Posted on January 10, 2018

How Can Therapy Help With My Chicago Divorce?

Break ups are always hard, but breaking up from your spouse can be a particularly painful process. Not only are you separating apart from someone you’ve loved; you are also uplifting and recreating a whole new life for yourself.   Divorces are messy. They require moving out and finding a new place to stay, making arrangements for child support and maintenance, hiring a lawyer, and splitting up all your assets. When you have kids, you often have to find a way to stay strong for them as you work with your spouse to develop a living arrangement that works well for everyone.  On top of this, the court process often requires you to do a lot of work. One fight can easily snowball into something that is both time-consuming and expensive if you aren’t careful.

Nothing about this is easy to do, and no one should have to do it alone. As someone who has seen people divorce each other thousands of times, there is one thing I’m certain of: therapy will make it easier for everyone. This observation is backed up by research too. There is a ton of information out there that indicates that adults and parents who engage in therapy and mediation can resolve their disputes faster, and feel happier about them in the long run (Amato, 2010; Gold, 2009; Sprenkle and Storm, 1983). Therapy can also prevent couples from having to return to court in future dates (Lebow,, 2007).

People often think about divorces as traumatic experiences that break families apart. As someone who sees people divorce all the time, I know that it doesn’t always have to be this way. In fact, a divorce is sometimes a really healthy thing for you and your family, provided you and your spouse take the right steps (Amato, 2010; Walsh, 2012).  When kids have divorced parents who are able to communicate well with each other, they will have far better academic and psychological success. (Wagner and Diamond, 2016).  Some research even suggests that kids can learn to be more adaptable and resilient after a divorce; but this is much more likely if their parents are able to learn how to communicate and cooperate effectively. (Walsh, Family Reslience; Amato, 2010, Lebow, 2007)

So then, what can therapy do? For one, therapists can help you engage with your divorce constructively. This means that they can help you come up with ways to talk to your ex that help both of you reach an agreement everybody is happy with. You can learn different techniques to cooperate with each other as the two of you end your marriage. You can learn how to maintain a ‘solution oriented focus’ throughout the divorce process.   (Gold, 2009; Lebow, 2007.) This will help you come to an agreement, and sets the pace for how you will communicate with each other in the future.

Divorces are painful experiences, and therapy will also help you figure out how to process and unload that pain. When you are angry, a therapist will help you understand why. When you are grieving the loss of your spouse, a therapist can help you cope with that grief. When you allot for space in your life to process this transition, it can help clear your mind when you have to engage with all the legal paperwork that court cases accumulate.

Processing and understanding the end of your marriage can help you formulate a new relationship with your spouse. This is necessary for everyone to  while go through the divorce process.  If you are a parent,  you must maintain communication with each other even after the divorce is final. Therapy will help you and your spouse learn how to engage in a cooperative and business like relationship, as each of you must exchange and evaluate your assets and paperwork.  This is an important step in decreasing conflict and resolving matters effectively (Gold, 2009.)

When you have kids, therapy will also help you figure out ways to arrange parenting schedules in a way that is healthy for you and your family. Therapists can teach you how to educate your children about what is going on, and how best to adapt to all these changes in their lives. As your family divides, you can learn ways that you and your kids can grow stronger in response to this big change. As a lawyer, it makes me happy when I see people do this–this is because it far easier for me to help a constructive person get what they want from their case.

For this reason, we recommend that you consider talking to a therapist if you are able. Having someone there to support you during this difficult time is worth the investment. It will help you end your divorce constructively, and can set the tone for a healthy and happy post-divorce family dynamic.

If you don’t agree to therapy, an Illinois divorce court can order therapy.

The statute authorizes a court to order “individual counseling for the child, family counseling for one or more of the parties and the child, or parental education for one or more of the parties” if the court finds that “(1) both parents or all parties agree to the order; (2) the child’s physical health is endangered or that the child’s emotional development is impaired; (3) abuse of allocated parenting time under Section 607.5 has occurred; or (4) one or both of the parties have violated the allocation judgment with regard to conduct affecting or in the presence of the child.” 750 ILCS 5/607.6

If the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities have already outlined which parent controls therapy, it may be difficult to order that therapy as any order would be a modification to the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities.

An “order’s inclusion that the parties were to ‘reasonably participate and cooperate’ in [a child’s] therapy plan served as a restriction over their significant decision-making responsibilities for the healthcare of their children” In re Marriage of Gorr, 2024 IL App (3d) 230412

A modification to a parental decision-making responsibility that constitutes a restriction requires specific motions.

“After a hearing, if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a parent engaged in any conduct that seriously endangered the child’s mental, moral, or physical health or that significantly impaired the child’s emotional development, the court shall enter orders as necessary to protect the child. Such orders may include, but are not limited to, orders for one or more of the following:

(1) a reduction, elimination, or other adjustment of the parent’s decision-making responsibilities or parenting time, or both decision-making responsibilities and parenting time” 750 ILCS 5/603.10(a)

In order for a motion to restrict parenting decision-making responsibilities to be entered, specific findings must be made.

“The court may modify an order restricting parental responsibilities if, after a hearing, the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a modification is in the child’s best interests based on (i) a change of circumstances that occurred after the entry of an order restricting parental responsibilities; or (ii) conduct of which the court was previously unaware that seriously endangers the child. In determining whether to modify an order under this subsection, the court must consider factors that include, but need not be limited to, the following:

(1) abuse, neglect, or abandonment of the child;
(2) abusing or allowing abuse of another person that had an impact upon the child;
(3) use of drugs, alcohol, or any other substance in a way that interferes with the parent’s ability to perform caretaking functions with respect to the child; and
(4) persistent continuing interference with the other parent’s access to the child, except for actions taken with a reasonable, good-faith belief that they are necessary to protect the child’s safety pending adjudication of the facts underlying that belief, provided that the interfering parent initiates a proceeding to determine those facts as soon as practicable.” 750 ILCS 5/603.10(b)

Contact our Chicago, Illinois office where I can recommend many therapists in the Chicago area who have helped our divorce clients in the past.  Please don’t be afraid to ask and, even if you are, we’ll ask if you need a recommendation for a Chicago area therapist. We are lawyers not therapists and we know the difference.


Lebow, J., &Rekart, K. N. (2007). Integrative family therapy for high-conflict divorce with disputes over child custody and visitation. Family Process, 46,79 – 91.

Amato, P. (2010). Research on divorce: continuing trends and new developments. Journal of Marriage and Family,  72. 650-666.

Gold, L. (2009). The healthy divorce: keys to ending your marriage while preserving your emotional well being. Sphinx Publishing.

Lebow, J., & Rekart K, N. (2007). Integrative family therapy for high-conflict divorce with disputes over child custody and visitation. Family Process, 46.

Sprenkle, D. H. and Storm, C. L. (1983). Divorce therapy outcome research: a substantive and methodological review. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 9: 239–258. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.1983.tb01509.x

Wagner, A. and Diamond, R. (2016). Divorce in couple and family therapy. Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-15877-8_448-1

Walsh, F. (2012). “Chapter 17: family resilience: strengths formed through adversity” Normal Family Processes, 4th ed. pp 399-427.

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Russell Knight

Russell D. Knight has been practicing family law as a Chicago divorce lawyer since 2006. Russell D. Knight amicably resolves tough cases while remaining a strong advocate for his client’s interests.

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