The separation of a divorcing couple is a draining experience for the entire family. The emotional toll of separation can have consequences that manifest themselves in children’s social and academic lives. The result of this severe stress can negatively impact a child’s grades, friends, state of mind, and even physical well-being. Fortunately, there are ways in which a couple can get separated while preserving the family atmosphere that is so vital to the healthy development of a child or young adult.
Imagine yourself as the son or daughter of two separating parents going through the litigation process. The two people who shape the person you want to be are now in a heated bout of tug-of-war and you, your siblings, your house, your pets- your life- make up the rope. One parent pulls your life as hard as he or she can in one direction, while the other parent fights to resist the offensives of the person who was once a lover, but now an enemy. The very nature of the litigation process is what damages the children. The children end up seeing their parents, who were once symbols of unity, sanctity, and order, become adversaries vying to devise how to maximize what they walk away with. The destroyed ideas of cooperation and mutual respect are so emotionally injurious to the child that he or she may end up feeling disconnected from life itself. Are we not, when it comes down to it, creatures who yearn to feel a sense of belonging? The same values that litigation inherently corrupts- cooperation, civility, and a mutual to desire to help the family- are the same values that mediation intrinsically preserves.
The essential function of a litigation-driven courtroom is to pit two opposing parties face-to-face, and let them scratch and claw for their own individual needs. During mediation, both adults sit down together with a mediator (who at Divorce Mediation & Family Services of New York is also a trained litigator) and negotiate a plan that will hopefully optimize everyone’s well-being. The parents cooperating in times of separation is an expression of mutual respect, health, and even unity that helps the child understand that, even though the parents are divorcing, they still care for the family institution and, more importantly, the children themselves. Therefore, the very essence of what mediation stands for is a real-world manifestation of the healthy psyche that we want to see in our children, making it the healthiest option for the family.