As a lawyer who has worked on many divorce cases, I can tell you first-hand that divorce can be a very emotional time, and emotions can greatly impact the divorce process. If it is a litigated divorce, emotions can even go as far as driving one or both parties in a divorce to employ tactics and make demands that delay and complicate the divorce proceedings.
Collaborative divorce is not without its emotions, of course, but the inclusion of a mental health professional on a Collaborative team is an incredibly helpful aspect of settling a divorce case through Collaborative law.
In these cases, the mental health professional draws on his or her expertise to help divorcing couples and their children deal with the myriad and sometimes difficult emotions that come with divorce. By virtue of being Collaboratively trained, this professional is also someone who understands the Collaborative Process, and can help the couple move toward a solution.
(In some places, the mental health professional is called a “divorce coach” or “facilitator,” and in thinking about helping people focus on their goals and helping them get there, coaching or facilitating is a useful way to think about it.)
While not every divorce can be handled Collaboratively, I believe that every divorcing couple could benefit from having a mental health professional be part of the process.
For couples that have a lot of conflict, a mental health professional can help them focus on what they want, help facilitate conversations in which they find common ground, and help them with the negative emotions that might interfere with crafting solutions.
Couples who do not have much conflict can still experience profound emotions of anger, sadness, or bewilderment that can derail the divorce process. Mental health professionals can help with what couples experience emotionally in a divorce, as well as giving them tools and advice to apply to the emotions that can emerge post-divorce – especially if they have children together and need to remain in contact to co-parent.
And couples that are not candidates for Collaborative law, need mental health professionals on board to steer those couples toward the support and resources they need.
This article from the North Carolina Bar Association explains in more detail what a mental health professional does in a Collaborative law case.
If you are in South Florida and you are looking for a mental health professional to help in your divorce, I recommend that you go to one of the following lists of mental health professionals, The first is of those who belong to the Collaborative Family Law Institute in Miami and the second is for those mental health professionals who belong to the Collaborative Family Law Professionals of South Florida, which is based in Broward County. While you do not need to pursue a Collaborative divorce to utilize a mental health professional, it is a good idea to work with a mental health professional who has experience working with divorcing couples.
Of course, if you do choose a Collaboratively-trained lawyer for your divorce, that lawyer will have mental health professionals in mind based on your specific situation – and in Collaborative law cases, the role of the mental health professional is already defined.