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Mark Goulston, M.D. Headshot

Divorce Therapy -- In the Best Interest of Your Child

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It's never too late to do what's in the best interests of your children.

Like many promises, commitments, and agreements, wedding vows often don't seem to be worth the words spoken or the paper they're printed on. However, once a child is brought into the world, that is permanent. And just as "with power comes responsibility," "with children comes moral responsibility" to parent them to have the best chance for a good life and, need I remind you, one which he or she never asked to be born into.

Divorce therapy for divorcing couples with children is quite simple, if parents take the well-being of their children seriously, show their commitment through actions vs. mere words, and can let go of needing to be right in order to do what's right for the child.

It rests on the usual consensus between parents that an 18-year-old entering the world/college/work force with the characteristics of Child A has a much better chance for a good life than Child B as described below.

Child A Child B
Focused Scattered
Resilient Quits
Persistent Bails
Passionate Bored
Goal-oriented No Goals
Handles Disappointment Well Is Easily Upset
Doesn't Take Self Too Seriously Hypersensitive
Coachable Know-it-all


It also rests on a shared belief that a child's personality is built largely upon nature (genetics and temperament) and nurture (parenting in early years, social factors in later years) and that nurture through parenting is much more modifiable than is nature.

Other factors that are pointed out but are not generally known by parents (although usually agreed with when explained) are that a child's well being and sense of security are greatly affected by the cooperative, mutually respectful, and enjoyed relationship between the parents. It is not solely determined by the parents' relationship with the children.

A majority of teenagers, when asked if they had the choice between their parents being nicer to them or more loving towards each other, will pick the latter. The animosity between parents is very painful to their children.

There is ample research from child development studies to support this, not to mention asking each parent the effect that their parents' relationship had on each of them.

Developmental psychologists have gone so far as to say that the cooperative and collaborative relationship between parents has a long-lasting effect on the child's own mind and personality, especially with regard to how his or her emotions and logic work together or fight each other. Some psychologists say that arguing between parents is not as detrimental as arguments that never are clearly and fully resolved. That state of "nothing gets better" or "same old thing again" can cause many children to develop a predisposition to anxiety (that the non-resolution will escalate to something worse) or depression (that mom and dad don't seem to like each other).

Divorce Therapy Made Simple has three steps. Family law attorneys or the court usually direct the couple to attend therapy together.

Step 1: Both parents agree and accept that at age 18, a child with the characteristics of Child A is in a much better position to have a good life than Child B.

Step 2: Both parents agree that how the child is nurtured/parented/raised and how the parents interact with each other have a significant influence on raising a child to become either Child A or Child B and that they have a moral responsibility to do right by their child.

Step 3: Each parent needs to make a compelling and convincing case for what they're asking for (regarding living arrangements, custody, and co-parenting) and how it will result in a Child A rather than a Child B. If they can't make such a case for a request with regard to the children, it will be dismissed by the therapist as irrelevant.

Out of these meetings, actionable and observable behaviors are agreed upon that will positively affect their children. The results of such meetings, either positive or negative regarding the co-parenting skills of the parents, may be given back to the attorneys or court in the form of a written report and/or verbal testimony or deposition.