Game Plan—What is a divorce coach, and how do you know if you need one?

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The end of a marriage is full of raw and intense emotions, complicated logistics, weighty decisions, extreme busyness, enormous life changes, hard conversations, worries about the future, and concern for your children.

It’s understandable if you’re feeling anxious, uncertain, and overwhelmed.

At the same time, however, the personal mess and muddy feelings induced by this crisis mode can make it even more challenging to get through everything you have to get through to get on the other side of this challenging time.

It’s normal to need professional support. And it’s essential to have qualified legal counsel, of course. You may need a financial advisor. And many people benefit from working with a therapist during their divorce.

But another increasingly popular form of professional divorce support is available, which you may not fully understand or even know about—a certified divorce coach.

The American Bar Association defines the role of divorce coaching as “a flexible, goal-oriented process designed to support, motivate, and guide people going through divorce to help them make the best possible decisions for their future, based on their particular interests, needs, and concerns.”

A certified divorce coach is neither a lawyer nor a therapist but a mental health professional who specializes in supporting individuals—emotionally and logistically—throughout the divorce process and, in many cases, beyond. They smooth the way by helping people get out from under a weighty tangle of feelings, fears, and confusion to gain clarity, calm, and confidence; communicate more effectively; make decisions and better plans for themselves and their children; and become more peaceful, positive co-parents.

A divorce coach works alongside the other professionals on your team. Their partnership and personal support can optimize your work with your family lawyer, accountant, financial planner, and soon-to-be ex-spouse. Although your divorce coach might not be present when you meet with your lawyer or go into formal mediation sessions, they help you prepare to be your best.

A skilled divorce coach is caring and compassionate—a shoulder to lean on—but action-oriented. They create a safe, neutral, judgment-free zone in which you can be open and honest, work through intense emotions, reduce stress, and achieve a more rational state; this helps you negotiate from a place of strength and calm, so you can de-escalate conflict and improve collaboration.

They help you gain perspective, take a more holistic view of your situation, and avoid common pitfalls. They guide you as you define and articulate your needs, values, and goals for your divorce, family, and future as you begin shaping a game plan.

Divorce coaches emphasize the importance of self-care to prevent obsessing about your divorce. They can bolster your coping skills and offer strategies for staying calm, logical, and businesslike in stressful circumstances.

A divorce coach can also alleviate some of your burdens by assisting with the practical matters that are part of the dissolution process and can seem overwhelming, such as getting organized, gathering necessary financial documents, listing assets, and beginning to outline ideas for your parenting plan.

One of the most vital roles of a divorce coach is getting you focused on what’s best for your children so you can set reasonable goals for your family—from preparing for the initial talk with your kids about your split to developing unique and creative solutions for co-parenting, to being proactive about your children’s healing process.

In the long run, a qualified divorce coach can save money by reducing the friction, conflict, and out-of-control emotions resulting in long, drawn-out, bitter court battles.

A divorce coach might be a good choice for you if:

  • You feel anxious, afraid, or overwhelmed much of the time
  • You’re having trouble making decisions
  • Your feelings are preventing you from thinking clearly and rationally
  • You feel down and depressed about your post-divorce future
  • You’re so angry you want to punish your spouse or get revenge
  • You need someone unbiased to talk to, who understands the divorce process
  • The legal system seems confusing and overwhelming
  • You don’t know where to start when it comes to planning co-parenting responsibilities and logistics

Your work with a divorce coach will be unique to your situation, but generally, you can meet weekly for an hour or so, at least as a start. You can begin working with a divorce coach at any point in the divorce process, but doing so early can maximize the impact. Vet potential coaches thoroughly for credentials and experience and ensure their method and style align with your values and goals.

The experienced and caring family attorneys at SFLG understand how challenging the dissolution process can be. We want you to have all the support you need to feel strong, clear, confident, and optimistic as we navigate your divorce together.

By Debra Schoenberg

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Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., recognizes that family law matters involve complex, sensitive issues that can have a lasting impact on you, your family, your finances and your future.

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California Board of Legal Specialization (CBLS) State Bar of California
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San Francisco Business Times Corporate Philanthropy Awards 2019
Expertise Best Divorce Lawyers in Concord 2020
2018 Expertise Best Divorce Lawyers in San Francisco
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