As a divorce attorney and mediator, I have often felt that a missing piece to the puzzle was the involvement of mental health professionals in the divorce process. Does anybody have the same experience and if so, any ideas on how to bridge this gap?
It would help to introduce the collaborative divorce model to mental health professionals and provide CEUs in how to be an allied professional. We aren't quite "there" yet in Tennessee, but have begun the process. In our juvenile court setting, cases are screened to see if there is need for a mental health referral (Cases such as delinquency, unruly child, parent-teen, and when harm to child is alleged Our juvenile court system has jurisdiction over parenting/custody/visitation disputes when the parents are not married or when a grandparent/third party is involved or in divorce when there are allegations made about harm to the child).
It's heartening to see that our sister state of Tennessee is beginning to embrace the concept of full professional support for families going through this challenging time of transition. You may want to check out our Peaceful Divorce Model which utilizes a team approach and is an alternative to Collaborative. It has received CLE approval by the Florida Bar. We will be offering the program again to our Peaceful Divorce members soon!
I think part of the problem is the nature of the gap itself. The legal arena is one often dominated by an adversarial framework and approach, whereas as a mental health professional, this was anathema to me. The last thing I wanted was to create more adversarial energy between my clients.
This difference in framework results in a very differing approach, set of terms, use and purpose of languaging, etc. These are often in opposition themselves, and I have found that attorneys who are traditionally-minded often don't see or recognize the importance of the fundamental place of the viewpoint that mental health professionals bring to the discussion for their client's sakes.
I think we bridge the gap by getting out of the adversarial mind-set, into the collaborative divorce framework, just as is advocated here. A little bit of cross-training in each discipline would help too.
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