Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law

Tips for Navigating a High Conflict Divorce with Kids with Dr. Howard Selinger | Episode 66

November 04, 2021 Ryan Kalamaya & Amy Goscha Season 1 Episode 66
Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law
Tips for Navigating a High Conflict Divorce with Kids with Dr. Howard Selinger | Episode 66
Show Notes Transcript

Amy Goscha and Dr. Howard Selinger discuss tips for navigating a high conflict divorce with children involved.

What is Divorce at Altitude? 

Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha provide tips and recommendations on issues related to divorce, separation, and co-parenting in Colorado. Ryan and Amy are the founding partners of an innovative and ambitious law firm, Kalamaya | Goscha, that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries, and criminal defense in Colorado. 

To subscribe to Divorce at Altitude, click here and select your favorite podcast player. To subscribe to Kalamaya | Goscha's YouTube channel where many of the episodes will be posted as videos, click here. If you have additional questions or would like to speak to one of our attorneys, give us a call at 970-429-5784 or email us at info@kalamaya.law.



Ryan Kalamaya (3s):
Hey everyone. I'm Ryan Kalamaya

Amy Goscha (6s):
And Amy Goscha

Ryan Kalamaya (8s):
Welcome to divorce at altitude. A podcast on Colorado family law

Amy Goscha (13s):
Divorce is not easy. It really sucks. Trust me. I know besides being an experienced divorce attorney, I'm also a divorce client.

Ryan Kalamaya (21s):
You are someone considering divorce or a fellow family law attorney listening for weekly tips and insight into topics related to divorce co parenting and separation in Colorado.

Amy Goscha (37s):
Good morning. I'm Amy Gosha and I'm here with Divorce at Altitude, and I have the pleasure of having Dr. Howard Selinger with me today. How are you doing Doctor cylinder?

Howard Selinger (45s):
I am Just fine. Pleased to Be with you.

Amy Goscha (48s):
And thank you so much for being here today. I know that I've used you in several capacities. You know, I'm a divorce attorney. You been a psychologist for four decades today. We're here to talk about high conflict divorce. Can you just give me a little bit of your background and how you got involved in this area? Sure.

Howard Selinger (1m 5s):
I have a PhD in clinical psychology way back in 1975. I've done a wide variety of things over the last 40 plus years. And I actually got involved in this because I had a client early in my career who was going through a high conflict divorce. And her attorney came to see me and we discussed the priority of the wellbeing of the children as a central issue. And, and he started to make some use of me sending me people who were going through these difficult circumstances and little by little, it became part of my work. It's not the central part of my work. It's just one of many different things that I do. And so over time I started having clients that were in the midst of high conflict situations, legal situations, and sometimes I did what we would call therapy, just trying to help them to deal with the stress cause it's incredibly stressful.

Howard Selinger (1m 57s):
And at times I would give them some guidance, whether it was about the choice of an attorney or whether it was guidance about how to deal with their children, or it could be how to deal with the legal circumstances. And, you know, and my priority would always be keeping in mind that the law says we're focused on the best interest of the child and the best interest of your children is critical. Even if that might not be exactly what you want, the conflicts come up, when the adults have a different idea about what's best for the kids or off of the conflict, take place. Amy, when it's just an ongoing nature of what led them to get divorced in the first place that they don't get along and they're hostile to each other and they start using the legal system to deal with all of that and it can really become a mess.

Howard Selinger (2m 44s):
So right now I'm primarily, I get calls from attorneys like you, who have clients going through difficult circumstances in conflict with their ex. And I often consult to the attorney and I consult to the person I'm going through the divorce about how to handle X, Y, or Z. What's the way to be good for your children to keep that in mind, at the same time, standing up for your rights or the children's rights, et cetera. And I've done enough of this, that I'll get a call from an attorney and say, you know, so-and-so just needs help, you know, figuring out the system. And I know the system and so I can guide them through exactly what they need to do to maximize the chances that their kids will be.

Howard Selinger (3m 25s):

Amy Goscha (3m 25s):
Yeah. And from like a divorce attorney's perspective, I find it really helpful to have various tools available for my client. It's almost like their team. You know, I always usually try to have someone who, you know, is a psychologist or someone who's really good with mental health and you know, like a financial planner. I mean, there's just so many aspects of a divorce that, you know, I really look to you, you know, as a great tool and helping me navigate for my client, who's just, their wife is like falling apart.

