Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions. If you have something specific you need information about, please reach out to us.
High-conflict coparenting patterns include frequent arguments, undermining and sabotage of the other parent’s role as a parent, and the absence of frequent attempts to communicate and coordinate with the other parent with respect to the children. (McHale & Carter, 2012, Independent Practitioner).
Coparenting refers to the support and solidarity between adults responsible for the joint care of children (McHale & Lindahl, 2011, Coparenting: A conceptual and clinical examination of family systems, APA Press). NCPC helps parents stop destructive fighting and learn new tools that can lead to positive change.
Children exposed to high levels of interparental conflict are at risk for developing a range of emotional and behavioral problems, both during childhood and later in life (Grych & Fincham, 2001; Kelly, 2000).
All parents have a right to their own perspectives, values and feelings where their children are concerned. Parents also have a responsibility to express their opinions and exert efforts to promote and nurture a healthy environment for their children. It can be a seemingly insurmountable challenge to resolve differences of opinion regarding what is “healthy” for their children after the separation. Failing to do so can result in large legal bills, dragging yourself and your children to court, and interruptions to your own health and well-being as well as the health and well-being of your children. NCPC offers Parenting Coordination, Family Law Mediation, parenting education, psychological evaluations, psychotherapy, and counseling for parents and families who want to resolve parenting concerns and conflicts without giving their parental control and power over to a stranger (the judge).
Many parents say it does no good to talk to their ex-spouse because it’s like “talking to a brick wall.” Often the impasse can be resolved when co-parents learn new communication skills. Effective communication involves seeking to understand as well as to be understood. Divorced parents must become good communication partners if they are to be successful as parenting partners. NCPC offers training in basic communication and conflict resolution skills for parents to use with each other and with their children. Sometimes, it isn’t lack of skill that causes failure to communicate, but rather unresolved feelings or concerns. NCPC offers a variety of services to identify underlying issues impeding effective communication and strategies to help you feel understood and to be more understanding.
Collaborative divorce and Family Mediation are good options! NCPC offers services to help parents develop parenting plans that take into account each child's needs and the needs of the family system.
It is not uncommon for divorcing and/or separating parents to have emotional and practical barriers to cooperation with one another. These barriers may, at times, seem insurmountable, and parents may be tempted to stop trying to find common ground and maintain a parenting partnership. The most common barriers are value differences and issues of power, control, and competition. These complicate even the simplest matters and can cause the most minor parenting issue to take on a life of its own. Part of successful “recovery” from divorce and separation means identifying the emotional barriers to cooperation with your parenting partner and choosing to make decisions that are child-focused. For many parents, beneath the struggle for power and control is a fear of loss. Some parents fear that if they are not loved “the best” then they may not be loved at all. These kinds of fears can often be traced back to early experiences in the parent’s own childhood, and divorce or separation may reactivate old “wounds.” Until resolved, these hurtful “wounds” become significant barriers to cooperation and effective co-parenting. NCPC offers therapy for individuals to help heal old wounds and let go of needs for power and control. NCPC also offers Parenting Coordination to help structure and manage the parenting partnership until emotional barriers, for one or both parents, can be resolved.
Parents place their children in “loyalty binds” when they ask them to take sides, either overtly or in more subtle ways. It can be as simple as one parent suggesting that a child not comply with the other parent’s request. All divorced parents place their children in loyalty binds from time to time, but failure to take corrective action is when the real damage begins. Ultimately there is no way for children caught in such binds to win. Children need permission to love and be loved by both parents. Asking them to take sides is taking away that permission and telling the child the love of one parent is conditional, or dependent upon the child’s “choice” regarding which parent they “love more.” The legacy of this damage tends to persist into adulthood when these children, as adults, typically experience problems with intimate relationships and have trouble managing anger and conflicts constructively. NCPC helps parents identify, early on in the process, the binds that they are creating and helps them develop strategies to either stop the “binding” of their children or to take appropriate corrective action when it does occur.
Children, like adults, experience a wide range of emotions and reactions to their parent’s divorce. The age of a child, however, helps predict how a child may react depending on their physical, emotional, and intellectual development. NCPC offers parents’ education about normal child development and the impact of divorce on development. Armed with information and heightened sensitivity, parents can greatly influence whether their children continue a healthy developmental path and maintain a positive outlook on life after divorce, or whether the child’s energies for normal development are diverted by parental hostility, instability in their home life, and neglect of basic needs. Parent education may be brief and formal, or it may take the form of ongoing consultation with a child development specialist. Ignorance about child development costs dearly and may cause mistakes in parenting decisions without the parent’s awareness. NCPC can help you avoid common mistakes in parenting and help you develop confidence in your parenting skills as you help your children make the necessary, but often difficult, adjustments that come with divorce.
