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Collaborative Divorce

From Dr. Jochem

In addition to the core areas of clinical practice—evaluation and psychotherapy—I have developed a subspecialty focus upon alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Generally, ADR seeks to be an alternative to never-ending, feud-like, escalating conflict, all of which occur far too frequently in relationships and marriages. More specifically and practically, ADR is employed as an alternative to litigation in the resolution of disputes. There are several forms of ADR : mediation, arbitration and collaborative divorce services are all examples of alternative dispute resolution.

I have been a practitioner of collaborative divorce services for many years, serving clients in Lake County and throughout the greater Chicago area.

I sometimes receive a question from prospective patients who are seeking couples counseling to address problems in their relationship. When they see that I provide collaborative divorce and mediation services they will ask if I am perhaps not "pro-marriage" and might be "pro-divorce". The simple truth is that I am "anti-litigation"—I have seen first-hand the damage done to individuals, parents and their children by runaway divorce disputes which result in litigation. My interest is in alternative dispute resolution. When my services are sought out to strengthen a couple's marriage I find it to be a very rewarding area of practice. Similarly, when my services are retained to address disputes in a more constructive manner—collaborative divorce or mediation—I believe this approach is a benefit to the parties and, especially, their children.

I actually provide two services in the collaborative divorce arena: collaborative divorce coaching and collaborative divorce child specialist services. Both of these practice areas are described below.

Collaborative Divorce Coaching

The concept of using the services of a coach to provide support, education and skill development for parties pursuing divorce comes from a relatively new approach to divorce: collaborative family law. Traditionally, the process of terminating a marriage has involved litigation. This is an adversarial process, quite often very painful and expensive, which can create lasting ill will between the parties, interfering with later efforts by ex-spouses to join together as parents after the divorce. An alternative to the litigated divorce, collaborative family law or collaborative divorce, was developed in the early 1990's and in some localities this approach has become the predominant and preferred method for resolving divorce actions.

In the context of collaborative family law, a divorce coach is a mental health professional who helps clients navigate through the emotional challenges of divorce while clients resolve their legal issues in a non-adversarial manner. The coach supports effective communication, problem-solving and helps to guide clients through the grieving which often occurs during the divorce process. The coach does not serve as a therapist, does not render opinions or recommendations concerning key issues (e.g., child custody) and most certainly does not offer legal advice. Instead, the coach helps his or her client to manage obstacles which sometimes arise during the divorce process—typically these include emotional struggles, impaired problem-solving, communication breakdowns and difficulties envisioning future needs and preferences. The goal is to support the client's own strengths in maintaining a respectful, constructive approach to the divorce process.

Divorce coaching sessions are provided individually, on a time-limited basis and the coach may also attend conferences with the couple seeking divorce and their respective attorneys. Collaborative divorce, by definition, is a team project and coaches play an integral role in the process, maintaining ongoing communication and involvement with their client and their attorney. Typically, the coaching relationship terminates at the conclusion of the divorce.

In my work as a divorce coach, I draw upon my years of experience as a practicing clinical psychologist, as well as specialized training in collaborative family law and mediation.

Child Specialist Services

The collaborative divorce process draws upon the expertise of a team of professionals. The team is typically comprised of collaboratively trained family law attorneys, a financial expert and mental health professionals who provide coaching to the parties or child specialist services.

The child specialist is a mental health professional with expertise in child and family development. The child specialist, like the financial expert, is neutral—this profession does not represent either of the parties engaged in the collaborative divorce process. The goal of the child specialist is to understand the best interests of the child, minimize the disruptive aspects of the divorce upon the child and support a child-focused divorce process.

The child specialist develops a relationship with both parents and the child, to provide support and education about the impact of divorce upon children. The child specialist serves as the voice of the child at collaborative divorce team meetings. The child specialist works with the parents to develop a parenting plan and identifies any special needs of the child, again with the goal of minimizing the disruptive impact of the divorce upon the child's development and functioning.

In his work as a child specialist, I draw upon years of clinical experience with children, adolescents and families, his ADR skills and specialized training in collaborative practice.

Feel free to contact me with any further questions about collaborative divorce coaching or child specialist services –contact information is shown on the Contact page on this website.