Collaborative Divorce: How Hiring More Professionals Can Save You Money (Part 3: Child Specialists)


This is the final installment of my 3-part series on non-attorney professionals on the Collaborative Divorce team, and it’s for couples with children. There is a common (and understandable) belief among parents that they know what’s best for their children. But it’s important for parents to realize that divorce likely has a far more profound impact on their children than it does the divorcing couple. With time, adults move on. They enter new relationships; sometimes they add children to the fold with their new spouse. But children don’t get new parents. Yes, they often find themselves with great new step-parents, but their mom and dad are always their mom and dad. When it comes to divorce, wouldn’t it be nice – or respectful, or helpful, or supportive, or caring, or beneficial, or any number of adjectives – to know what your children think about the divorce, to know what they think about their future in a divorced world?

Enter the Child Specialist. Child Specialists are trained mental health professionals who typically work with children in the counseling world; however, they do not serve as a counselor to your children during the divorce. Instead, with the training and experience on how to talk to children, a Child Specialist serves as the voice of your children in the Collaborative Divorce process. To keep your children out of the middle of a conversation best reserved for and kept between parents, the Child Specialist can share with parents and their attorneys what each child thinks about different schedule options, or particular fears and concerns each child may have (especially ones they are afraid to share directly with parents). The Child Specialist can also help to alleviate the children’s fears about a post-divorce life. And age is no matter. Whether your child is 6 or 16 and anywhere in between, the Child Specialist tailors his or her conversation to the age of your child.

How does adding the Child Specialist to your Collaborative Divorce team help to save you money? Ask any divorce lawyer – conflict costs money. The more conflict that exists, the more money any divorce process will cost you. The services of a Child Specialist can significantly reduce the conflict between divorcing parents, often with only a few hours of work – and at a rate that is significantly less than the rate of the attorneys, especially when you consider the combined rate of the parents’ two attorneys working on the issue at hand.

And don’t forget the intangible added value. The Child Specialist provides a safe landing place for your children to talk about their fears – which all children have in divorce and many are afraid to talk about with their parents. The Child Specialist can provide invaluable assurances to the parents that their children will recover after the divorce, whether from the divorce itself or the life changes that come with it, such as moving to a new house and new school. And by reducing conflict between the parents over children’s issues, the Child Specialist helps the divorcing couple become better co-parents which causes less conflict in the future – and fewer or no returns to attorneys to modify their divorce decree. Fewer returns into the legal system means less money out of pocket in the future.

Rhonda Cleaves is a Credentialed Collaborative Divorce Attorney representing clients in Collin County, Dallas County, Denton County, and Tarrant County. To learn more about divorce options, you can reach her office in Plano at (972) 403-0333.

Rhonda Cleaves

Rhonda began practicing law in 1995. She left a successful civil trial practice in 2005 to concentrate on family law — specifically, helping families transition to postdivorce life. She now practices exclusively in this area.

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