The adversarial process hurts children, who must watch divorcing parents in bitter confrontation, trying to tear each other down. The adversarial process sows more conflict and a more intense level of it. Thus, whether in Maryland or elsewhere, increased conflict during a divorce increases the harm to the children, according to the general body of research and to professionals who support alternative dispute resolution.

Our adversarial process is designed to pit clashing forces against each other to theoretically flesh out the correct (strongest) position and put down the incorrect (weakest) one. The process does not necessarily incorporate human qualities of respect, caring, sharing or even cooperation. The message subconsciously becomes: If you can play tough and dirty enough, you’ll get the prize.

In matters such as child custody, the posturing is directed to tearing down and exposing the weaknesses of the other parent. Meanwhile, cooperative co-parenting becomes an almost impossible detraction from the battle. Furthermore, divorce should be a time for grieving, just as in death. Conflict and litigation, however, shields the person from grieving, and allows for distorted emotions to prevent healthy grieving. That may be well and good for some sensibilities, but it’s harmful to the vulnerable psyches of the children.

A respected judge writes that a court battle in divorce ‘freezes’ the experience at the level of blame and fault. That ill-feeling is frozen for a lifetime, trapping some children in a web of misunderstood feelings. Luckily, in Maryland divorce can be obtained through a collaborative law option where problem-solving and mutual respect prevails. Mediation is a cooperative, mutually respectful process to divorce that is accomplished through communication and understanding. You’ll be well-advised to meet with your family law counsel and find out about the alternative options available.

As the level of conflict decreases, so do the levels of anger and distrust. It’s important for practitioners in Maryland and other jurisdictions to realize that a spouse in a high conflict divorce tends to distort reality. This is done to perpetuate conflict over healthy grieving. It’s recommended that you find a family law counsel who truly understands the lasting benefits to all family members from the use of collaborative law as the better vehicle for divorce.

Source: Huffington Post, ” Divorce and the Grieving Process,” Mark Baer, July 8, 2013