In January of 2015 there was an article in the AFCC Family Law Journal that talked about the creation of an interdisciplinary model to help parent’s work through and resolve their family law disputes. The interdisciplinary model requires a “team based” approach, incorporating the work of therapists. counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and attorneys who are to work hand and hand to minimize conflict.
There are many reasons why it is beneficial for parents to use a team based approach. Parents may be young and immature and may simply need help learning effective ways to communicate with one another. Other parent’s have a hard time emotionally overcoming their divorce and need team based approach to reduce tension. A team based approach may help parents reach an agreed parenting plan when there are control issues between the parents. Other parents that have mental health issues or dependency issues need constant attention of therapists and counselors beyond what an attorney and court can provide. .
Personally I’ve had great success with using a team based approach to resolving conflict. Clients normally prefer to resolve their differences in private than in court. Many see the interdisciplinary approach as a way to quicken the divorce process. Many experienced family attorneys who see no end to their client’s conflict see the team based approach as the best way to resolve prolonged conflict. I’ve personally seen client’s drinking coffee with their ex right after the divorce, grateful to be able to have a system where they had the ability to work through their differences and reach agreements for their child’s behalf.
A team based approach is also a great way to help many parents understand the way to resolve future disputes. Parent’s can first contact a parent coordinator, parent facilitator before contacting an attorney to see what SOLUTIONS can be put on the table by this neutral third party. A team based approach most obvious benefit is to save parents the thousands of dollars it would take to getting their cases resolved through court and “finalized.”
We need to start discussing how to make the “Team based” approach more efficient so we can resolve a greater percentage of divorce cases outside of court and even prior to mediation.
When I opened Kids First Parents Second, I decided to that the first step was to find a way to help motivate parents to move away from conflict. Rather than reinvent the wheel I looked around to see what other team based models other organizations had created over the years.
I was impressed by the work of two organizations, Kids Turn and Kids First out of Portland Maine. Kids Turn is an organization designed by some family law attorneys in San Francisco. The idea they came up with was to include children in the divorce process. If children could express themselves, parents would better focus on their children’s needs and want to resolve the conflict they had with their ex. Kids Turn applied emotional techniques to get children to identify and express emotions. The side benefit of the Kids Turn program was to help parents understand the effect the divorce (and conflict) had on their kids. The Kids First Program in Main followed a similar path.
To me it was important to start doing workshops myself to see the benefits of including children for myself. Before I started I talked to my wife Becky and we decided that we needed to create materials to help kids cope with divorce. When we opened up shop I noticed the effect that the kids workshops had on parents – simply put, I saw the kids approach as a game changer in helping parents wanting to resolve their conflict. Many nights and days were spent coming up with the concepts behind our website, our children’s books, our manuals and our KFPS app.
Educating parents on the needs of their children requires parents to change FOCUS. A team based approach helps parent’s resolve their differences as they are lost on how to effectively communicate with their child’s other parent.
For the practicing family attorney, I simply will say this. Do not base the way you resolve your client’s issues based solely on the high conflict parent. Many clients are looking to you for direction on how to resolve simple disputes with their ex spouse. A team based approach is a powerful way to help your clients find solutions to their conflict.