June 4, 2015

The Wisdom of the Child Specialist

I am working on a case in which the parties have elected to use the services of a neutral child specialist to evaluate the parties’ two children (9 and 12), to communicate her findings, and to help design a parenting plan that takes them into account. Although the case is not a Collaborative one, I believe that the parties’ taking a page from the Collaborative playbook was both a wise decision in this specific case and speaks to the wisdom of the Collaborative approach in general. It is not just that the parties’ children will have had a voice in the outcome of their parents’ dissolution – not the voice, but a voice – it is also that the hammering out of a compromise will, as it would with the Collaborative team approach, involve a professional who, unlike the attorneys in the case, is specially trained to evaluate the needs of children and to incorporate those needs into a coherent plan to which the parties will, hopefully, commit. Certainly, opposing counsel and I could use our collective experience to craft a parenting plan that takes into account the parties’ needs and their representation of the needs of their children. But I believe that that representation would inevitably reflect the parties’ positions, whereas the neutral child specialist is able to represent the children’s needs as they actually are, with no agenda. Even so, it is possible that the parties’ positions will prevent them from coming to terms on the parenting plan. But even if they cannot agree, at least they will both have the benefit of an expert evaluation from a neutral whom they both agreed freely to employ, rather than, say, a Court-ordered parenting consultant. My hope for the parties is that their wisdom in employing the neutral child specialist extends to their listening to the specialist’s specific recommendations as to a parenting plan.


Joshua Gitelson comes to the practice of law via a first career in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, as a film editor and writer for motion pictures and television. The son of a lawyer on the one hand and a clinical psychologist on the other, Josh has gravitated toward family law as an amalgam of these two “family businesses.” His parents’ amicable divorce inspired him to help others through the divorce process with as little rancor and conflict as possible. As a result, Josh has embraced the collaborative divorce model as a technique to complement his work on divorce in the traditional litigation mode. Learn more at https://www.lindawray.com/CM/AttorneyBios/JoshuaGitelson.asp.

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