Divorce Assesment | Parenting Plans | Collaborative Practice | Collaborative Divorce Coach
Collaborative Child Specialist | Post Agreement Support | Litigation

If you are going through hell, keep going.
- Winston Churchill

Divorce Assessment & Planning

As you contemplate the transition through separation and divorce for you and your family, there are a number of elements to be aware of. Your family is absolutely unique. However there are a limited number of ways to move through all the changes. Like any other major project or trip, planning is important to a stable process and successful outcome.

What is your vision? What are the strengths and vulnerabilities of your family? …its unique characteristics? Which services are you most in need of? Where to start?

In this assessment and planning process I can help you to understand yourself and your family, the essential elements of your situation and the range of dispute resolution options. Finding the appropriate match between your unique situation and the appropriate professional services supports the most efficient process for the best possible outcome.

Parenting Plans That Work©

Many writers have created templates, instructional notes and websites for developing parenting plans. A link to a list of general topics is at the end of this section.

Essentially, the goal of a parenting plan is to organize the care of the children in developmentally appropriate ways, so that the relationships can stay strong and the entire family stay organized enough to get through the week, the month and the year. It needs to be detailed enough so that people know what they are doing and when, and flexible enough to respond to the curve balls that life brings. We all know that despite the best plans – life happens.

I work with clients to identify the relevant concerns and to work to agreement on their parenting plans. Some are very long and detailed. Some are quite short and most of the work is on just a few issues.

No matter how well done the parenting plan, the plan cannot work without the ability of the parents to support it. The relationship between the parents is the engine that drives the plan. This is why some of my work is to rehabilitate the communication between the parents to the point that co-parenting is possible with maximum effectiveness and minimal tension and conflict.

I also provide Post Agreement Support to parents when the plan is not working due to relationship and communication difficulties between the parents or to new and/or unpredictable changes.

General Topics to Consider in Your Parenting Plan

Collaborative Practice

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Law

In 1999, a new approach to helping families resolve the problems of separation and divorce came to Vancouver. Having studied these transitions for many years, it is my opinion that this approach addresses all the major risk factors for a family in an emotionally, legally and financially intelligent way.

Collaborative Practice (also known as Collaborative Law & Collaborative Divorce) addresses all the psychological, legal, financial and relationship issues of divorce WITHOUT EVER GOING TO COURT.

Although there are some limits to who can make good use of the Collaborative Practice (CP) process, from a psychological perspective, CP has all the tools and can create all the necessary forums to address every aspect of the separation and divorce process in most cases.

In this way the family members have what they need to make legally informed, emotionally intelligent and lasting agreements in order to maximize the opportunities and minimize the conflict for the future two-household family.

All professionals involved, including Collaborative lawyers, sign a Participation Agreement, a contract that they will not go to court. This creates the possibility to work as team members which may include a:
· Collaborative Divorce Coach (Mental Health professional who works with families)
· Collaborative Child Specialist (Mental Health professional who works with children)
· Collaborative Financial Specialist.

This creates a sort of ‘professional tool box’ of possibilities from which we can draw what is needed at any particular time. It also allows all the professionals to work together in a coordinated fashion rather than parents having to find and coordinate professionals to accomplish different tasks and then work to integrate the different ideas or work products.

All the professionals work together to create a focused approach to your situation. We are all senior practitioners who draw from our years of experience to support what you need. As much as possible we are all working to create a brief, goal-oriented process that gets the job done and creates lasting agreements.

In Vancouver we have been working together for a long time, some of us for over 10 years. You can read more about the Collaborative Practice approach to separation and divorce in the following sections and at the following links.

Collaborative Practice; Putting Families First by Dr Susan Gamache (3pp)
Collaborative Practice; A New Opportunity to Address Children’s Best Interests in Divorce by Dr Susan Gamache (2005) Louisiana Law Review (31pp)

Currently I work either as a Collaborative Divorce Coach or as a Collaborative Child Specialist.

As a Collaborative Divorce Coach,

I support my clients in two complimentary areas: their relationship with the other parent and the parenting plan. This generally includes:

· learning about my client’s perspective and supporting them to recognize
  and articulate their experience appropriately.
· teaching my client communication skills to support effective communication and negotiation.
· accompanying my client to meetings as appropriate to support their success.
· providing information about divorce in general and about their situation specifically.
· providing information about children and support age-appropriate decisions on their behalf.
· acting as a team member, supporting my client’s relationship with other team members
  and good team communication as needed.

Divorce Coaching is not traditional therapy. It is a process that is calibrated to the needs and desires of the family with a goal of reaching settlement and creating lasting agreements. Unlike traditional therapy, divorce coaching is limited in scope to the process of the separation. My involvement is generally brief, solution oriented and future focused while keeping an eye on the whole family system. Part of my responsibility is to prepare my clients for an efficient and successful negotiation process with the legal team if appropriate.

If there are problems in the family that require specialized assistance beyond the marital situation (for example vocational needs, an eating disorder, addiction, historical trauma) I help my clients to find the appropriate professional to help with that problem independently of the Collaborative process.

We know that even though the parents are ending their spousal relationship, the children need the parenting relationships to continue with as much strength, ease and grace as possible. I help parents to ‘rehabilitate’ their relationship in order for them to have maximum effectiveness and minimal conflict as they go forward in their two-household family.

Participation Agreement for Divorce Coaching in Collaborative Practice
A Divorce Coach… Why bother? by Dr Susan Gamache
What a Divorce Coach Can Do For You; Welcome to the Olympics by Dr Susan Gamache

As a Collaborative Child Specialist,

I act as a vehicle for the children’s experiences and concerns to come to the team and the parents. This is an informal therapeutic information gathering process similar to a favorite aunt or family friend who spends time with the children, finding out how things are going from their perspective, gently tuning in to how they are feeling about what is going on. This offers the children a neutral place to talk so that they do not have to be looking at either Mom or Dad as they talk about sensitive issues. Children deeply love their parents and want to see us smile. They can say different things to each parent so as not to hurt them. This can contribute to parents having conflicting perspectives on their children and to not having the whole picture even though they love their children very much.

The work of the Child Specialist is also brief and focused on the separation process. With the children’s permission I bring the information to the parents to help them make the best decisions possible for the children as the family moves through the marital transition.

Participation Agreement for Child Specialist in Collaborative Practice

Post Agreement Support

Sometimes even the best parenting agreements run into trouble down the road. This can be because the children are older and need a change in the parenting plan or because one or both spouses have a new partner. Sadly, sometimes illness, accident or misfortune prevent the parenting plan from working as it stands.

In these situations I work individually or as part of a team to help the parents and children to adjust to the new reality of family life while solving problems within a collaborative forum.

Depending on the problem, I work with legal counsel, financial advisors or other mental health professionals to create the forum that will appropriately address the current situation and assist the family to move through it.

Therapeutic Support Through and After Litigation
Litigation generally has a powerful impact on the parents and on the family. I provide therapeutic support to individuals going through litigation to help them:

· learn about the process
· debrief their experiences,
· prepare emotionally for difficult meetings and going to court,
· communicate with their spouse and children as effectively as possible in spite of the litigation
· work to protect their children as much as possible,
· work against the litigation process taking over their life
· envision the future post litigation
· create their best possible future once the litigation is finished

Sometimes we do not have a choice about participating in litigation. At the same time we always have a choice about how we respond and conduct ourselves through the process.

The weak can never forgive.
Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
Mahatma Gandhi

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