Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action: Divorce TV

The Association for Conflict Resolution’s Family Mediation News published in the Fall 2008 issue an article by me entitled, "Lights, Camera, Action: Divorce TV." It discusses how I produce my own public access television program about divorce. You can see the entire article at

As always, you can post any comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. You can get more information at our web site at WM 1/25/09

Monday, January 12, 2009

Top Ten Ways To Protect Your Kid s from the Fallout of a High Conflict Break-up

People pass on to us items which they think would be helpful in our blog. Suzannah Kelly of Bountiful Films recently forwarded to me Joan Kelly’s Top Ten Ways To Protect Your Kid s from the Fallout of a High Conflict Break-up. Bountiful Films says that "Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D. is a groundbreaking clinical psychologist and researcher who began studying the impact of divorce on children in 1968. Joan is an author, therapist, mediator, and parenting coordinator with four decades of experience working with high conflict parents who are separating. She has more than 85 publications, including Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce which she authored with Judith Wallerstein."
1. Talk to your children about your separation.
Studies show that only 5 percent of parents actually sit down, explain to their children when a
marriage is breaking up, and encourage the kids to ask questions. Nearly one quarter of parents
say nothing, leaving their children in total confusion. Talk to your kids. Tell them, in very simple
terms, what it all means to them and their lives. When parents do not explain what's happening
to their children, the kids feel anxious, upset and lonely and find it much harder to cope with the
2. Be discreet.
Recognize that your children love you both, and think of how to reorganize things in a way that
respects their relationship with both parents. Don't leave adversarial papers, filings and
affidavits out on your kitchen counter for children to read. Don't talk to your best friend, your
mother, your lawyer on the phone about legal matters or your ex when the kids are in the next
room. They may hear you. Sometimes kids creep up to the door to listen. Even though they’re
disturbed by conflict and meanness between their parents, kids are inevitably curious - and ill equipped
to understand these adult matters.
3. Act like grown-ups. Keep your conflict away from the kids.
Even parents with high levels of anger can "encapsulate" their conflict, creating a protective
buffer for the children by saving arguments or fights for a mediator’s office – or a scheduled
meeting at a coffee shop. It may seem obvious but so many separating parents continue to fall
down on this front. When parents put children in the middle of their conflict and use them as
messengers, sounding-boards, or spies, children often become depressed and angry and
may develop behavioral problems .
4 . Dad, stay in the picture.
Long-term studies show that the more involved fathers are after separation and divorce, the
better. Develop a child-centered parenting plan that allows a continuing and meaningful
relationship with both parents. Where a good father-child relationship exists, kids grow into
adolescence and young adulthood as well-adjusted as married-family children. High levels of
appropriate father involvement are linked to better academic functioning in kids as well as better
adjustment overall. That's true at every age level and particularly in adolescents. Fathers, be
more than a "fun" dad. Help with homework and projects, use appropriate discipline, and be
emotionally available to talk about problems.
5. Mom, deal with anger appropriately.
In their anger and pain, mothers may actively try to keep Dad out of the children's lives - even
when they are good fathers whom the children love. When you’re hurting, it’s easy to think you
never want to see the ex again, and to convince yourself that’s also best for the kids. But
children’s needs during separation are very different from their parents. Research reports
children consistently saying, "Tell my dad I want to see him more. I want to see him for longer
periods of time. Tell my mom to let me see my dad."
6. Be a good parent.
You can be forgiven for momentarily "losing it" in anger or grief, but not for long. Going through
a separation is not a vacation from parenting - providing appropriate discipline, monitoring your
children, maintaining your expectations about school, being emotionally available. Competent
parenting has emerged as one of the most important protective factors in terms of children’s
positive adjustment to separation.
7. Manage your own mental health.
If feelings of depression, anxiety, or anger continue to overwhelm you, seek help. Even a few
sessions of therapy can be enormously useful. Remember, your own mental health ha s an
impact o n your children.
8. Keep the people your children care about in their lives.
Encourage your children to stay connected to your ex’s family and important friends. If possible,
use the same babysitters or child-care. This stable network strengthens a child’s feeling that
they are not alone in this world, but have a deep and powerful support system – an important
factor in becoming a psychologically healthy adult.
9. Be thoughtful about your future love life.
Ask yourself: must your children meet everyone you date? Take time, a lot of time, before you
remarry or cohabit again. Young children in particular form attachments to your potential life
partners and, if new relationships break up, loss after loss may lead to depression and lack of
trust in children. And don’t expect your older kids to instantly love someone you’ve chosen – this
person will have to earn their respect and affection.
10. Pay your child support .
Even if you’re angry or access to your children is withheld, pay child support regularly. Children
whose parents separate or divorce face much more economic instability than their married
counterparts, even when support is paid. Don’t make the situation worse. In this as in all things,
let your message to the kids be that you care so much about them that you will keep them
separate, and safe, from any conflict. They will appreciate it as they get older.
As always, you can post any comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at WM 1/12/09

