11 Essential Divorce Professionals You Need On Your Team To Minimize The Pain

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couple signing divorce papers with an attorney
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Divorce can be a stressful transition complicated by numerous factors like child custody and divorce mediation.

Fortunately, one of the first steps in knowing how to have a smooth divorce is sorting through the many professionals available for hire, who are trained to help you.

No one wants to spend their time talking with divorce attorneys and feeling the stress of separating your life from your former spouse's.

But, divorce is still fairly common, so it's important that you learn which professionals will help you the most through this process.

RELATED: 45 Things To Remember During The Divorce Process To Help You Move On, According To A Divorce Coach

Here are 11 essential divorce professionals who will help you have a stress-free divorce.

1. Divorce attorneys

Traditionally, family law attorneys handle the complete divorce process and work with their clients from the beginning until the end of divorce. However, many attorneys will do what is called "unbundled legal services."

That's when they do the legal paperwork for only a part of your divorce, rather than throughout the whole thing. Or sometimes, they consult with clients who want legal information about certain aspects of divorce.

Typically, lawyers prefer to do a full divorce because they feel it's important for you to have full legal guidance to make sure it's handled correctly all the way through. This ideally reduces the rate of people who go back to court or contest their divorce later.

Also, divorce lawyers make more money on full cases. Think carefully about whether it's important for you to work with an attorney throughout or if you would prefer to use an attorney more as a consultant.

Know that attorneys cannot represent you and your spouse in the divorce.

2. Divorce mediators

Similarly, divorce mediators can work with couples on parts of their divorce or through their whole divorce.

Mediators are most often attorneys or mental health professionals, though individuals from other backgrounds can also be trained to mediate.

If you mediate your divorce, it's critical that you understand your attorney may not give you legal advice. They can tell you what a judge might say if your case went to court.

However, if your mediator gives you actual legal advice, they're violating mediation ethics.

It's strongly advised that if you go through with mediation, you have an attorney go over your divorce agreement before you file in order to make sure you're getting a fair contract.

You and your spouse should use different attorneys to review the agreement your mediator has put together for you.

3. Divorce coaches

Divorce coaches can help you keep your sanity during your divorce by supporting and pushing you to think clearly while you make important decisions during your divorce process.

The primary task of a divorce coach is to be your thought companion. Typically, this happens in three ways.

First, they help you to come back into a rational thinking mode if you're letting emotions govern your decision-making or reacting to new circumstances without processing them first.

Second, they'll help you determine your goals for your divorce, remind you of those goals, and keep you calm during uncalm moments.

Third, they organize questions and priorities for meetings with your attorney, mediator, or other divorce professionals.

Divorce coaching is not therapy. It's focused specifically on the divorce process and getting through it in a healthy way so you can be your "best self."

4. Collaborative divorce facilitators

There are different names for this important role on the collaborative divorce team, depending on the state: CDFs or Neutral Mental Health Professionals (MNHPs). So check with your state.

CDFs are responsible for keeping the divorce process moving forward, slowing it down when indicated, and addressing the emotional aspects that interfere with clients working collaboratively.

This role is important because emotions are what get people off track in making divorce-related decisions, including parenting plans. In many ways, the CDF's job is parallel to that of a divorce coach.

CDFs set the agenda for the team collaborative meetings where all of the professionals and the clients meet together. They meet with the other professionals on the case, usually by phone and before team meetings, to make sure they're all on the same page. They also circle back after each team meeting to debrief.

5. Psychotherapists

Psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatrists, licensed marriage and family therapists, and other mental health professionals support people going through a divorce by listening to their feelings, challenges, and thinking patterns.

These professionals encourage them to learn, grow, and take care of themselves as well as provide insight on how they came to be in the current situation.

When children in divorcing or divorced families work with psychotherapists, there's often a focus on supporting them to communicate with their parents about what they're feeling.

The therapist provides a conflict-free zone for children to explore the challenges of their families’ divorce and find some relief.

RELATED: 8 Steps To Divorce: Charting Your Own Course To Getting ‘Unmarried’

6. Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFAs)

Certified Divorce Financial Analysts work with couples or individuals to assess different ways that their money might be split, both according to alimony and child support guidelines.

If they work with individuals, they may help someone pitch an idea that's particularly to their advantage.

When they work with couples, via mediation or collaborative divorce, they help couples work out the best solutions for their families, keeping both partners’ future interests equally in mind.

7. Real-estate divorce specialists

These professionals work with divorcing clients so that both spouses’ needs and desires for their house sale are understood. It's a unique aspect of divorce and should be handled carefully.

8. Certified Divorce Lending Professionals (CDLPs)

These folks know about the many subtleties of divorce. If you're not certain about the situation regarding your home in a divorce, it's good to consult with CDLPs.

Sometimes, couples can make arrangements to safeguard their plans or learn that different plans are required than what they originally had in mind.

Working with mortgage lenders trained in the lending complications of divorcing couples can save time and, potentially, the family home.

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9. Child custody evaluators

Like CDFs, these professionals may have different titles in different states.

Custody evaluators must be licensed mental health therapists and typically have specialized training in divorce-related work. Their job is to represent the best interests of children in divorcing families according to state legal statutes.

Do your best to not need a custody evaluation. Divorcing couples that reach this stage are particularly high-conflict and need intervention to decide on their family’s parenting plan because the parents cannot come to an agreement.

Custody evaluations are typically court-ordered, though they can be requested or agreed upon by divorcing parties. A "parenting plan" is the family’s schedule after they separate or divorce.

The task of custody evaluators is to determine what's in the best interests of the children.

Should they live with each parent an equal amount of time? If so, why? If not, why not? What breakdown of time with each parent ought to be recommended to the court?

Are both parents capable of making decisions in the best interests of the children, or should one parent be awarded decision making on all topics?

Custody evaluations take a lot of time and are very expensive and stressful for the families going through them.

10. Child-Family Investigators (CFIs)

CFIs basically do a mini custody evaluation of children and parents in families where the courts have deemed it necessary to have an outside divorce professional investigate the family’s relationships.

These professionals determine whether there is a danger to a child and whether it's in the children's best interests to have a different family schedule.

CFIs can be licensed mental health professionals and attorneys. Their job is to represent the children’s needs in court. They are called in for custody-related issues, as are custody evaluators.

11. Parenting Coordinators-Decision Makers (PC/DMs)

PC/DMs are most often licensed mental health practitioners or attorneys who are appointed by courts to make decisions for families when divorced parents are unable to work together to do so.

Less than 20 percent of divorced families use PCDMs.

These 11 professionals are trained to educate and support you as you contemplate and begin the process of a stress-free divorce.

Before you hire someone to support you before, during, or after your divorce, be sure to research their name and credentials.

Review their reputation, the kind of cases they work on, and the means and methods they work with (i.e. in-person or virtual) to make sure that they're a good fit for you.

It's always better to work with a professional that someone you know and trust has worked with.

RELATED: 5 Stages Of Grief During Divorce That Are More Than Just Sadness

Joyce Fine, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist, certified divorce coach, collaborative divorce facilitator, and custody evaluator. For more information on how she can help with your divorce, visit her website here.