What is Collaborative Law and Social Work

Collaborative Family Law offers divorcing couples a new approach to untangling marriage. The traditional approach has family lawyers settle disputes with at least the threat of litigation.

Collaborative Family Law takes the threat of litigation out of the equation to concentrate on helping the parties settle between themselves yet with legal support. Litigation is not an option.

Lawyers practicing Collaborative Family Law report more satisfaction with this form of practice and believe that negotiated settlements leave the parties more intact as individuals and as parents.

Along with the new approach to settling disputes, there is a new role for those professionals who would otherwise practice divorce mediation or provide custody and access assessments.

These professionals, often social workers and psychologists, are being reenlisted by Collaborative Lawyers as Divorce Coaches and Child Specialists.

In traditional family law, a Divorce Coach may be hired to prepare one parent for court in order to gain a strategic advantage in the litigation process. In the Collaborative Law context, the Divorce Coach helps the parent to understand emotional issues that could cause him or her to be unreasonable.

In other words, in the former context, the coach helps make a better warrior for the battle of litigation, while in the latter context the coach helps make a better conciliator to facilitate settlement. Within the Collaborative Law model, each parent has his or her own Divorce Coach.

The “Child Specialist” is generally described in therapeutic terms, working with the children directly. In this context, the Child Specialist meets with the children to help them deal with the impact of the parents’ divorce on their lives. The Child Specialist may also share information with parents to help them protect the children from untoward outcomes.

There can be challenges arising when using individual Divorce Coaches and Child Specialists as described. Each coach may provide perspectives or information to their respective client that pulls them in different directions, confounding settlement. Certainly “over-identification” with one’s client is a risk inherent in any form of individual support.

Further, when a Child Specialist meets alone with children, there can be conflicts of interest and confidentiality issues if the Child Specialist then reports to parents. Some jurisdictions have confidentiality rules for counsellors working with children, particularly early adolescents.

There are ways to mitigate these issues.  Social workers have a rich tradition in working with entire family. As such, the social worker can engage the entire family in a consultant role. Within this role, perhaps titled Family Divorce Consultant, one social worker would be assigned rather than hiring two separate coaches.

Working from a system’s theory perspective and using clinical discretion, the social worker would have latitude to meet with the entire family system and/or pertinent subsystems (marital, sibling, parent-child and even individuals) as necessary.

The Family Divorce Consultant’s involvement would be time limited and goal directed. The goal is to facilitate the transition to a new family structure (pre-divorce to post divorce) whilst maintaining the integrity of pertinent relationships. Further, the consultant would provide education to the parents to facilitate their mutual interest – the well-being of their children now and developmentally.

Social Work has much to offer Collaborative Family Law. Social Work is built on a tradition of inter-disciplinary teamwork with the goal of win/win outcomes. The structural changes sought to facilitate post-divorce adjustment meet well with the training and values of social workers. Collaborative lawyers and social workers make a natural team.

Collaborative lawyers looking for social workers should consider those with; a “systems” perspective; custody and access experience; current knowledge of relevant theory and practice of divorce and child development; and good inter-personal boundaries. Collaborative Law marks a revolution in thinking. Next will be interesting to view the evolution. Social work is a good fit.

The Divorce Divide in 2018

Photo Credit: Jeremy Wong Weddings

For many years, there has been a misconception that half of divorces end in marriage. Luckily, this generalization is flawed. According to new research and trend analyzations by experts, the drop in overall divorce rates is caused by a decline in the rate among college students who get married which is a shift in economic status among women and a new divide between those who receive college degrees.

Women Initiate Divorce More Than Men

According to research published by Michael Rosenfeld, an associate sociology professor at Stanford University, divorce rates are initiated by women 70% of the time. The San Diego divorce lawyers at Yelman & Associates believe this is directly correlated to the fact that more married women in heterosexual relationships report lower levels of relationship quality than married men. When it comes to non-marital break-ups, the research suggests that men are equally as likely to initiate a separation in the relationship.

Social scientists have argued that women initiate more divorces due to the fact they can be more vulnerable to relationship difficulties. However, Rosenfeld argues these “conclusions” by saying his findings support the feminist assertion that women can experience marriage as oppressive or uncomfortable, “Wives still take their husbands’ surnames, and are sometimes pressured to do so.

Husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare. On the other hand, I think that non-marital heterosexual relationships lack the historical baggage and expectations of marriage, which makes the non-marital heterosexual relationships more flexible and therefore more adaptable to modern expectations, including women’s expectations for more gender equality.”

Education and the Divorce Divide

Dr. Steven P. Martin, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland explains there’s a growing gap between those who are married. He refers to this as the “divorce divide,” this analysis explores the idea that education plays a key role in demographic research, socioeconomic evaluation and also divorce rates in the United States. In his analysis he explains,”From the 1970s to the 1990s, rates of marital dissolution fell by almost half among 4-year college graduates, but remained relatively high and steady among women with less than a 4-year college degree.”

The divorce rate for women without undergraduate degrees has remained around 35% since 1980. For women with a college degree, the divorce rate has shrunk from 27% to 16% since the 1980’s. Martin explains many factors that can contribute to this including socioeconomic status, wage patterns, equality among women and a shift in educational attainment. For example, Martin argues women who are at the low end of the educational spectrum might have a harder time finding a husband.

On the contrary, the report suggests that women who have a strong career might “have strong career attachment and economic independence that weaken their marital commitment.” Dr. Martin explains another possible link for changing divorce rates could be factors such as a shift in personal values among younger generations, changes in society unrelated to economic inequality and a change from collective to individualistic interests.

Baby Boomers and Millennial Changes

According to the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S Census Bureau, in 2015, 10 out of 50 (up from 5) couples over 50 years old got divorced. Additionally, for those ages 65 and older the divorce rate roughly tripled since 1990 at 6 out of every 100 couples. As of 2015, Baby Boomers (those roughly between the ages of 51 to 69 make up the bulk of these ages that have a climbing divorce rate.

The numbers indicate that the shorter time a couple has been married, the higher the chance of a divorce is for adults 50 and older. By contrast, divorce rates for adults between 25 to 39 have fallen from 30 out of every 1,000 to only 24. This is because the median age at first marriage has increased by about 4 years for men and women since 1990.

According to an article in the New York Times, the divorce rate peaked in the 1970’s and has been declining for three decades. Money seems to be a big concern for millennials and tying the knot can also come along with a heavy burden of debt. According to The Knot’s 2015 wedding study, the average cost of a wedding in America is now $32,641. A new trend being explored by millennials is wedding loans.

What does this mean for you and your future spouse? If you listen to financial experts, they suggest prolonging an engagement before you say “I do.” Does this information make you feel more informed or more depressed about marriage?

The Long-Term Impact Of Parental Divorce On Young Adult’s Relationships

divorced-parents

When parents divorce, many people wonder—what will happen to the children? From a psychological standpoint, it is very likely these children may start to question and worry. They may lose faith in their current relationships and family in general. In some ways, time seems to stop for these children as everything they thought they knew has suddenly changed.

Many children will think the divorce is somehow their fault, even if their parents tell them it isn’t. Their whole world seems to crumble, and they have no control over what is happening. Which parent will they live with? Will they get to see the other parent? How will things work at holidays? Those are the short-term questions many children of divorce have in their heads.

What divorce does

Divorce causes families to change, finances to change, and children often will become depressed, anxious, or seek outlets for their frustration or mixed feelings. They become known as “the kid from the divorced family.” It’s not a fun title. All of this can contribute to a shaky foundation in their life. They can get on a path of negative thinking for themselves. If a child’s parents can suddenly divorce, what else in life is going to crumble?

As if that isn’t hard enough, another important thing to consider is the more long-term effect that divorce has on these children when they are eventually adults themselves. In fact, it has been the subject of various studies. Is a child with divorced parents more likely to have rocky relationships in the future?

What research reveals

Long term impacts of parental divorce on intimate relationship was the subject of a study by the National Institute for Health and Welfare and the University of Helsinki in Finland. In the study, researchers gave questionnaires to 16 year olds who had divorced parents, and then again when they were 32. It gave insight into their thoughts as teenagers and again as adults.

They did find that children with divorced parents were more likely to choose the same path in adulthood, or they chose to never marry. This may seem a logical outcome, as children tend to follow in the footsteps in their parents. But the interesting thing was that the study showed that to be true in the women—not the men.

The study found that of the Finnish children they surveyed, the women were the most affected in future relationships. The study stated that divorce was associated with poorer intimate relationship quality later in life among the women studied. No such associations were found among the men of the study group.

