The Child Specialist Process
The Child Specialist (CS) is a neutral party in the Collaborative process and provides insight into the experience of the children in coping with the divorce. With the Coaches, the Child Specialist can help the parents develop options for schedules and logistics, which are in the child’s best interest. The Child Specialist is not a custody evaluator, nor does the CS make recommendations. However, the CS provides information about child development and divorce. For young children, the Child Specialist may act as a spokesperson, while for older children, the Child Specialist may help them articulate their feelings and wishes directly.
The Child Specialist gathers information in a variety of ways tailored to each family’s circumstances and needs. This may include the following:
- Meet with the parents together and /or separately
- Meet with the children, sometimes alone and sometimes with either or both parents present.
- Interview parents using a variety of questionnaires
- Interview other important adults in the children’s lives, such as teachers, therapists and other family members.
- Conduct home visits, when appropriate, particularly when younger children are involved.
- Meet with the parents and the Coaches to provide data to be considered in the creation of the Parenting Plan.
The Child Specialist is informed by research and clinical data on the long term outcomes for children. The CS has experience in helping parents create stability and continuity for their children. The CS input assists parents in developing an appropriate parenting plan that will reduce the children’s exposure to conflict and improve parents’ communication.
The Child Specialist provides feedback to help focus the parents on the children’s developmental and psychological needs, putting into perspective concerns parents have about their children currently or long term. Bringing the specific information about the children’s lives (their age, temperament, special attributes) helps the parents shift from “my time/right” with the child to the “child’s time” with the parent. This useful distinction prioritizes the child’s needs.
In planning the time share schedule, it is essential to separate time with the children from issues related to finances and percentages. The Coaches and Child Specialist help parents focus on their goals for their children and develop ways to accomplish them in crafting the parenting plan. Moving towards a shared view of what is in the children’s best interest shifts the focus away from what may not seem “fair” to a parent. The CS remains in contact with the professionals as needed through the divorce process. Typically the CS does not provide ongoing therapy, but is available for consultation related to the children and the divorce.