Howard Selinger (3m 54s):
An example of that is that, but a couple of cases in the last year or two in a different part of the state, I'm in Denver and the attorney knows my work contacts me. And there's a lot of conflict going on with an ex fighting over the kids, kids complain about mom or dad. And natural thing that people want to do is call protective services or go back to court or whatever it might be. And I just try to slow things down and let's just think through what your options are. And I'll talk to your attorney about it, but you want to have some wisdom about where you're going with all of this. It's so easy to just get into world war three and I'm trying to decrease the, the war-like circumstance and get people to think about their children.

Howard Selinger (4m 37s):
And what's good for their children. And it's often very difficult to do because people are locked up in these battles that have been going on for years. They want to prove that their ex spouse is awful. The ex spouse wants to prove that they're awful and everybody just loses track of what's happening to the kids. So I can call myself a child advocate. It's not a formal role, but you know, I'm always thinking about what's going on for these.

Amy Goscha (4m 60s):
Yeah. And I think that sometimes people, you know, they think that they want certain things and they want a certain outcome, but the way that they're acting, you know, will not get them to that outcome. And I think it's just confusing for people. And sometimes they need that alignment, just not legal advice, but also from the mental health perspective, you know, and how their actions are affecting the children.

Howard Selinger (5m 20s):
Exactly. And it's hard to look in the mirror and see those things.

Ryan Kalamaya (5m 24s):
This episode is brought to you by our law firm. Kalamaya Gosha Amy and I describe our law firm as an innovative and ambitious trial team that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers and family law, personal injuries in criminal defense in Colorado. We currently have offices in Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Edwards, Denver, and Boulder. If you want to find out more, visit our website, Kalamaya dot law. Now back to the show,

Howard Selinger (5m 52s):
You know, I I've had a circumstance where that was a very bitter, a high conflict marriage that my client went through. And when she finally got divorced and I was not involved in that, it put the kids in the middle. And so she doesn't trust her ex-husband and he doesn't trust her. And there's all these accusations going back and forth. And in the meantime, the kids are being hurt by all of it. And in that particular circumstance, one of the children became acutely suicidal. You know, a teenager in high school, all this chaos is going on and she wanted to die and she was not my patient. But I had to say to my client, who was the woman in this case, we've got to figure out a way to decrease the hostility here because it's destroying your child. And then another one of the kids, multiple kids, and another one pretty young started saying, I just want to die.

Howard Selinger (6m 36s):
I just want to die. And so my job is, how am I going to diffuse all of this?

Amy Goscha (6m 40s):
Cause it's terrible, terrible.

Howard Selinger (6m 42s):
And it's not easy. It's not, it's hard. It's very hard work on my part. It's very stressful because I want the kids to be okay. And sometimes I can make it happen at sometimes. It's really hard.

Amy Goscha (6m 51s):
Yeah. It seems to me like a simple concept to get, you know, like if you're causing conflict as a parent, that's going to be bad for your children. But I think it's hard. Like you said, to see, you know, to look yourself in the mirror to see, you know, how are you as an individual contributing to that and how can you change your behavior to help minimize that? The let's just talk a little bit about, you know, it seems like, you know, Conflict really has a negative impact on children, you know, is there anything else that you would like to comment regarding? You know, what you see related to that?

Howard Selinger (7m 24s):
One of the ways that the conflict has a negative impact on the kids is when each parent will talk, say negative things, talk to the child about how your dad's doing this and your mom's doing that. Dad is terrible. Your mom is terrible. And the kids left both their parents or should be allowed to love both. Their parents should be encouraged to love both their parents. And when the child is in the middle hearing negative things about one parent and then hearing, hearing negative things about the other parent, the kids just start spinning like a top and they get really emotionally distressed. They get unstable, it's terrible for them. And so my emphasis always is let's think about how this is impacting your children and let's think about what would be best for your children.

Howard Selinger (8m 6s):
I know I'm repeating myself, but it's such a huge issue because people get caught up in what's best for them. You know, like my ex spouse hurt me or they did this, or they did that. And they easily fall into complaining about the ex you know, your mother did this and this to me. And she's the one that destroyed the family, or your father did this and this to me. And you got children sitting there listening to it and they don't know which way to go. You know, you see, as they get really distressed. And then sometimes that shows up, you know, the school falls apart, or they're S they're not even going to school or they're not doing their homework. Or if they're a little older, they're smoking a lot of marijuana just to decrease the distress that they're going through. They start drinking alcohol, all kinds of negative effects on the kids.

