ALONE WE CAN DO SO LITTLE; TOGETHER WE CAN DO SO MUCH. HELEN KELLER
Choosing to divorce takes courage, especially given the many unknowns. But, the simple fact is that it’s better to explore the unknown rather than stay in an unhappy, unfulfilling, and maybe unsafe relationship. Although scary, change can be liberating. However, since many parts of divorce are unknown, it’s best to have a solid support team to help you through the life transitions that divorce brings. Ideally, the team will include professionals, friends, and relatives who have a specific role.
Professionals you should consider to be part of your transitional team could include a Divorce Coach, an Attorney, a Financial Consultant, and a Child Specialist.
The Divorce Coach provides emotional and motivational support to clients during the divorce, especially when making difficult decisions. During the stress and trauma of a divorce, decision-making may be compromised. A coach can help the client identify ways of addressing specific situations. For example, the coach can help clients talk with their spouses about why they seek a divorce. Or, a Coach can help the client think through the many different decisions needed for divorce. For example, something as basic as where the client will live post-divorce can become overwhelming. A Divorce Coach can work with one or both spouses, depending on the circumstances. Especially during the Collaborative Divorce, the Coach can help the clients talk with each other to navigate the Collaborative meetings. The clients may lack effective communication skills, especially with each other. A Divorce Coach’s role is to help the clients make joint decisions during Collaborative Divorce and Mediation in a constructive manner.
Another part of the transitional team is attorneys. An attorney is often the first person that clients may call. The attorneys identify the legal issues that may apply to your divorce and advise how the law may limit decisions. During Collaborative Divorce and Mediation, the law acts as guardrails – meaning that the law guides the decisions but does not drive the decision. For example, consider the difference between child support and spousal support. In Oregon, how and when one spouse may receive support is not well-defined and is situational. The clients generally have a lot of leeway to decide how one client may support the other. Child support decisions are much more restrictive, so clients have less leeway. Guidelines drive child support, and child support may generally only deviate about 10% from Oregon Child Support guidelines. The guardrails for spousal support can be very wide, while the guardrails for child support are more narrow. The attorney explains how the legal guardrails impact decisions that clients need to make during the Mediation and Collaborative Divorce. Attorneys can also help clients with negotiation strategies (over 90% of divorces resolve before any trial – making it necessary to have an attorney who can help a client effectively negotiate.) Each client must have their attorney as attorneys are prohibited from representing both spouses except in very narrow circumstances.
The Financial Specialist is usually a Certified Divorce Financial Specialist. Although these professionals may help clients in many ways, two aspects of their work are important to consider today. First, the Financial Specialist can help clients identify all of the marital assets and debts and then allow the clients to divide the marital assets and debts in a way that is just and proper. Second, the Financial Professional can help clients create a post-divorce budget, critical since one household is becoming two. A budget is essential to support the clients moving forward. The Financial Professional is usually neutral during the Mediation or Collaborative Divorce, although a Financial Professional may work with one client. Suppose the Financial Professional is hired as a neutral who supports both clients. In that case, the professional may not take on either of the spouses as a post-divorce client – although in some circumstances, if both clients agree, the professional may make an exception. Clients who may wish to work with the professional after the divorce should check with the professional about post-divorce consultations.
Another critical part of the professional transition team may be a Child Specialist. A Divorce may shake the foundation of a child’s world, and may not have the skills or experience to deal with the anxiety, stress, and emotion. Children may express their stress in many ways, for example, drastic changes in behavior. As the process moves forward, the Child Specialist can provide parents with information about the children’s ongoing needs. A Child Specialist usually works with both parents rather than a single parent to provide consistent information to the parents about the needs of their children. A child specialist is usually a mental health professional trained in dealing with children during stress and trauma. However, the child specialist is not acting as a child’s therapist as the roles are different. The Child Specialist can provide the parents with recommendations for ongoing therapeutic support for the child after the divorce is completed.
In addition to the important specialists identified above, friends and relatives are also crucial to helping a client transition through the divorce. It is natural for many people to take sides during a divorce. In addition, friends and relatives will often want to give advice that may be based on their experiences, or misunderstandings, or misinformation. The type of support that clients should seek from friends and relatives is listening and empathy. Clients should look to the experts identified above for advice because that is what these experts are being hired to provide.
It is hard to go through a divorce alone. A supportive team to help the clients through the transition is important. Whether clients choose professionals or friends and relatives as a support team, clients must know that they cannot go through stress and trauma alone.