The University of Denver in September will open a Resource Center for Separating and Divorcing Families. The center is the first of its kind in the United States, providing an array of services for families who are going through a separation or divorce. The families receive mediation, education, therapeutic services, assistance with financial planning and legal drafting, all on a sliding fee scale.
Separating and divorcing families face a complicated legal system that too often causes additional polarity and animosity. According to Judge Robert Hyatt, chief judge of Denver District Court, “it’s time to ask ourselves whether a courtroom is the most appropriate place, the best place to resolve these cases. Perhaps we can identify better ways, healthier ways to help parents help themselves to come to a genuine agreement for their future and that of their children.”
“Our goal is to help children and parents,” says Melinda Taylor, executive director of the Resource Center. “The research is clear. If children receive consistent emotional support and their parents model good conflict resolution behavior, then the children have fewer behavioral and psychological issues. This center can give families the support and tools they need during this time of transition.”
Taylor expects families initially will be referred by the court system and community agencies. The family will self-select to be part of the program, and both parents will need to commit to working together toward a resolution that will meet their needs and the needs of their children. The center also will provide services to parents who are not involved in a formal divorce case filed in the court but who are separating. The resource center will assign a team to assess their needs. Teams will be made up students from DU’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology, Graduate School of Social Work and Sturm College of Law. As part of their internship, the students will receive mediation and interdisciplinary training.
“The University is very proud to be the home of this innovative center,” says Chancellor Robert Coombe. “It serves the University’s goals of providing a rich, multidisciplinary educational experience for our students, while simultaneously serving the needs of separating and divorcing parents in the Denver community. We hope it will eventually serve as a national model.”
The model for The Resource Center for Separating and Divorcing Families was developed by the Honoring Families Initiative at IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver.