Kathy and Tim: Caring for the Children

The Situation:

Kathy and Tim had been married for nine years. They had twin boys, age six. A part-time teacher’s aide, Kathy earned $20,000 a year while Tim earned $120,000 annually in the computer industry. Tim worked long hours and had left most of the parenting to his wife. But as their children grew older, he showed more interest in spending time with them.

They had been separated for a couple of months when Kathy sought a collaborative attorney
Tim wanted to reconcile. She did not. He would cry and beg her to take him back when he arrived to pick up their children. This was upsetting for everyone, but mostly for them. Kathy maintained they did not want to go on visits with their father, because they were closer to her and were distressed seeing him so visibly shaken.

The Process:

Tim chose to retain a collaboratively trained lawyer as well, and both [NJCLG] attorneys discussed his reluctance to divorce. Kathy would not entertain any possibility of reconciliation.
It was agreed that Tim might benefit from a divorce coach. It was recommended that Kathy also retain a coach to help her understand her emotions and to develop psychological strategies to cope with the situation.

With her approval, Kathy’s coach had a brief conversation with her attorney. The latter obtained insights
into the dynamics of the failed marriage, including how best to approach Tim during four-way meetings. 
This initial discussion helped to allay his pain and anger during subsequent sessions.

Signing the Participation Agreement:

At the first four-way meeting, the Participation Agreement was reviewed and signed. It was decided that retaining a child specialist would be helpful in working through parenting issues. The specialist was chosen by Kathy and Tim and a payment arrangement for her services determined. A letter from both parents was sent to her, asking to meet with the twins to bring their points of view to the process, as well as her professional assessment of their developmental needs. The child specialist met with the children several times. She also met with Tim and Kathy individually and together, where she shared her thoughts about
their children. She helped them work out several crucial issues, such as the children’s attendance at
extra-curricular activities, parental dating, and how both parents would communicate regarding the children.

Kathy, Tim, their lawyers, and the child specialist next met to decide when the children would be in Tim’s care. Because the divorce coach helped Tim accept Kathy’s decision to separate. he became far more emotionally stable around the children. And though the twins still found being temporarily separated from Kathy difficult, their adjustment was made easier by this positive change in Tim.

Reaching a Flexible Custody Agreement:

Tim and Kathy reached an agreement where the children would see their father every Sunday afternoon for the first couple of weeks, then the entire day for the next couple weeks, and ultimately for a full day and overnight thereafter. The child specialist agree to meet periodically with the children to monitor their
reactions to this arrangement. The gradually increased visits would also give Kathy a chance to adjust to
her separation from the children.

The next month, another five-way meeting was held (parents, their lawyers, and the child specialist). The specialist reported on the custody arrangement, and the parties were able to agree on a time-sharing schedule for the children. A Separation Agreement was drafted and signed by Kathy and Tim.

They both knew that the agreement they signed might have to be adjusted in future as the needs of the children and the circumstances of their own lives changed. But they now had an effective working plan. 
The children were doing well, and Kathy and Tim were developing a new relationship based solely on
working together as parents.