Separation and divorce from parents place high demands on those involved and can result in an increased risk for the development of the child. A negative development of the children is neither mandatory nor predominantly given.
Figure 1 shows a model of the stresses and adaptations of children after a separation of the parents based on the selection and separation stress coping perspective (Amato, 2000, p. 1271; Walper, 2003, p. 153; Walper & Bröning, 2008 , P. 575). The model also takes into account the family relationships and thus the developmental conditions of children before a separation so that the causes of a separation can be understood in the counseling process and the consequences for the former partner and children can be better assessed.
Figure 1: Model of the burden and adaptations of children after a separation of the parents
Research in the human sciences has been able to demonstrate that parenting advice can make a valuable contribution to child welfare in the event of separation and divorce (Bacon & McKenzie, 2004, pp. 95–96; Emery, Laumann-Billings, Waldron, Sbarra & Dillon, 2001, p. 330 ‑331; Kelly, 2000, pp. 971–972; Kelly & Emery, 2003, pp. 360; McIntosh, 2006, pp. 32–34; McIntosh & Deacon-Wood, 2003, pp. 192–193; McIntosh & Long , 2006, p. 60; Thoenes & Pearson, 1999, pp. 214–217; Whiteside, 1998, p. 3; Wolchnik, Sander, Winslow & Smith-Daniels, 2005, p. 77).
Legal basis of educational counseling in the event of separation and divorce
Content-related delimitation of §§ 17, 18 and 28 SGB VIII
The “advice on questions of partnership, separation and divorce” according to § 17 SGB VIII and the “advice and support in exercising personal care and the right of access” according to § 18 SGB VIII are in accordance with § 2 para. 2 and para. 3 SGB VIII a youth welfare service for the benefit of young people and families. It is an offer to promote family upbringing.
Parenting advice can not only be used as “help with upbringing” according to Section 28 of Book VIII of the Social Code, but also if, after a separation or divorce, “the conditions for exercising parental responsibility that is beneficial to the well-being of the child or young person” are required and with the support of counseling § 17 para. 2 SGB VIII a “concept for the perception of parental care and parental responsibility” is to be developed, should be received as a benefit. Later on, the parents may also need advice in accordance with Section 18 Para. 1 and para. 3 SGB VIII (Federal Conference for Educational Advice, 2012, p. 483).
From a holistic view of the problem in connection with separation and divorce from parents, there are overlaps in consultations according to Section 17 of Book VIII of the Social Code and Section 28 of Book VIII of the Social Code as well as Section 18 of Book VIII of the Social Code and Section 28 of Book VIII of the Social Code. The legal mandate to “manage conflicts and crises in the family” (Section 17 (1) No. 2 SGB VIII) and “in the event of separation or divorce, to create the conditions for the child or young person to exercise parental responsibility in a way that is conducive to the best interests of the child or young person “(Section 17, Paragraph 1, No. 3 of Book VIII of the Social Code) is indistinguishable in terms of content from a” clarification and overcoming of individual and family-related problems “(Section 28, Paragraph 1 of Book VIII of the Social Code). Advising single parents “when exercising personal care” (Section 18 (1) of Book VIII of the Social Code) and “when exercising the right of access” (Section 18 (3) of Book VIII of the Social Code) overlaps with the tasks from Section 28 of Book VIII of the Social Code. “It has therefore become common to speak of Sections 17, 18 and 28 of the Book of Book VIII as the legal basis for individual counseling in educational counseling (DST; AGJ 1995) “(Menne, 2016, p. 13, see also: Coester, 2003, P. 82).
Parenting advice according to Section 28 of Book VIII of the Social Code also originally includes support “in the event of separation and divorce”. In practice, it is therefore often a support for this family problem on the basis of Section 28 of Book VIII of the Social Code and, at the same time, support for the exercise of parental custody according to Section 17 Para. 1 no. 3 and para. 2 SGB VIII (Federal Conference for Educational Advice, 2009, p. 18). “In the majority of the consultations according to § 17, which take place in an educational counseling center, services according to § 28 are required at the same time. The creation of conditions for the beneficial exercise of parental responsibility (para. 1 No. 3) or the development of consensual concepts (Paragraph 2) takes place parallel to the clarification and management of family problems (Section 28), as well as in the form of (partial) processing of the couple conflict underlying a separation and in the form of therapeutic help for those affected Children” (Wiesner, 2015, S. 313).
The advisory services regulated in Section 18 of Book VIII of the Social Code are closely related in terms of content and timing to advice on issues relating to partnership, separation and divorce in accordance with Section 17 of Book VIII of the Social Code. “Despite professional advice and / or a court decision on custody, the conflict situation at the couple level has in many cases not yet been dealt and coped with. As a result of the separation and divorce, there are often disputes over the exercise of personal custody, the organization of contact and the granting of maintenance. § 18 therefore continues the counseling offer for the phases of parenthood following separation and divorce ” (Wiesner/Struck, 2015. p. 332).
