What type of mental health professional do I need?
December 27, 2013 7:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm working on separating from my spouse and need objective help on figuring out how to do this (financially, emotionally, working on co-parenting agreements). What type of mental health (or perhaps legal) help do I need to do this? (Like when I'm choosing from the insurance company dropdown menu or googling for people.) I need more than a mediator, I think.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You very likely need a lawyer who practices family law to protect your interests, if custody and financial arrangements are involved. A therapist probably wouldn't hurt either -- most any therapist should be able to provide feedback. Call one, make an appointment. If you don't like his/her style, repeat until you do.
posted by Alterscape at 8:03 AM on December 27, 2013

Document your financial status - debts and assets. Think about what's fair and workable. Will your spouse fight for custody? If you have assets, see if you can set some aside for kid-related emergencies. It's uncommon - mostly the assets get divided, but setting money aside for medical care or other expenses makes sense to me. With children involved, you need a lawyer to review things, at least. Think about things like - what would you do about the kid(s) if Spouse moved away? how to deal with issues that come up when the kid(s) are older? how will you handle discipline? what if spouse remarries? what if you want to remarry or move away?

Most people are so stressed they can't think about the long term with kids, and it will help a lot of you try. Many people I know say their kids are doing fine, and sometimes they're in serious denial. Talk to the school, see if there's a program for kids going through divorce, and maybe get a therapist for the kid(s). My kid fell apart; therapy helped.

Prioritize the needs of the kid(s). Establish ways to communicate with spouse during/after divorce so the kid(s) aren't go-betweens. Work at making sure the kid(s) see spouse and have a good relationship. When I was getting divorced, a divorced friend was taking her son to buy his dad a gift. I was all WTF?, but she said she wanted her son to grow up honoring and respecting his dad. Good learning experience for me.

My ex- was a jerk. Sabotaged my relationship with my son, didn't pay the minimal support required, left me hanging with child care unexpectedly, lied about me to friends, etc. I bitched to friends, but kept my mouth shut to my son for years. Now my adult son sees things as they are, and tells me how much he appreciates what I did, and recognizes what I went through. He doesn't know the half of it, but his appreciation makes up (mostly) for a lot of crap. He has a good relationship with his dad, as he should. Take the high road - it will be worth it.

If you need a therapist for you, get one. Or there may be a group you can attend. Your state will probably have a website explaining the laws about divorce - do your research - it will save on legal time.
posted by theora55 at 8:17 AM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ditto Alterscape. A family law lawyer is necessary for detailing the legal steps you'll need to take for the divorce, in terms of finances and custody arrangements. A therapist should be helpful for the emotional aspects of the process and for co-parenting advice, as well as for talking through how you want to handle the legal aspects.

If you find one of those you like, they'll likely be able to recommend the other type of professional. Therapists and lawyers tend to cross-refer.
posted by jaguar at 8:37 AM on December 27, 2013

There are divorce consultants who can help you choose a lawyer and help with the planning. One thing to keep in mind, while the court may award assets to you, if they are not already in your name or possession there may not be any practical way of getting them if the spouse decides to just not obey the order.
posted by Sophont at 9:50 AM on December 27, 2013

One thing you might want to research is lawyers or mediators who practice collaborative divorce. A less acrimonious divorce tends to be easier on everyone and lead to a more effective co-parenting relationship...

FWIW, I think E. Mavis Hetherington's For Better or for Worse: Divorce Reconsidered is still the best book about children and divorce in terms of being unbiased and based on extensive research. It should give you some good insights into what the effects of divorce might be on your kids and how to manage the process to minimize the hardship and help turn it into a growth experience in some ways.
posted by unsub at 10:02 AM on December 27, 2013

Yes, a family law lawyer. They are very familiar with planning for the practicalities -- separate finances, coparenting, etc. They will also know the therapists in town who specialize in exactly what you're going through -- some specialize precisely in family counseling to help everyone involved (parents and kids) adjust to a new post-divorce landscape.

If nothing else, if you call around some lawyers to price them out, ask about referrals to therapists with this focus.
posted by mibo at 10:25 AM on December 27, 2013

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