Separation and Divorce
While counseling frequently helps couples to make their marriages more satisfying, there are also times when counseling can help a couple to decide that they need to bring their marriage to an end. Sometimes people learn in the process of therapy that unresolved conflicts have been left unaddressed for so long that the damage to their relationship can no longer be repaired. In other cases there is true incompatibility in some fundamental aspect of marriage that precludes a well-functioning or truly satisfying partnership.
When a marriage ends after sober reflection and careful consideration of the options, important decisions need to be made that have far-ranging ramifications, both emotionally and financially, for the partners and for their children. Every member of the re-organizing family will be profoundly affected by how the separating spouses each handle the emotional journey of divorce, by the access the children will have to both of their parents in the new two-household family, and by the financial arrangement made by the adults for their own care and that of their children. This period is a very vulnerable one in the life of the family; the importance of making healthy decisions that are guided by the overall well-being of all of its members cannot be overstated.
Support for the adults during the separation and divorce process can be provided in a number of ways. Separation and divorce counseling can be helpful in sorting through the many decisions that need to be made, in coping with the strong emotions elicited by the divorce process, and in learning to manage former partners’ emotional reactivity to one another. It is possible to work together or individually towards these goals, in conjoint or individual therapy; family therapy which includes the children is also frequently of significant assistance to both the adults and the children.
In many cases, divorce mediation may be an option worth exploring as well. Divorce mediation is a non-adversarial process in which the legal issues of divorce such as custody, child support and property division are addressed directly by the spouses with the help of a neutral professional who helps them to make practical, informed decisions together.
Both during the separation and divorce process as well as after divorce, circumstances and parenting decisions can arise which are difficult to resolve for former partners in marriage who are still partners in parenting. In such situations, a class addressing the issues common to co-parenting after divorce can provide needed information and skill development. Co-parenting counseling can provide separated and divorced parents more in-depth assistance in this area, and can be expanded to include family therapy with the children where this is warranted.