We had a great many outstanding speakers at the Different Path seminar. One of the best presentations of the afternoon was by Julian Schwartz. This lawyer provided a diagram of how parties communicate in a typical divorce case in a case that is handled outside the collaborative practice. Basically the parties communicate through their attorney OR they communicate through a mediator. The parties present evidence to a judge OR they talk to the mental health professional conducting a social study. The parties do not, however, communicate. Then the lawyer provided a diagram of how parties resolve their disputes through the collaborative practice. The one thing that stuck out in Mr. Schwartz’s presentation was that parties had the ability to communicate with a mental health professional to resolve their child custody issues. By having the ability to communicate the parties resumed their status as parents and tried to work together to make sure their child was shielded from the harmful effects of the divorce process.
So how do we help assist divorcing parties to communicate when we are not using the collaborative model? The answer is simple, we introduce the parties to a mental health professional. We can use that mental health professional in many ways. To me, mental health professionals that address the needs of the child in a non threatening, nuetral way will go a long way in fostering TRUST and COMMUNICATION between the parties. In plain English, appoint a court appointed therapist for the child, appoint a parenting coordinator, or even a parent facilitator. The cost of inclusion? A fraction of what the parents would otherwise be paying if the case were to be prepared or presented at trial.