I think by now you have an idea of how challenging divorce was for Kathleen Christensen. Just to refresh your memories, Kathleen was married for about nine years and their daughter was seven when they separated. Kathleen has described the co-parenting relationship she has now as a miracle. She credits not only the collaborative divorce process for this but also the decision to work with a psychologist to help with the parenting plan. Here’s what Kathleen had to say:
We saw, and do still see, a psychologist who specializes in child custody issues. He helped us to make the decisions about our daughter, like her schedule with us and who should make decisions. It was helpful that he was familiar with the issues and he had some good suggestions. It was also helpful because my ex and I were having such a hard time talking to each other – even what seemed like small innocuous issues could spiral into a bad place.
Just for example, one day, when my husband was moving out, there was a videotape and we couldn’t decide who was going to take it – we were arguing over a tape of Fiddler on the Roof!
As I remember, it was my decision to talk about substantive issues with my ex only when we were in a safe container with the lawyers or with the psychologist. We went to see the psychologist together and it definitely didn’t start out all cooperative. We started off talking about parenting time with my ex saying,
‘I want 50/50,’
and I didn’t think that would work.
However, instead of butting heads about that, somehow we were able to say,
‘Let’s start with our daughter. What’s our schedule now? Let’s build on that.’
I went to a meeting on Fridays and so she already spent that evening with him. Then I was going to a critique group on Tuesdays and a pesticide group so she tended to be with him those nights. We built around that and kept hammering away at it. We did come away with something we were both happy with.
The Divorce Coach Says
There are a couple points I like about this story. First, how smart to use a professional third party when the relationship between the two of you makes meaningful discussion difficult if not impossible? I know cost might be an issue for some couples but it really is an investment in your future parenting relationship and as such is potentially money well spent.
Also, I love how Kathleen and her ex used their daughter’s current schedule as a starting point. I think my own discussions were more about what worked with my ex’s and my schedules. I also had a couple of books, Parents are Forever and Two Happy Homes, written by a therapist, Dr. Shirley Thomas, my daughter had seen in the past. They were a good starting place. Did you use a third party? Were there any resources that were particularly helpful for you? What tools have you found helpful in managing your kids’ schedules and sharing them with your ex?
Photo credit: elfsternberg