Aim for a child-centered divorce

By From page A6 | January 08, 2013

By Gillian Brady

Divorce filings tend to spike in January following the holidays. Whether this is due to an unhappy holiday season or a conscious decision to wait out the holidays before filing for divorce, more couples begin divorce proceedings in January than in any other month.

It goes without saying that the separation of parents can be extremely difficult for children. This difficulty is only made worse when parents choose a divorce process that hinders direct communication. When attorneys are hired and this adversarial process begins, tensions and tempers can rise quickly, and it can be difficult to keep the kids from getting caught in the middle.

Because of this historic increase in divorce filings, January was named Child-Centered Divorce Month by Rosalind Sedacca, a divorce and parenting coach and founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. The goal of Child-Centered Divorce Month is to remind parents to focus on the best interests of their children throughout the divorce process. At Better Solutions Mediation in Davis, we have been doing just that for almost 10 years.

One of the most rewarding aspects of mediation is the opportunity to help parents focus on the needs of their children during a divorce. In my mediation process, I provide parents with a list of the top 10 parenting tips from child development experts to help parents avoid common mistakes like passing notes to each other through their children. Mediation helps parents hold themselves to a higher standard and parent their children lovingly and sensibly, even in the midst of a marital crisis.

Mediation helps parents focus on the best interests of their children, both short-term and long-term. A common short-term interest is the initial conversation with the children about the parents’ decision to divorce. In the first mediation session, the mediators at Better Solutions often help parents discuss when and how they will talk to the children about their divorce in a way that will help the children feel safe and protected.

For example, most parents agree to talk to their children together and to cover the following points:

* Tell their children that they love them and remind their children that they are still a family;

* Ensure their children that they are not to blame for the parents’ decision to separate/divorce;

* Answer any questions the children have with age-appropriate explanations and without blaming either parent;

* Let their children know that they should ask questions anytime they need to and that the parents will always be there for them; and

* Reassure them and correct any misconceptions they may have about the future.

By working together to create and execute this kind of agreement, the parents’ focus is on the children’s needs to understand and cope with upcoming changes in their lives.

Mediation also enables parents to communicate directly in a safe environment where they can reach agreements that work best for them and suit the needs of their children both now and in the long term. The mediation process supports and encourages parents to be creative in finding solutions that fit their children’s changing needs, as opposed to taking hard-line positions that create an impasse that eventually must be broken by a judge who makes a decision based on brief adversarial statements presented in court.

Parenting plans provide a clear example of the personalized planning that can be achieved through mediation. In litigation, the focus is on the immediate problem and not the future.

In court, parenting time is called “visitation” and the focus is on the percentage of time each parent has with the children. At Better Solutions, our mediators recognize that parents do not “visit” their children and children are not objects to be divided by mathematical formula. Our strategic process helps parents to focus on maximizing quality time with the children.

The objective in mediation is to craft parenting plans that incorporate creative solutions with practical considerations, like work schedules; children’s activities and child care expenses. The goal in mediation is always to seek out and find the win-win solutions.

In mediation, we help our clients explore as many parenting time options as possible to maximize each parent’s quality time with the children while also balancing financial considerations.

At Better Solutions Mediation, we have a process that allows parents to communicate effectively about difficult issues. Our process has always encouraged parents to focus on their children throughout their divorce. At Better Solutions Mediation, every month is Child-Centered Divorce Month.

— Gillian A. Brady of Davis is an attorney mediator and founder of Better Solutions Mediation at 430 D St. in downtown Davis. For more information, visit www.BetterSolutionsMediation.com.

Special to The Enterprise

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