Posted by Michelle May O’Neil

It’s never too late to do what’s in the best interests of your children.

Like many promises, commitments, and agreements, wedding vows often don’t seem to be worth the words spoken or the paper they’re printed on. However, once a child is brought into the world, that is permanent. And just as "with power comes responsibility," "with children comes moral responsibility" to parent them to have the best chance for a good life and, need I remind you, one which he or she never asked to be born into.

Divorce therapy for divorcing couples with children is quite simple, if parents take the well-being of their children seriously, show their commitment through actions vs. mere words, and can let go of needing to be right in order to do what’s right for the child.

It rests on the usual consensus between parents that an 18-year-old entering the world/college/work force with the characteristics of Child A has a much better chance for a good life than Child B as described below.

Child A

Child B










No Goals

Handles Disappointment Well

Is Easily Upset

Doesn’t Take Self Too Seriously




It also rests on a shared belief that a child’s personality is built largely upon nature (genetics and temperament) and nurture (parenting in early years, social factors in later years) and that nurture through parenting is much more modifiable than is nature.

Other factors that are pointed out but are not generally known by parents (although usually agreed with when explained) are that a child’s well being and sense of security are greatly affected by the cooperative, mutually respectful, and enjoyed relationship between the parents. It is not solely determined by the parents’ relationship with the children.

A majority of teenagers, when asked if they had the choice between their parents being nicer to them or more loving towards each other, will pick the latter. The animosity between parents is very painful to their children.

There is ample research from child development studies to support this, not to mention asking each parent the effect that their parents’ relationship had on each of them.

Developmental psychologists have gone so far as to say that the cooperative and collaborative relationship between parents has a long-lasting effect on the child’s own minds and personality, especially with regard to how his or her emotions and logic work together or fight each other. Some psychologists say that arguing between parents is not as detrimental as arguments that never are clearly and fully resolved. That state of "nothing gets better" or "same old thing again" can cause many children to develop a predisposition to anxiety (that the non-resolution will escalate to something worse) or depression (that mom and dad don’t seem to like each other).

Divorce Therapy Made Simple has three steps. Family law attorneys or the court usually direct the couple to attend therapy together.

Step 1: Both parents agree and accept that at age 18, a child with the characteristics of Child A is in a much better position to have a good life than Child B.

Step 2: Both parents agree that how the child is nurtured/parented/raised and how the parents interact with each other have a significant influence on raising a child to become either Child A or Child B and that they have a moral responsibility to do right by their child.

Step 3: Each parent needs to make a compelling and convincing case for what they’re asking for (regarding living arrangements, custody, and co-parenting) and how it will result in a Child A rather than a Child B. If they can’t make such a case for a request with regard to the children, it will be dismissed by the therapist as irrelevant.

Out of these meetings, actionable and observable behaviors are agreed upon that will positively affect their children. The results of such meetings, either positive or negative regarding the co-parenting skills of the parents, may be given back to the attorneys or court in the form of a written report and/or verbal testimony or deposition.

Hat tip to Mark Goulston for this article. He is also the bestselling author of four books.
For more articles on divorce and therapy, visit
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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 30+ years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 30+ years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW for multiple years. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.