Even in the most amicable of divorces, the act of separating the family unit is in and of itself a traumatic experience. Co-parenting counseling might be a good experience for the family. Usually, this kind of counseling helps improve communication, works out minor disputes dealing with decision-making regarding the children, and helps parents work through any grief or anger they may feel as a result in order to put the children first. But the ultimate goal is to build a relationship between the parents so that they can co-parent effectively.What to Expect
If you and your partner decide to attend co-parenting counseling, you will want to set and manage expectations. First, sometimes it can help if you set basic ground rules for communication during each session. Encouraging breaks as needed and an agreement that only one person will talk at a time, but each person will be heard, can be helpful, especially in high-conflict cases.
Remember that the marriage is over - so co-parenting counseling is the opposite of marriage counseling. There will be no focus on rebuilding a marriage, but instead, it helps the parties look forward and work together. Ultimately, the goal is for the parties to have a stable, civil relationship that will avoid constant court battles, payments to attorneys and negative energy.
There will be multiple sessions before the counseling will be considered as complete. Usually, between 6 and 10 sessions are required. The cost of attendance should be split between the parties unless otherwise agreed or ordered by the court. Counseling sessions will generally be confidential, in the spirit of full disclosure and resolving issues. This enables parties to speak honestly and openly with each other and the counselor, without fear that their conversations will come up in court and be used against them.
Finally, the counselor is generally the person who will determine how the sessions will be conducted. For example, the counselor may determine that a few initial sessions will have only one parent, and then move forward to joint counseling sessions. The counselor may also request the presence of the children, if they are old enough, to start facilitating conversations.Why can Counselling be Effective?
Counseling is extremely effective for divorcing parties because it introduces a neutral ground upon which parties can sort of air their grievances, while also working towards a workable solution regarding parenting plans. It gives them the opportunity to talk about issues that they might find difficult to discuss and work through items that might have previously resulted in an argument. It also lets couples make decisions that are significant to the child, such as where they will attend school, daily schedules, religious practices, and the like. It also will impart a greater understanding of how each party communicates and reacts to the other. Counseling will often provide tools that can help defuse conflict and allow parties to recognize when conflict is building, and how to avoid it.
It is also shown to have a positive impact on the children. Co-parenting counseling can improve the confidence of the child because it reminds him or her that both parents love them equally and want to be involved. It prevents the child from being used as a pawn, and they know that they will always have the support of both parents at all times. Children benefit from having both their parents involved. Even if they cannot be together, with the benefit of counseling, parents can act as a united front and serve as each other's 'back up' when things get difficult.Is This Kind of Counseling Right for Everyone?
Of course not. When divorces are so acrimonious that the parties cannot stand to sit in the same room as each other, or perhaps there was domestic violence and one party feels threatened when communicating with them, this kind of counseling will be ineffective. Courts will not order counseling for parents if there is the existence of domestic violence and abuse. But, if the parents are able to set aside their differences and there is no risk of abuse or domestic violence, it can be a surprisingly effective method of working out parenting arrangements without the time and expense of a trial.
Counseling is usually most effective with parents who have a low to moderate level of conflict. Sometimes, parents can benefit if they have a general ability to work together but one issue, in particular, is high-conflict.
Some tips to remember at counseling:
- It's not about you. After a divorce, the parents need to retrain their focus on the best interest of their children. Counselors will always try to redirect the parties to their child, especially when things get heated or difficult. If everyone can share the same goal, it is more likely they will reach a solution.
- Recognize and respect boundaries. It can be difficult for two people who were married and shared everything to adjust to a new reality. There will inevitably be blind spots when a child is spending half their time with the other parent. Therefore, the counselor can help each party identify their own personal boundaries, and discuss them with the other parent. Essentially, it empowers each parent to say, 'That's none of your business.'
- Co-parenting is more of a business relationship. You are on a joint venture to raise a good member of society. This requires trust, communication, and balance. This means that each parent must get over their resentment and hurt feelings - so they should seek out their own, individual therapy to do so. Try to keep any other personal matters or discussions to a minimum with your co-parent.
If you are proceeding with a divorce and are worried about the negative impact it may have on your children, consider seeking out co-parenting counseling. The law offices of Peter Van Aulen are here to help answer any questions you might have about counseling, divorce or other family law issues. Call 201-845-7400 for a free, in-office consultation today.