We often have a Child Specialist on the team in our Collaborative divorce cases. However, a Child Specialist can be very helpful in any divorce with children where the parents hope to be able to continue to work effectively together as co-parents after the divorce.
A Child Specialist role is very different from a GAL or parenting evaluator. GAL’s and parenting evaluators are generally appointed by the court to investigate the parents and report back to the court to assist the court in deciding parenting plan arrangements. A Child Specialist is hired by the parents to assist them in making their own decisions about parenting arrangements.
There are several ways in which a Child Specialist can help parents in divorce. First, they may interview the children (and perhaps teachers or other adults that regularly interact with the children) in order to report back to the parents as to how the children are doing. This can be helpful because children often have a tendency to put on a good face and pretend like everything is fine when they see their parents in distress. Having a Child Specialist check into how the child is REALLY doing can uncover hidden problems the parents might not otherwise be aware of.
The Child Specialist is also an information bank resource for the parents. He or she can suggest strategies for dealing with parenting issues, such as how to tell the children about the divorce, or how to keep parental conflict from impacting the children. The Child Specialist can provide information about child developmental stages and how those stages relate to what the child is currently experiencing. They may even be able to suggest additional resources to help deal with a specific issue that has arisen.
A Child Specialist can also, alone or working together with a Divorce Coach, help a couple work through the agreements about parenting they will need to make in order to develop the parenting plan that the court requires of all parents. This includes agreements about when the child will be with each parent, how vacations and holidays will be divided between the parents, how major decisions about school and medical issues will be decided, how disputes about the children will be resolved, etc.