One of the best things about a collaborative divorce is that there’s room for a mental health professional to come in and help with key parts of the divorce process. A mental health professional, sometimes called a “divorce coach” in the collaborative arena, is there to help guide families through the emotional parts of the divorce process.

As family lawyers often point out to clients, lawyers are not therapists. Given the complex emotions that often come with divorce, it’s a good idea for many people going through divorce to seek therapy or some other form of emotional support. Too often, clients will lean on lawyers who are honestly better at the legal than the emotional aspects of divorce.

In a collaborative divorce, a mental health professional is a first line of defense for any strong emotions that come up during the divorce process. The MHP will be in meetings with the divorcing couple, and help the couple through the discussions. Sometimes, issues might need to be talked through, and sometimes, the couple just needs a time out if things get too heated or if one or both parties are tuning out.

In some cases, The MHP will be available to children who will be affected by their parents’ divorce. Depending on the family’s resources and needs, there might be a designated MHP for just the children. While the parents in a divorce have some level of agency and control over what’s happening, it’s different for children, and a good MHP will be able to help children through the process.

Even if a couple and their children aren’t needing emotional assistance, the mental health professional is there to help families come up with the best parenting plan for everyone. Too often, families will settle for “cookie cutter” plans that don’t really fit their specific needs. In some cases, the standard possession order works fine. But like we talked about last week, the Texas Family Code’s guidelines might not work best for the kids.

When I see parents come together in the collaborative process to create a family plan, it’s a wonderful thing. Those families get the sense that “we did it; this is our family plan” when they work with the MHP. The process helps parents focus on what’s best for the children, and the MHP is there to guide them through that in a way that attends to everyone’s emotions.

Make no mistake: Though a divorce involving children changes what a family looks like, it’s still a family in which parents are raising children. The MHP brings that perspective to the process while acknowledging that change is difficult and divorce usually means not having your kids 100 percent of the time.

If you’re interested in collaborative law and what a mental health professional can bring to your divorce, the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance can help you get started. Bringing a mental health professional into the mix is a cost-conscious approach to getting a family plan done—which can even be cheaper, in the long run, than working solely through lawyers.