Why would that be? Was it because these daughters probably lived with their mothers, and then saw more how much their mothers suffered during and after the divorce? Or perhaps without a strong father figure always in the house, she didn’t have a good model of how to relate to a man or even develop the faith that there was a good man out there for her. It definitely is worth exploring further.

However, there was another important aspect to the Finnish study which was a major factor in the quality of these women’s adult relationships. According to the study, those with a good mother-daughter relationship caused those women to have more self esteem and satisfaction in future intimate relationships.

What does this mean? Children learn from their parents. When divorce happens, they learn that this is a possible outcome, for good or bad. As adults perhaps it’s in the back of their minds as a possible option when conflict arises. Also, they could be less trusting of others because they know that someone could leave them. Of course, everyone is different, and many children of divorce go on to have healthy relationships as adults.

What’s important is this: when divorce happens to maintain and further develop those parent-child relationships. For each divorced parent, this means allowing those relationships with the other parent to develop. So be sure to allow proper time for them to happen, and encourage them in that relationship.

As the study indicated, it’s important to keep those relationships alive not just during childhood, but well into adulthood. Children, even when they are in their 30s, need the support of their parents. They need someone who loves them who can offer a listening ear and also give advice when relationships come and go.

Divorce is a huge life change, at the time it happens and then for the rest of the lives for those involved. But, it is possible to move on and have healthy, positive relationships in the future. Parents should be good examples of what a health relationship can look like, so the child has the motivation and model to engage in healthy relationships as adults.

Is Your Spouse The Next Walter White?

By Deborah Nguyen

Walter White

Walter White, the fictional character of Breaking Bad fame, has quickly become the antihero that people couldn’t avoid loving. In reality, however, life isn’t always like it’s portrayed on television. While the difficulties that White faced were extreme, it’s often the family of a criminal who ends up hurt, both physically and emotionally.

While it’s hard to say just how many people have spouses who are drug dealers, the reality of the situation is that a drug arrest happens every 17 seconds in America. With these types of numbers, it’s imperative for those who suspect a spouse of criminal activity to know what they’re up against.

Domestic Violence

One of the most serious risks that a person faces when their partner is engaged in criminal activity is from the spouse themselves. This is especially the case when the person in question is not just trafficking drugs but using them. Drugs such as benzodiazepine (Valium), cocaine, crack, meth and anabolic steroids can all increase aggression in a person. Sadly, as was the case with wrestler Chris Benoit, this can lead to violent and sometimes deadly outcomes for a user’s spouse.

A person engaged in criminal activity, however, doesn’t have to be on drugs to be violent. Simply being involved in such a stressful atmosphere can lead to violent behavior. One of the main precursors for domestic violence, for instance, is displaced anger. This occurs when a person showcases anger or acts violently towards a subject who is not actually the cause of their anger. This displaced anger can lead to repeated physical abuse in a relationship.

Other Risk Factors

Even if a person has the most mild-mannered spouse in the world, his criminal activity puts his family’s safety at risk. His colleagues may not always be so concerned about the welfare of his family. As a matter of fact, families stand the risk of being used as a bargaining chip, or are seen as a liability, when complications occur in the illicit goings on. This was portrayed in the movie Alpha Dog which told the true story of 15-year-old Nick Markowitz being kidnapped and murdered over drug money that his half-brother owed.

There are a few options of recourse that a person has when their spouse has put them into danger. One option could be developing a safety plan in order to protect yourself and your family in advance. Contacting the national domestic violence hotline to obtain information and identify resources may help you process the chaos around you. Also, you may want to consult a divorce attorney to see what options are available to dissolve the relationship.

Getting Out Alive

The first step to getting out of these situations with your level head intact is recognizing that there is an issue. If you don’t know where the source of income springs from, this could be an immediate red flag that something suspicious is going on. Do your research and start collecting financial information and by performing a criminal history check.

If you find out the whole ugly truth to be real, be prepared to walk away. You have to ensure your and your children’s safety. But you probably don’t know the extent that his influence reached within his business colleagues. Your future could be wrought with danger. No level of criminal activity is safe, so getting out as quickly as possible is the only safe recourse.

While watching the character Walter White was undoubtedly enjoyable for millions of people, the realities of living a life that is funded by illegal drugs is undoubtedly accompanied by many risks.

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