By: Karen Ela Kenny, MSW, LICSW
Children will always benefit from being lovingly raised with an extended family to count on. When children’s parents decide to divorce, this is often a strain on mutual friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. One of the strongly held beliefs in the Collaborative process of divorcing is to preserve relationships. Too often, a litigated divorce will fracture these extended relationships because of the very nature of litigation being adversarial. If a couple chooses Collaborative Divorce as their option to navigate through this life crisis, they have a team of professionals who are committed to the concept that these relationships are vitally important to support the parents and children through this sad and difficult time.
How do we achieve this? By modeling the behavior of respect in communication first and foremost. The Team – consisting of your own Attorney, one Financial Neutral and a Mental Health professional – will work together in a respectful manner to ensure that you are both going to be ok, that you will be guided thoughtfully to make financial, legal, and parenting decisions that are a necessary part of separating your lives. However, you will always be co-parents. There will be mutual events in the future – school events (sports, theatre, music…), graduations, weddings… When a couple sets the tone during divorce of respect and goodwill, this translates to more comfort to your children and your circle of supporters. No longer do they feel the tension. One woman tearfully said to her husband “but your parents are like parents to me”. And his reply was “and they still will be”. This is a good example of how the Collaborative process of divorce will preserve relationships. Everyone benefits from this calmer, more respectful, thoughtful manner of divorcing. The children feel supported and loved rather than torn with confusion and conflict. Research has shown that it is high conflict that creates anxiety in children more than a healthy divorce. Children are adaptable to change. They will do better with loving support through this change.
As a Mental Health professional, I have seen the stark contrast in children of litigated divorces that have set the path towards high conflict that can take years (if ever) to settle down versus the children of parents who have worked respectfully to separate their personal and financial lives. It is important to maintain the goal from the outset that the children – and extended friends and family – will benefit emotionally during a respectful divorce process and this extends to post divorce more easily. I have worked with adults who have felt traumatized by long term impact of a high conflict divorce where they felt they had to “choose”. One young woman entered therapy 5 years after her wedding because she deeply regretted giving in to her mother to not invite her father to her wedding. A Collaborative Divorce will help you bring your best selves to the process and sets the tone for future years that will benefit everyone.
Karen Ela Kenny, MSW, LICSW has been a Psychotherapist in private practice since 1982 in Nashua, New Hampshire. Her practice has been focused on working with children, adolescents, families, and couples. She also provides counseling to young adults at St. Anselm’s college since 2005. In 2009 she became trained to be a Coach/Facilitator in the Collaborative Process of Divorcing. She is a current Board Member of the Collaborative Law Alliance of NH and was Co-Chair from 2013-2015. She is actively involved with the Practice Group and Membership Committee of the Collaborative Law Alliance of NH, and an active participant in the Greater Nashua Practice Group.