The holidays can be a difficult and emotional time for couples in Chicago whose marriage is on the rocks. Perhaps this is the reason there is generally an uptick in divorce filings after the New Year. For couples with children, the issue of child custody must be contended with should the couple decide to divorce.

When it comes to child custody matters, decisions must be made with the child’s best interests in mind. As a reminder to keeping the child’s needs at the center of any child custody arrangement, January has been designated National Child-Centered Divorce Awareness Month.

A litigated divorce can be difficult on a child, as it pits one parent against the other. Instead, many children benefit when their parents choose a collaborative divorce instead.

In a collaborative divorce, parents and their attorneys agree in writing to work together to reach an agreement regarding child custody and other divorce legal issues. If they cannot reach an agreement, and divorce matters must ultimately be litigated, the attorneys must bow out of the case and new attorneys hired. This provides an incentive for all to make the collaborative divorce process work.

A collaborative divorce can help parents develop a co-parenting plan, and it sets the stage for future cooperation down the road. Parental cooperation is key to ensuring that a child is well cared-for following a divorce. Collaborative divorce also gives parents more control over the details of their parenting plan, so they can ultimately make arrangements that suit their needs and the needs of the child.

When parents successfully co-parent, it can help a child thrive post-divorce. Parents who are constantly at odds with one another can cause undue stress on a child. Therefore, those who see divorce on the horizon in the New Year will want to consider whether they and their partner can utilize the collaborative divorce process as a means of reaching a child custody arrangement that meets the best interests of the child.