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The Benefits of Using a Mental Health Professional in Divorce Matters

Apr 15, 2015 | Written by: William J. Rudnik, Esq. |

Divorce is an emotional process. It is difficult for parties to go through a divorce, and if they have children, the children are impacted even in cases where the parties get along. Mental health professionals, ranging from psychiatrists to psychologists to licensed clinical social workers to counselors, can play an important role in divorce cases. I went through a divorce when my son was young and I also have represented many clients through the divorce process. As a result, I understand the emotional aspects of the case and the need for mental health professionals.

The obvious role that mental health professionals can play in a divorce setting is in providing therapy to an individual going through the process. That can be either of the parties, or their children. There is no shame in seeking the assistance of a therapist while going through a divorce. In fact, it can help provide an individual with proper grounding to make the process less emotional and easier to get through. I encourage my clients to seek therapy when needed. In situations involving children, I strongly recommend that they make sure their children have an outlet to voice their anger, their sadness and the wide range of emotions they go through when their parents separate and/or divorce. Most people believe their children are fine and are not in need of support because they do not want to believe that they have harmed their child by getting divorced. However, even children who seem completely fine can benefit from meeting with a counselor or a therapist, as often times they are simply holding everything inside. Unresolved issues from childhood, including issues relating to divorce, can result in larger emotional issues during the teenage and adult years of a child’s life. Addressing these issues during the divorce process can eliminate future problems.

Mental health professionals can also play a role as a divorce “coach”. In those situations, they do not provide therapy to either party. They meet with the parties, sometimes individually and sometimes together, to help provide them with the tools to move beyond their issues, to be able to get through the divorce process and co-parent children after a divorce. Mental health professionals can be used in this regard not only in collaborative divorce cases, but also in litigation cases. It is important to involve a mental health professional early in the process, before the parties’ emotions get to the point where they govern their decision making in the divorce case.

In divorce litigation cases where parties cannot agree on custody and parenting time schedules, a mental health professional may be used to provide a best interest analysis and make recommendations as to a custody and parenting time schedule. While this is an important function mental health professionals can play in litigation cases, it should be a last resort and only used where the parties cannot or are unwilling to compromise to the point where the custody issues are resolved.

When going through a divorce, you should strongly consider the use of a mental health professional as a therapist for yourself or your children, or as a divorce coach to help the process. Using a mental health professional is no different than using a doctor, a dentist, a lawyer, or any other professional when you have a problem. If you have questions concerning the use of mental health professionals, or would like specific referrals, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

William J. Rudnik, Esq. is certified by the NJ Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney. He is also qualified as a Mediator in the field of Family Law under the New Jersey Court rules, and he is trained in Collaborative Divorce. Contact Mr. Rudnik at 908-735-5161.