Howard Selinger (8m 47s):
You don't want to bring the kids into this at all, if at all possible.

Amy Goscha (8m 50s):
Yeah. I guess if you could think about one example of a tool that you use frequently when you're dealing with who isn't recognizing, I guess their part in the high conflict, you know, how do you get someone to actually recognize?

Howard Selinger (9m 2s):
Well, one of the first things I do Amy is I emphasize the fact that you need to tell your child that it's okay to love the other parent. Often the parents are in a battle over who's the bad guy, and they're telling the kid or children that, you know, the other spouses of ad guy or a bad person and children need to feel like they can trust both parents and love both parents. So I talked to my clients all the time about the fact that, you know, I've been example where my client's female, they're not all female by the way. And she's really upset with what her ex is doing. And so when the child complains about the ex, they didn't get into long conversations about what a bad father that guy is.

Howard Selinger (9m 44s):
And you may do the same thing, conversations about what, you know, your mom's not really okay. And you know, you can't really trust your mom and so on. And what I want my clients to do is give the message to the children. That it is fine to love both of us, that it is fine to love your dad or your mom, that they love you. And that the grownups are going to try to figure things out here, but it's, you're going to beat with your dad. You're going to be with your mom, have a good time. Sometimes the kids have had bad experiences. They don't want to go on the visit. I've had a, I have a lot of that in my practice about a guy going through a difficult divorce called me because the children were at his house and were just screaming at him about what it's horrible person. He is.

Howard Selinger (10m 24s):
Well, where did they get that? They got that because the mom is telling them that dad is a terrible person. And so he could easily fall into telling them what's wrong with their mother. And now it's a nightmare. It's terrible for the kids. So I teach my clients like in that circumstance, I taught this man to say to the children. I understand that you're upset with me. Tell me why you're upset. I'm willing to listen to you rather than defending himself, demonstrate to the children that you are considerate of what you guys are going through. And let's figure out how we can have a good time together right now and not talk all the time about what went wrong. An example is a parent, either male or female who had financial consequences in the divorce and a house had to be sold in order to raise enough money for everybody to live.

Howard Selinger (11m 12s):
And so children sometimes are told, well, we're leaving the house you love because your father or your mother did this or this or this. So they blame me other parents. And now the child is in turmoil because they're mad at their father or mother because you made us sell a house. And now I don't get to live where I want to live. And so on, which is it's hard on the parent, but it's terrible that either the parents are filling their minds with this stuff, this is grownup stuff. This is not for the kids to be involved with. I get very upset when children are essentially manipulated about who they're going to like best who they're going to love the most. Who's the good guy. And who's the bad guy. And if someone contacts me, I make really clear.

Howard Selinger (11m 52s):
We're not going down that road. We're going down the road where you have to tell your parents. It is rather, you have to tell your kids, it is fine that you love your dad or your mom. You go have a good time. I'm sure you're going to have a good time with them. Like, think about what you'd like to do with the parent. When you go to see them. And you know, you can tell them, I'd like to do this or this or this. In other words, foster a positive atmosphere for the sake of the children. And sadly, there's a lot of people that don't do that. And if I'm working with them, I try to point them in the direction of, you know, let's think about what's good for your kids right now. And your divorce divorce is hard on the grownups. Divorce is hard on children. What are we going to do in order to Sue your kids as they go through this very, very deep.

Amy Goscha (12m 34s):
Well, thank you, Dr. Selinger today for coming on Divorce at Altitude. I really appreciate it. And our listeners do as well. You can reach Dr. Selinger. You can reach him on his website. It's S E L I N G E R S I D O n.com. And you can email him at H Selinger at Selinger site on.com and his phone number is (303) 757-4866. Thank you.

Ryan Kalamaya (13m 4s):
Hey everyone. This is Ryan again. Thank you for joining us on Divorce at Altitude. If you found our tips, insight, or discussion, helpful, please tell a friend about this podcast for show notes, additional resources or links mentioned on today's episode. Visit Divorce at Altitude dot com. Follow us on apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to in many of our episodes are also posted on YouTube. You can also find Amy and MI at Kalamaya dot Law or 9 7 8 3 1 5 2 3 6 5 that's K a L a M a Y a dot Law.