As a family law practitioner, you have the ability to refer your clients to an education program that is superior to what the court orders – allowing your clients and their children to experience less conflict throughout the divorce process.
By Dr. Donald Gordon, Clinical Child Psychologist
Many courts require parent education only for those parents who are contesting an issue, while the majority require it of any parent filing for a separation or divorce.
Here are at five reasons all parents need a good parent education program.
Lack of Experience
Most parents have not divorced or ended a relationship with their other parent previously. They are inexperienced dealing with one of life’s most stressful events (divorce is in the top three). Their children have not had to endure a family breakup previously. They need guidance to minimize the stress and damage that family breakup causes.
Research at Ohio University shows that parents unwittingly involve their kids in loyalty conflicts, regardless of their contesting an issue in court. Loyalty conflicts are the most damaging aspect of divorce and separation, having lifelong impacts on the children, even as adults.
Communication Between Co-Parents
Parents need to learn how to communicate effectively and respectfully with their co-parent, and how to control their emotions so that they can resolve common issues together and keep their kids out of their conflict. Parents who are not litigating and have agreed on important issues often go back to court after the initial filing. This can occur when the other parent starts dating, has a new lover involved with the children, is planning to move away, remarries, etc. A really good parent education program teaches respectful communication and problem-solving skills so that parents can negotiate these issues without asking the court’s help.
Nonresidential Parental Dropping Out
The nonresidential parent may drop out of the children’s lives regardless of parents contesting the initial filing. A good parent education program can motivate both parents to continue to be involved with the children. When a parent drops out, the children’s risk for serious problems rises exponentially, such as school drop-out, depression, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and juvenile court involvement.
Research on Children in Between (formerly Children in the Middle) shows increases in parental involvement and cooperation, and improved children’s outcomes, regardless of parents filing for dissolution or divorce.
Attorneys who refer clients to a superior parent education program, independent of the local court’s requirements, report that their clients were grateful for doing something good for their kids. These attorneys also report that dealing with these clients is less stressful as the clients’ stress is reduced by the program.
Dr. Don Gordon has a Ph.D. in clinical child psychology. He is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Ohio University, Executive Director of the nonprofit Center for Divorce Education, and CEO of Family Works Inc. His career focuses on developing and evaluating family and parenting programs to improve children’s adjustment. Children in Between
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