A number of years ago I was asked to speak at a meeting of about 200 Family Lawyers in New Jersey. They wanted me to provide information on psychiatric assessments.
I distributed a standard evaluation checklist that psychiatrists and psychologists use to access families for suitability. It outlined points to address: evaluation of each parent, their history, including legal and psychiatric, their housing and their vocational stability. I then asked these lawyers if they thought anything was being missed. “No” they said, “Everything appears to be covered.”
However, I knew as a long-time child psychiatrist and family therapist, one of the most crucial issues had indeed been left off. I suggested to them the importance of evaluating the parents together to see if they can negotiate and provide the crucial element in parenting, and that is speaking with one voice.
I told the lawyers that unity and respect for the other, in spite of any ill feelings that they might have, is one of the most crucial elements in determining how well a child of divorced parents does.
One lawyer confronted me and asked, “From a family therapy point of view, how do you work with parents that are so embattled?”
“Slowly”, I replied, “Parents need to determine their values and what is most important.”
Regardless of how much they may hate their ex-spouse, children should never hear their parents say anything negative about the other parent. They must present unity to the child, with disagreements behind closed doors.
For more advice on family life consult You Can Fix Your Family