The challenge of making yours, mine, and ours into a cohesive family can be overwhelming and frightening. “Blending” often implies that the end product will lose the distinct and unique qualities of its parts or ingredients, if you will. In fact, the process with human beings is more like putting together two or more puzzles without all the pieces. The professional counselors at NCPC can be invaluable in helping parents successfully integrate each of the unique individuals into a cohesive family unit.
Divorce ends your marital partnership, but it does not end your parenting partnership with your former spouse. Divorced parents must learn how to work together as parenting partners at precisely the time that they prefer not to be partners at all.
Partnering as parents, or co-parenting, is essential to the health and well being of children whose lives are affected by divorce. While the challenge of developing an effective co-parent partnership is difficult, it is worth the effort when you see your children continuing to thrive in spite of changes in their family unit. Even parents who were a good parenting team prior to their divorce, may be so embittered by the process of separation and divorce that they cannot imagine working cooperatively with their children’s other parent. NCPC has the experience and resources necessary to help parents through the perilous task of developing a new and effective co-parenting team or putting back together the pieces of what used to be a good parenting partnership. This new partnership must take into account many changes in the family’s life, including new significant others for the parents, two homes, new schools and friendships, financial challenges, and additional stress.
It is possible for divorce to be good for all. With help, parents can develop guidelines to prevent their children from being emotionally troubled and developmentally crippled for life. Some parents have no interest in “keeping their family together” after the marriage comes apart, but also do not want to harm their children. The defining characteristics of an effective co-parenting partnership may look different for each family. However, finding a “common ground” between former partners when it comes to their children is essential to preserving the well being of the children. Identifying the characteristics of your parenting partnership requires setting and maintaining clearly defined boundaries, determining when and how you will connect with your ex-partner, and having a strategy to keep the children in focus. To be effective requires the assistance of trained and experienced professionals.
Parental alienation syndrome has not been defined by any agreed-upon set of symptoms or criteria, nor has scientific research documented the existence of such a “syndrome.” However, anyone who has worked with children or families who are caught in bitter custody battles or who are locked into struggles of power and control where children are concerned cannot dispute that parental alienation, as a phenomenon, exists. Parental alienation occurs when one parent convinces a child or children that the other parent is unreliable, not trustworthy, unsafe, or doesn’t love them. This “alienation” can be overt and conscious “brainwashing” by a parent or much more subtle and covert. Either way, a child’s relationship with the “alienated” parent can be seriously impaired, if not destroyed, leaving the child with longstanding emotional damage resulting from the loss of a parent (emotionally or literally). NCPC offers services to evaluate parental alienation and other considerations that may be of interest to families and their attorneys. NCPC also has the expertise to guide parents through the healing process when one parent has been alienated.
The aims of parenting coordination (Carter, DK 2011, Parenting Coordination: A Practical Guide for Family Law Professionals) are to reduce inter-parental conflict; improve parenting skills; foster cooperative and effective coparenting relationships; decrease litigation and court appearances; and improve the outcomes and well-being of children.
There are certain, predictable, stages of divorce that explains how and when divorced couples may recover. For many, the path to recovery includes letting go of dreams and wishes that were connected to the now dissolved marriage along with resolving feelings of hurt, rejection, and abandonment. The letting go stage is a necessary prelude to establishing a new, healthy, marital partnership or love interest and for developing a good parenting partnership with your former spouse. For those who are able to accomplish this task in relatively short order (two years is the norm) , the task of developing an effective co-parenting unit is much easier. Many couples, however, are never able to effectively “let go” of their previous marital partner and maintain the “partnership” by continued hurtful contact that is characterized by resentment, hatred, and lack of cooperation. These parents continue to be so dysfunctional that establishing an effective parenting partnership requires guidance from well-trained experienced professionals. NCPC offers Parenting Coordination, “divorce therapy”, individual therapy, anger management, and parenting education to help parents and children stop the hurting.
Parents who are constantly at war often wonder if they are doomed to be in conflict forever with their co-parent. Is peace a possibility or a pipe dream? You may have a hard time imagining how you, alone, can change the dynamics of the relationship and learn to resolve conflicts constructively, but the good news is you CAN change your steps in the dance even though you can’t control your parenting partner. NCPC offers services to help parents stop destructive fighting and learn new tools to start practicing new steps that can lead to positive change.