Monday, January 5, 2009

Not Your Dad's Divorce

My daughters often send me articles they think will be a good subject matter for our blog. The latest is an article in the December 15, 2008 issue of Newsweek by Susanna Schrobsdorff entitled, "Not Your Dad's Divorce." See entire article at
Ms. Schrobsdorff, starts out by saying, "The traditional "Dad gets every other weekend" formula is logistically easier than what Jorgen and I planned. But ours is an increasingly common arrangement. "It's not like it was 20 years ago," says Dr. Leslie Drozd, editor of the journal Child Custody. "There's no longer the same presumption that young children must be with their mother."
Courts are changing as well; in the small percentage (5 percent) of custody cases that do go to litigation, judges are now more inclined to disregard gender and look at who's the better parent, says Gary Nickelson, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "Now they look at parenting skills. Who took care of the children before the divorce?" Most often, children still end up living primarily with the mother; according to the most recent census, Moms are the official primary residential parent after a divorce in five out of six cases, a number that hasn't changed much since the mid-1990s.
Nationwide, the proportion of divorced spouses who opt for joint physical custody, where kids spend anywhere between 33 and 50 percent of their time with one parent and the rest with the other, are still small—about 5 percent, according to an analysis of data from the 1990's on post-divorce living arrangements by clinical psychologist Joan B. Kelly in the journal Family Process in 2007. But in California and Arizona, where statutes permitting joint physical custody were adopted in the 1980s, a decade earlier than in most states, the joint physical custody rates were higher, ranging from 12 to 27 percent.
Formal custody assignments don't tell the whole story of increased involvement by divorced fathers. Research to be published in the journal Family Relations in 2009 shows that there have been significant increases in how much non-resident Dads (those who don't have primary custody) are seeing their kids. In 1976, only 18 percent of these Dads saw their children (ages 6-12) at least once a week. By 2002, that number had risen to 31 percent.
"It's likely that more fathers are seeing their children mid-week for dinner or an overnight. It's a change that really started in the 1990s," says Dr. Robert Emery, one of the co-authors of the Family Relations study (along with Paul R. Amato and Catherine E. Myers). "There's been a cultural shift—a father's involvement with their children is seen as important and positive," says Emery who is the author of "The Truth About Children and Divorce" (Penguin, 2003)."
Her parting advice is the same as I tell clients, "The willingness of both parents to cooperate is the key factor in how kids adjust to a divorce. Gary Nickelson reminds parents that they should start creating a collaborative relationship with an ex-spouse early. "You're not going to sign the child-custody agreement, whatever it is, and be done with your wife or husband. I tell my clients, if you're lucky, you'll be sitting next to them for graduations and marriages and all kinds of achievements, so learn to get along."
As always, you can post any comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. More information on our web site at WM 1/5/09