18 para. 1 SGB VIII grants parents who have to care for a child or adolescent alone or who actually care for a child, a right to advice “in the exercise of personal care”. Upbringing the child is an essential part of personal care, in addition to supervision and residence requirements. This results in a natural area of overlap with parenting advice according to Section 28 of Book VIII of the Social Code.“Advice for single parents according to Section 18, Paragraph 1 of Book VIII of the Social Code is therefore regularly linked in parenting advice to advice according to Section 28” (Federal Conference for Education Advice, 2009 , P. 18).
17 SGB VIII: Advice on questions of partnership, separation and divorce
Essential goals of the consultation in the service area of § 17 Abs. 1 No. 3 SGB VIII and § 17 Abs. 2 SGB VIII as a reorganization aid (Coester, 2003, p. 82) serve to improve the relationship, upbringing, action and conflict competencies of the parents to protect the interests of the child in the parental conflict, thus ensuring the continuity of the parental relations of the child to mother and father (Münder, Meysen & Trenczek /Proksch, 2013, S. 225 und 229; Wiesner/Struck, 2015, S. 312).
Regarding the content of counseling in separation and divorce situations according to Section 17 Para. 1 No. 3 SGB VIII and § 17 Abs. 2 SGB VIII include:
- Separation of the difficulties at the partner level from the responsibility at the parent level in order to be able to resolve the relationship conflict and to cooperate in the interests of the children (see also Jopt, 1998, pp. 290–291).
- Sensitization of parents to the consideration and priority of the needs, interests and rights of children over other needs in order not to endanger the further development of the child.
- Preservation of access and relationships between the children and both parents without coming under pressure to form a coalition, in order to guarantee the possibility of identification with father and mother.
- Children should retain as many of their supportive relationships as possible and, as far as possible, their familiar surroundings.
- Instructing parents to observe the mutual good behavior requirement.
- Adequate support for the child in dealing with the separation of the parents.
- Development of a common concept for the care and interaction of parents with their children (bringing about a common attitude of both parents towards their children).
18 SGB VIII: Advice and support in the exercise of personal care
The objectives of counseling in accordance with Section 18 of Book VIII of the Social Code are advice and support in exercising parental custody and in dealing with people in accordance with Section 1684 of the German Civil Code and Section 1685 of the German Civil Code, i.e. the promotion of contacts between the children and both parents and other important caregivers.
Regarding the content of the advice and support in separation and divorce situations according to § 18 Abs. 1 No. 1 SGB VIII and § 18 Abs. 3 SGB VIII include:
- Advice and support for single parents in the exercise of personal care with regard to questions of child care, child upbringing, education, supervision, the right to determine the right of residence, in cases of conflicts with the other parent (Münder, Meysen & Trenczek / Proksch, 2013, p. 250 ; Schellhorn, Fischer, Mann, Schellhorn & Kern / Fischer, 2017, p. 170).
- Advice and support for those entitled to access when they request information about the child’s personal circumstances, when establishing contact with each other and implementing judicial or agreed access regulations (Schellhorn, Fischer, Mann, Schellhorn & Kern / Fischer, 2017, p. 172) .
Consulting approach Kluge and Schmidt
Dr. Karl-Josef Kluge and Axel Schmidt have developed an intervention approach for counseling parents in separation and divorce situations. The advisory approach presented here is geared towards the family mother-father, parent-child system and their interdependencies (Wiesner /Struck, 2015, p. 319). The counseling approach is primarily intended to enable parents to develop and maintain a family relationship based on partnership, and to encourage and support them in this. “This is served in particular by interdisciplinary and mediative advisory services, which also preventively promote and support the ability of parents to resolve conflicts and their ability to communicate and cooperate” (Münder, Meysen & Trenczek /Proksch, 2013, P. 225).
The course content comprises 11 units and is designed for a duration of 3 months. The group sessions consist of approximately 8 to 10 participants. During the course, work is carried out in the whole group and in small groups. The group sessions are ideally led by a mixed-gender trainer couple.
The author and Dr. Karl-Josef Kluge developed the following structure for their counseling approach in the event of separation of the parents (see also Emery, 2012, p. 63; Niesel, 2008, p. 328–334; Johnston & Campbell, 1988, p. 199).
(1) Realignment of the parents’ relationships with a focus on the needs of the children(Emery, 2012, p. 63; Fthenakis, Niesel & Griebel, 1993, pp. 267–268; Johnston & Campbell, 1988, p. 199 ; Rohrbaugh, 2008, pp. 196–209; Walper & Krey, 2013, p. 196; Whiteside, 1998, p. 13)
If there are children, a certain form of parental cooperation between the former partners is required: “One of the many ironies of divorce is that, even in the midst of their parenting, parents need to find a way to work together for their children” (Emery , 2012, p. 93). In this area, parents are informed about the effects of a separation on the parents and on the children. Furthermore, the development-related needs of children are presented and the parents are taught to put the needs of the children in the foreground.
