We all know about lawyers being involved in the divorce process, but what about other professionals? Family professionals are often used in the collaborative practice process and may assist parties through their separation, both inside and outside of the Court.
Livia Jozsa, a lawyer with Galbraith Family Law in Barrie sits down with Deborah Alton to ask her about her work as a family professional/family therapist and how she can help both lawyers and clients through the separation process. Deborah talks with us about the many resources her organization, The Reflection Centre, offers to assist people going through a separation. Their website is: http://www.reflectioncentre.com/
Deborah also answers some of our questions about how family professionals can be helpful in the separation process and what she does. For those wanting to know more about “collaborative law” and the process of collaborative law, we encourage you to visit the Collaborative Practice Simcoe County website at: https://www.collaborativepracticesimcoecounty.com/ You can learn about the different processes for separation here: https://galbraithfamilylaw.com/divorce-options/
Livia: Can you give us a brief snapshot of what you do as a family professional working in collaborative law?
Deborah: It’s actually a really important role that we play, because when you’re talking about finances and issues related to parenting agreements, there’s a lot of emotion behind both of those things because they’re both treasured kinds of assets in people’s lives. The actual role that we play, as a family professional, is as the coordinator of the whole process.
In the collaborative meetings, it’s about managing the emotion in the room, it’s about keeping the lawyers on track, and sometimes redirecting towards the interests and concerns that people have as opposed to getting into positioning, which sometimes happens in these meetings.
Livia: Do you typically meet with each party separately for an initial consult or together?
Deborah: It depends because sometimes they come to us together or just one person will come in. So it really depends on what works best for them. I definitely always sit with them individually though. Sometimes they don’t want to sit in the same room because there’s too much emotional stuff. So I’ll do that piece first.
Livia: If parents have children with special needs, do you offer coaching to learn how to cope with specific issues such as autism or behaviour concerns?
Deborah: Well, in the collaborative process it might be about directing them to get those resources, but there’s certainly a coaching component around emotional management, moderating their behaviours, and setting them up with the extra resources. But again it’s such an important piece because we do see a lot of that, and it has to be explored because it has to be added to do the parenting agreement.
Livia: Do you offer parenting courses or counselling as well?
Deborah: I do tons of counselling and coaching. I run three groups every year that is ongoing and love it! Two of them are women’s groups just because of the need. And one is a mixed-gender group. We deal with all sorts of issues. It’s not specifically set up around separation and divorce, although there’s a lot of people that are dealing with separation and divorce in the groups or parenting issues or a difficult, high conflict situation or dealing with an ex. They fill every year. There are twelve people and two therapists in the room.
I have done divorce care groups, shorter-term. I’ve also done adolescent support groups. But there’s only so much time and energy, so it depends on what’s on the table. These groups are great as you get lots of support from like-minded people.
Livia: Do you offer anger management courses too?
Deborah: I’m an anger management expert, approved by the courts. I wish we didn’t call it ‘anger management’, because that already has a stigma. It ought to be called emotional management. What differentiates successful from unsuccessful couples are 3 things: One is emotional management, the second is moderate behaviors, and the third is flexible thinking – cooperative flexible thinking.
Livia: Do you work with children at all in your role as a family professional or as a parent counsellor and how?
Deborah: Both in mediation or in collaboration I’ll sit with the children and I help do some reconciliation counselling. Sometimes there’s been some reluctance or resistance from the children to spend time with one parent, so I help them work through and address some of that and recognize what’s going on, give them some skills to know what to do; for instance, if parents are putting the kids in the middle – tell your mother, tell your father this. I will give them some language to approach mom or dad when those things happen.
That’s the biggest love of this — when you see the difference from the beginning of a process to a more successful place of how the children have transitioned through separation. And I think because the parents are often just so entrenched in their own hurt and anger and dysfunction, they don’t get the impact they’re having on their kids.
Livia: Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to discuss or tell us a little bit more about for the blog?
Deborah: The only thing that I want to convey is how important what we’re doing is, and how we need to make this paradigm shift. I just see so many families – emotionally and financially broken as a result of litigation and the court system. And this is real; I’m passionate about seeing this change, because when I see those children that come through a process that has been more respectful and has dealt with the mental health pieces, and when it has been done in a way that is managed well, those kids thrive better, and they’re happier and… the difference is just amazing. I can’t believe the difference.
Livia: Thank you Deborah for sharing your experiences and thoughts today.
For more information on the collaborative divorce process and how it can benefit you, please book a consultation with Livia. Livia will passionately represent you in your case while helping you develop effective strategies to overcome your divorce or separation.