What would you want your children to write if asked to write their Divorce Story?
Divorce is a life-transforming experience. After divorce, childhood is different. Adolescence is different. Adulthood—with the decision to marry or not and have children or not—is different. Whether the outcome is good or bad, the whole trajectory of an individual’s life is profoundly altered by the divorce experience. —Dr. Judith S. Wallerstein, noted divorce researcher
When I saw this quote I was reminded of something a client said to me during a consultation that I have not forgotten, and likely never will. As I do in my initial consultations, I reviewed with her all types of resolution methods, including the collaborative process. After I finished, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “If my parents had handled their divorce collaboratively, my whole life would have been different.” She went on to say that she thought the tension and high conflict between her parents, which still existed to this day, had impacted her choices in men, decisions in relationships, etc., and this woman was in her fifties. Her story of divorce was obviously a tragedy. However, Dr. Wallerstein does not conclude the life-changing experience of divorce is necessarily tragic, or long-term.
So what can divorcing parents do to avoid a “tragedy” and lessen the impact of divorce on their children? Professor Tamara Afifi, at the University of California Santa Barbara, has concluded that the most profound finding in the last four decades of research on the impact of divorce on children, is that parents’ conflict is more important than divorce per se in predicting how well children function after divorce. Interestingly, she also noted that children are hurt most by parents in conflict, whether they are divorced or still married. See, Tamara D. Afifi at TEDxUCSB
There is no question that litigation is highly stressful, as well as the most conflictual and expensive form of dispute resolution available to divorcing or divorced people. So, before filing anything in court, take the time to explore all of the alternative methods of dispute resolution now available. In the collaborative divorce process, child specialists and coaches can help parents improve communication, defuse tension, and work out co-parenting issues. Collaboration is all about seeking resolution, not argument.