- Possible effects of separation on parents
- General developmental needs of children
- Possible effects of parental separation on children
- Bringing awareness to the needs of children in the foreground
4 units of three hours each. The individual course units are held at weekly intervals.
(2) Reduction of conflicts at the couple level (Johnston & Campbell, 1988, p. 199; Rohrbaugh, 2008, p. 196–209)
Advice on handling and processing the psychological conflict dynamics in the event of separation and divorce and the consequences of separation in children and adolescents is seen as a prerequisite for the development of a consensual and permanent concept for the perception of parental custody (parents’ agreement) (Weber, 2009, p . 324). In this way, it can be ensured with a higher probability that parents do not submit any applications for custody or access rights to the family court in order to get their supposed rights. Because when family courts decide, they produce winners and losers. This does not always lead to real pacification and stabilization of the family. “The“ fight for the child ”and the supposed right is carried on with more subtle and / or coarser means. Psychological mechanisms by personal vulnerability, by disappointments and injuries by the divorcee [Author’s note: separate] Partners, who are determined by a subliminally continuing guilt principle, by feminist and masculine attitudes and by a right to an undisturbed relationship with the child nourished by law and public opinion, can then lead to a build-up of conflicts”( Weber, 2009, p. 327).
Once the conflicts between the parents have been identified, the parents are particularly informed about the possible effects of their conflicts on their children. Reducing the parents’ conflicts is an essential prerequisite for reducing and avoiding coalition pressure and the associated conflicts of loyalty for children (Emery, 2012, p. 93). Subsequently, strategies are developed to limit the conflicts.
- Establishing the conflicts between the parents (Lebow, 2003, pp. 183–184; Rohrbaugh, 2008, pp. 170–172):
- Type of conflict (e.g. judicial, attitudes, personal)
- Areas of conflict and possible interdependencies
- Temporal dimensions (beginning, duration)
- Cause and cause of the conflict
- Understanding the conflict from the different perspectives of those involved
- Conflict level
- Possible consequences of parents’ conflicts on the children
- Development of strategies to reduce parental conflict behavior
3 units of three hours each. The individual course units are held at weekly intervals.
(3)Development of a parenting plan (Johnston & Campbell, 1988, p. 199, Kelly, 2005, p. 253–254, Kline Pruett & Barker, 2009, p. 445–453)
A joint parents’ agreement can prevent decisions by the family courts. When drawing up a parents ‘agreement, the parents’ potential for conflict must be taken into account (Rohrbaugh, 2008, p. 173).
A joint parents’ agreement should include the following:
(A) Name of the child and parents
(B) General rules about the parents’ attitude towards their relationship after a separation
- needs of the child
We agree that we put the child’s needs at the center of our actions.
- Compliance with the reciprocal code of conduct
We agree that we have mutual respect for the independence and autonomy of the other parent.
We agree to keep the child out of any discussion of parental separation.
We agree that we will refrain from anything that could make the other parent appear negative in the child.
We agree that we will cooperate on all child-related issues and want to come to common solutions.
© Legal concern
- Agreement of joint custody
- Agreement to transfer parts of parental responsibility to one parent
– Vereinbarung zur alleinige Sorge eines Elternteils
(D) Time of the child with his parents(Bausermann, 2002, p. 97–99; Kelly, 2007, p. 46–47)
- Interchangeable model
The child mostly lives with parent A and parent B, e.g. alternating weekly.
- Residence model
The child lives mainly with parent A and spends time with parent B every two weekends, for example. Additional stays with parent B can be arranged here.
- Regulations on other appointments and participation in the child’s activities
- Holiday regulation
- Public holidays
- Other special days
- Contact via phone, Skype, email, etc.
- Contacts with other people (e.g. grandparents, family members)
- Participation in appointments of the child (e.g. school events, sports activities, invitations)
(E) Exchange of information about the child (Lebow, 2003, p. 188)
We agree that we can talk about important things about the child at any time.
We agree that we establish and maintain reliable communication structures regarding matters relating to the child and cooperation regarding the child in two separate households.
4 units of three hours each. The individual course units are held at weekly intervals.
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Univ.-Prof. Dr. Karl-Josef Kluge
(University of Cologne, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department for Curative Education and Rehabilitation, Subject: Educational Aid and Social-Emotional Promotion)
firstname.lastname@example.org und email@example.com
Dr. Axel Schmidt
(Diploma in business administration, diploma psychologist)
0171 307 39 48