This three-part series is written by Ashley-Nicole Russell, an author, speaker, and attorney, who is a child of divorce and a divorcee. She is an expert in divorce culture and shared parenting techniques. Through this series, she will explain what divorcing parents need to keep in mind during the holiday season as they work through separation, divorce, and/or life after divorce.
Part 1: Pledging to Co-Parent
I’m sure you and your spouse never thought divorce would be in your future. While your lives will significantly change, your child’s life doesn’t have to be significantly impacted. The holiday season is full of excitement, magic, and wonder. You and your spouse must come to agreement that you both don’t want your divorce to change your child’s perception of Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, or New Year’s celebrations.
As a Collaborative Law divorce attorney, I believe in co-parenting and shared parenting agreements rather than court ordered custody agreements. If you’ve never heard of it, the Collaborative process is a legal alternative to court proceedings for couples facing divorce. This type of divorce is similar, yet different from mediation. During a Collaborative Law divorce, you have an attorney who can give legal advice. Each spouse must have their own attorney as they are separately represented. In mediation, a third-party is tasked with negotiating settlements with neutrality. This third-party cannot offer legal advice and represents neither of the spouses during the process.
When children are involved, a Collaborative process if often favored by most parents because child custody agreements are handled out of the court system. Children are not meant for the environment of a volatile and traumatic courtroom. There are dozens of studies that show the lasting impact a traditional divorce proceeding can have on children. As researched and cited in my recently published book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, children of the traditional litigation divorce model commit suicide 30% more, are addicted to substances and alcohol 18% more, and divorce at an alarming rate or do not get married at all. A 35-year longitudinal study shows children are broken from the conflict of divorce. I believe this conflict begins in a large part with primary and secondary parental titles.
Legal separation and filing for divorce are most common after the holiday season. If you and your spouse are considering divorce, I encourage you to consider Collaborative Law. The basis of this practice is dedicated to prioritizing families and ensuring the best interest of children. Through this concept, shared parenting is at the utmost importance. You and your spouse will meet with your Collaborative Law attorneys and come to an agreement on the best way to share your children. In my professional and personal experience, children are healthier and happier when they grow up with divorced parents who are equally present, even in separate homes. In addition to the shared parenting priority, Collaborative proceedings are much cheaper than a traditional divorce. When a divorce option is more affordable, without losing quality of care, this helps to eliminate unnecessary stress from each spouse and the impact it could have on their children.
If you’re currently experiencing the process of divorce or are already divorced, it’s not too late to choose shared parenting. In Part Two of this series, I’ll explain how communication methods between parents can make the holiday less stressful and more enjoyable for all parties involved, despite divorce and custody arrangements.