When one hears the word “divorce,” it usually conjures up images of shouting fights, anger, sadness and hurt feelings. The traditional adversarial court proceedings do not do a lot to foster a continuing relationship between former spouses after a divorce. However, many people need to continue to be able to work together to co-parent long after they are no longer married. A study conducted by researchers affiliated with the Smith College School for Social Work revealed that there are ways for couples to reduce the acrimonious nature of divorce and avoid protracted court battles.
For the study, researchers looked at 142 couples filing for divorce, all of whom had children 6 years old or under. Half the families used the traditional court method to obtain their divorces. The other half received divorce intervention services such as parent education classes, mediation and case management with input from legal and mental health professionals.
Researchers assessed the participants’ mental health, parenting practices and degree of cooperation at the time they initially filed for divorce and followed up 15 to 18 months later. Researchers also tracked each pair’s use of legal system for follow-up measures, such as modification of visitation or custody orders.
The study showed overall that parents who received services during divorce had less interaction with the court system after the divorce was final. Mothers reported being more supportive of fathers’ participation in parenting plans, leading to more overnight visits with non-custodial parents and consistent implementation of parenting schedules. Fathers also reported more success in maintaining relationships with their children. Both mothers and fathers were less likely to instigate post-divorce litigation after having received divorce intervention services than those who used the traditional court method.
Researchers believe their findings suggest that society would be better served by focusing on offering divorcing couples services aimed at reducing litigation, as other studies have shown that both parents and children involved in divorces do better the less conflict there is in the process.
Talk to a Lawyer
Divorce can seem to be an overwhelming event. If you are considering divorce, consult an experienced family law attorney who can discuss your situation with you and advise you of your options.