More Than Surviving A Divorce With Children: The Benefits of Co-Parent Counseling

by McManis Faulkner

Co-parent counseling: counseling focused on assisting parents in the process of sharing responsibility for raising children in an environment that promotes healing, cooperation and growth.

As a family law attorney, I help clients navigate the challenging divorce process and advocate clients’ rights regarding issues of property division, child and spousal support and child custody.  However, I have a second goal.  I hope that each client, through the divorce process, will develop new skills to move forward in life. 

When a divorce does not involve minor children, a couple may not need to interact often (or at all) after property is divided and spousal support is established.  However, when children are involved, both parents (under most circumstances) must communicate and relate in order to raise their children together.

Co-parent counseling is a process with the potential to help parents refocus their energy and time to encourage the children to thrive despite a difficult past.  The chance to seek guidance about how to cooperate with a former spouse in raising children may not only allow parents to develop and sustain a positive, healthy relationship with their children, it may also assist them in refocusing their own energy and create the life they desire post-divorce.  

Given the challenges each parent may have had with a former spouse, and given the intensity of emotions that may well up when having to interact with him or her, it may seem daunting to put anger, fear, or hurt aside in order to work together to create an environment – spread across two households – that is loving and fosters the healthy development of the children.  It may seem an insurmountable challenge to raise children together when they live in two different homes, are exposed to at least two different environments (more than two with step-parents), and are raised with two different parenting styles. 

Co-parent counselors are trained to address these issues and help parents develop the ability and skills to work together with their former spouses.  A co-parent counselor should advise parents how to overcome a rocky past and focus on the children’s needs so both children and parents may flourish.  More specifically, a co-parent counselor has the expertise to help parents learn to communicate clearly with each other about areas of parenting that are challenging for both, as well as assist parents in making agreements in areas of parenting in when the parties maintain different parenting philosophies.

During counseling, though it may be tempting to talk about issues other than those relating to the children, those issues should be saved for a different setting.  Parents will get the most out of co-parent counseling if they focus solely on issues regarding the children.  Parents should capitalize on their time with an experienced professional who can give them the tools necessary to create positive and supportive home environments in which to raise the children.

When it seems impossible to raise the children together, parents should remember they share something in common: they both love their children and want the best for them.[1]  Parents can use this commonality as a starting point to begin difficult discussions about specific parenting issues.

Remember, children are better served if parents can work cooperatively with each other to raise them.  Many children are unable to move forward until their parents begin the same process.  Dedicating time to focus on the children – and each parent’s relationship with them – is a positive step along this journey.  My hope is that co-parent counseling will allow divorcing parents to create the loving and healthy environment they want for their children – and themselves – post divorce.

[1]In cases of abuse, neglect, estrangement, or other cases where a child is not safe with a parent, co-parent counseling will likely not be the proper solution.  Seek advice from an attorney or other professional regarding the appropriate course of action.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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