Children often get caught in the middle of their parents during divorce. The parents likely do not intend that this happen. But it can often be a natural consequence in traditional divorce litigation.
In traditional divorce litigation, a guardian ad litem is often appointed by the court to look into any allegations of abuse or neglect. Sometimes, a guardian ad litem is appointed even where there are no such allegations, but simply to give the court a recommendation as to custody. In most instances, the guardian ad litem is likely to meet and interview the children
In traditional divorce litigation, these cases can also be on a backed up docket. This could mean that the divorce itself could last months or even a year or more. During this time, the children could feel the pressure of the case hanging over the heads of them and their parents.
In traditional divorce litigation, there can also be hard feelings during the case and after it is over. The reality is that divorce litigation can make parties feel stressed. It can often result in one party feeling like a winner and the other feeling like a loser. All of these hard feelings can have an impact on the kids in childhood and into adulthood.
This is where collaborative divorce is likely worth the effort for most parties. In collaborative divorce, the proceedings take place out of court. The hope is that there isn’t a winner or loser, but a result that both the parties can live with at the end of the day. Certainly as well, when there is a settlement outside of court, the kids do not end up ever having to come in to testify.
Instead of a guardian ad litem (who is an attorney) looking into allegations of abuse or neglect, a child custody professional can be used. A child custody professional, as opposed to a guardian ad litem, is typically in the mental health field. They might be a social worker or even a PhD. If the kids end up meeting a mental health professional versus a guardian ad litem who is a lawyer, the result can often be less harmful on the children.
The reality is when parties settle outside of court, the data is that there are less repeat visits back to the courthouse. The likelihood of a future motion to modify or contempt are minimized when the parties can learn to work together. This can be positive for the children as well because children inevitably feel the pressure when their parents are in contested litigation.
In the end, collaborative divorce can help protect the children. It can help ensure that the children are not put in the middle and that their interests are better protected.