What is a child specialist and how can they help my children during the divorce process?
The impact of ending a marriage or common-law relationship is not only top-of-mind for the couple involved but any children as well. Being mindful of the impacts your separation or divorce may have on your children and taking steps to minimize their emotional hardships is a critical gesture. This is where the professional help of a child specialist can play a unique role prioritizing the well-being of your child and alleviating both parents to focus on a mature and balanced dissolution of their marriage.
Benefits Child Specialists Offer
Child specialists help your child navigate the emotional rollercoaster which naturally results from a breakup of the family ranging from confusion, sadness, anger, anxiety and fear. The children lack choice or control during the situation and often feel their whole world has turned upside down. Providing a child specialist affords the child(ren) as much support, stability and consistency as possible during the given circumstances. Moreover, a child specialist can help pro-actively identify issues of concern to the kids and help addresses these specific needs in a negotiated parental plan. This can minimize the overall tension in the family dynamic as everyone learns to cope with the unfamiliar situation and future uncertainties.
As a parent personally vested in the divorce process, it is often difficult to objectively offer the support your child(ren) require. In many cases kids get indirectly caught in the crossfire of divorce negotiations, despite how well-intentioned both parties are at the beginning. The key role of a child specialist is to represent the child as an equal player in the three-way negotiation and ensure the “voice” of children are both heard and addressed. For children, this third party can be considered both an advocate and “safe-space without having to confide in one parent over another and fear the optics of taking sides.
The views of the children are given weight based on the age and maturity of the child involved. It is natural for a younger child to not fully understand the impacts of a divorce and a skilled child specialist can help identify their needs effectively in a mediated divorce agreement. Moreover, they can help distance the mediator from the emotionally-charged topic of children, helping the mediator remain focused on the big picture and preserving trust with both parents. This can increase the overall effectiveness of the mediation.
Parenting Plans & Initial Assessments
Child specialists have substantive knowledge related to separation and divorce and focus on developing a parenting plan geared towards the child’s development and best interests. This plan takes into account a variety of factors including: both partner’s respective lifestyles, family and child dynamics and potential challenges the child may encounter when coping with the divorce, especially during the initial transition. The child specialist is not focused on providing therapy but facilitating child-centric resolutions that meet both the short and long-term needs of the child as they evolve into adulthood. The process itself is without prejudice to ensure it doesn’t indirectly interfere with consequent legal processes.
Their initial assessment and guidance may include the following:
- Assessing the child’s mental state and personal thoughts and expectations around the situation
- Confirming each parent’s individual and collective concerns, interests and priorities
- Confirming the child’s interests and priorities taking into account their age and maturity
- Identifying potential disruptions to the child’s routine and consequent impacts
- Re-adjustment needs after the separation
- Protection of child’s neutrality between parents including any unintended manipulation
- Coaching parents on managing children’s affairs after divorce
The child specialist uses his or her expertise and skills to facilitate dialogue that recognizes and addresses the best interest of any children involved. It is important to note that the child specialist does not give legal advice but may occasionally refer to potential legal implications and it is the responsibility of clients to consult a qualified lawyer on legal matters.
The child specialist assists willing parents, with the involvement of children as well, to prepare and document a child-focused parenting plan deemed fair and reasonable.
A typical routine by a child specialist based in Alberta may include:
- Outlining the overall process from start to finish
- Signing an agreement on the terms and conditions including securing consent
- Explaining confidentiality and limitations
- Confirming the freedom of parties to exit the process at any time
- Conditions under which a child specialist may discontinue the process
At Verhaeghe Law Office – our Edmonton family lawyers can secure the ideal child specialist to meet your needs. We take care in creating the right environment for our clients and their dearest loved ones, throughout the process. Contact us for a consultation today by calling 587-410-2500 and speak directly with an Edmonton divorce lawyer if you are seeking divorce in a collaborative or mediated process and are interested in a suitable child specialist to address your personal circumstances.
*Please note the content in this blog does not constitute legal advice as every case is unique from one another. We encourage you to seek legal advice for answers related to your divorce and/or family law questions.