. It's key to resolve to change how you communicate with your ex-spouse. In doing so, be circumspect and respectful in your communications and limit the interactions to present issues. "
It is important to be proactive and recognize problem issues so that they may be avoided. One of the most difficult areas to navigate post divorce includes the introduction of new relationships to your children. It’s important to remember, 'go slow to go fast’. In other words, don't rush in too quickly to introduce new relationships. Also, pay support on time or in advance as this will be a tenuous time. In addition, parents need to deliver and return the child to the other parent in accordance with the terms of the judgment unless other arrangements are agreed in advance. Finally, failure to pay court-ordered child support in a timely and consistent fashion will usually exacerbate the tensions between the parents.
The collaborative approach works to keep the parents out of court during the divorce process and avoid coming back to court after the divorce. Parties often return to court because a party fails to comply with the terms of the judgment or to modify the parenting schedule depending on the developmental needs and wants of the children.
“Many of the later motions could be avoided with the use of a mental health parent counselor, who should be brought into the process early as a resource,” said Attorney Aaron.
Most importantly, children need to be surrounded by supportive and loving people in their lives. Children do best if they maintain relationships with those most important to them. This includes both parents and other relatives who care about them.
“Work out arrangements that keep the children in contact with these people,” said Dr. Freedman. “Children look to each parent for permission to still love their other parent. There is no substitute for supporting your children’s relationships with the spouse you are divorcing or have divorced.”
A professional may work with your children during the divorce and one may be needed after as well. Look for an expert who will involve both parents, talk to the children, and help you avoid drawing the children into the divorce conflicts. Take turns bringing the children to help the counselor maintain objectivity.
Remember to focus on your children and their needs. Your divorce does not have to ruin their lives. A family living in two households is very common in the United States, and if you and your ex work together, your children will be fine.
“Stop blaming your ex and yourself. Focusing on whose fault the divorce was is not going to help you or your children,” said Dr. Freedman. “Start planning on how you can help your children.”
Finally, a weekly parenting call can help structure communication regarding the children.
CCDG is a group of experienced divorce professionals, including divorce and family lawyers, financial and mental health professionals who have been specifically trained in the collaborative process. Each member of the group has made a commitment to the goals of collaborative practice in order to help people achieve fair and lasting settlements without using the court or even the threat of court. Additionally, each member attends regular meetings and training sessions designed to develop and enhance their collaborative divorce skills. For more information visit: www.ctcollabrorativedivorce.com.