The child specialist in the Collaborative Process is a neutral advocate for the interests of the children. The role of the child specialist in this process differs from the role of the traditional child therapist and is not that of a custody evaluator for litigation. The child specialist can enter into the process at any time; the inclusion of the child specialist is not dependent on any special circumstances but can be initiated at the beginning of the Collaborative Process if only to provide the parents, or their children as the parents may agree, the welcome relief of being able to talk about their concerns.
The child specialist:
- Educates regarding the best interests of the child. This involves assessing the characteristics and needs of the child and keeping the child’s needs in focus.
- Provides a safe place for the child to share the child’s story and discuss concerns and interests, without worry of being seen as taking sides or disappointing either parent.
- Provides the parents, their counsel, and divorce coaches where appropriate with information and guidance to help the parents, for the benefit of their children, through the process. This involves sharing knowledge concerning developmental stages, attachment issues, and family systems.
- Gives an oral report to the Collaborative Process professional team to help develop an effective parenting plan.
- Does not provide a written forensic report, which is incongruent with the Collaborative Process.
- Ensures that parties have a signed Collaborative Process Agreement in place (i.e. specifying that no child specialist notes are admissible or subject to subpoena and there is an agreement of the parties that child specialists will not appear in court).
- Recommends therapy (which must be provided by a separate therapist, not the child specialist) when needed.
- Assists in development of terms for parenting plan.