Family Law Services

Dr. Bryson provides a variety of services related to divorce and child custody. Many of these services can be customized to meet specific situations and individual needs. Consultation services include:

Psychotherapy for Couples, Families and Co-Parenting Counseling

Dr Bryson’s psychotherapy services for custody issues focus on three points:

  • The needs of the children
  • Help for the mother and father in making sound parental decisions
  • Emotional healing for the whole family

(Dr. Bryson’s office is child-friendly, with toys, games, and materials to help keep young children engaged).

Psychotherapy begins with a thorough understanding of family history and dynamics that will lead to a clearer examination of current behaviors and enhance future interactions. Dr. Bryson usually will meet with parents individually before the start of family counseling sessions. If the parents have joint legal custody, it is necessary that both parents sign a written consent for treatment of their child or children, and it is strongly recommended both parents participate in the therapy process.

Dr. Bryson also works with parents who have been ordered by the Court for counseling to improve communication and lessen conflict. This may include cases in Children’s Court where the goal of counseling is to help parents work together to regain responsibility for their children.

Custody Mediation

Dr. Bryson offers custody mediation to facilitate parents in setting up parenting plans for their children. Her mediation services are useful not only at the time of divorce and separation but also post-divorce as circumstances change or children mature.

Dr. Bryson is highly experienced in conflict resolution, negotiation and communication skills. In custody mediation she takes a completely neutral position. She assists both parents to clarify their concerns, interests and values. She also helps the parents explore various parenting plan arrangements and match them to the emotional and developmental needs of their children. In mediation the parents have control over the process, which results in custody and parenting plan decisions that are uniquely suited to their family.

Conjoint mediation meetings are generally two hours in length and continue to be held until a resolution is reached. When parents are basically trusting of each other, willing to negotiate in good faith, and have no history of abuse, three to six sessions are often sufficient to reach mutually acceptable decisions. At the conclusion, a Parenting Plan Agreement is prepared, reviewed by individual attorneys, signed by parents, and filed with the Court. Research shows parents who mediate are more satisfied with the outcome, and more compliant with agreements over time than are parents who pursue traditional litigated settlements.

Divorce Coach and Child Specialist / Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Divorce is a dispute resolution technique in which the parties agree to mediate their divorce with the assistance of professionals but without going court. Each of the parties is represented by their own attorney and their own divorce coach (a psychologist or other mental health professional). The parties meet in a series of 4-way appointments to work out their own dissolution that is ultimately signed and filed with the Court. The divorce coach is an integral part of the team as she facilitates constructive communication between the parties and assists her client as he or she progress through the emotional stages of divorce. Sometimes a child development specialist and/or financial advisor is also included as part of the Collaborate Divorce team to provide his or her expert guidance. Dr. Bryson can function as the child specialist in cases in which she is not already a divorce coach.

In a Collaborative Divorce, there is great incentive to work to an out-of-Court resolution because if a party withdraws from the process, both attorneys must withdraw and are prohibited (by the initial agreement) from representing the parties in Court. This method of dissolution is typically far less costly, both emotionally and financially, than a traditional litigated divorce.

As a Collaborate Divorce coach, Dr. Bryson greatly helps manage the emotions that often get in the way of clear thinking and fuel ongoing conflict during the divorce process. Collaborate Divorce coaching is not psychotherapy, it is a structured process focused on managing feelings and improving communication in divorce-related tasks. Learning how to communicate in a clear, respectful, constructive, and businesslike manner is helpful for all divorcing couples, but especially critical for parents who want to facilitate their children’s adjustment to divorce as well as promote their future healthy growth and development.

Child Custody Evaluation

Long-term physical and legal custody arrangements are best worked out by the parents, as they know the child or children better than any lawyer, judge or evaluator possibly can. However, in the event parents simply cannot come to a mutually acceptable agreement regarding custody, Dr. Bryson offers child custody evaluations. Dr. Bryson undertakes these neutral evaluations only by stipulation (written agreement) of both parties or by order of the Court.

The information gathered for the evaluation includes several individual interviews with the parents and the children; family interviews with parents, children, and other members of the household; collateral interviews with individuals and professionals familiar with the family or its members; the review of written materials submitted by the parents though their attorneys; psychological testing; and home visits when indicated. A written child custody evaluation report complete with detailed recommendations regarding physical and legal custody is submitted to each of the parties’ attorneys and Court. The time frame for completing a custody evaluation is generally three months.

In addition to these comprehensive evaluations, Dr. Bryson offers brief or solution focused custody evaluations for situations where the areas of disagreement can be more narrowly focused. These briefer, less in-depth, evaluations can generally be completed within a month.

Finally, Dr. Bryson offers mini-evaluations that can be useful in resolving a stalemate in mediation or informing the parties as part of a collaborative law process.

Parenting Plan Coordinator (Special Master)

In her role as Parenting Plan Coordinator (also known as Parenting Coordinator, PPC or Special Master) Dr. Bryson provides ongoing mediation to divorced parents, with arbitration when necessary, as an alternative to repeated returns to Court. In this role, Dr. Bryson helps parents reduce conflict, resolve problems in shared parenting, and reach decisions that will be supportive of their children.

Dr. Bryson can only be appointed as a Parenting Plan Coordinator by stipulation (agreement) of both parents and approval of the Court. The scope her authority is clearly established the time of the appointment (see Forms for a sample stipulation agreement). In most cases the focus of PPC work is on scheduling disagreements, day-to-day activities, and other relatively minor but time-sensitive issues. For example, Dr. Bryson may assist in decisions about extra-curricular activities, temporary adjustments to parenting schedules, and special events for a child that occur during one parent’s custodial time. At other times the PPC decision-making authority may be larger, such as resolving differences of opinion about school placement or elective surgery. Dr. Bryson’s emphasizes working individually and conjointly with parents to come to a mediated resolution about the area of dispute. She responds promptly to requests for assistance, and invites the maximum viable involvement of both the parents. In some cases she may enlist the aid of outside experts. In the event a mediated agreement cannot be reached, Dr. Bryson, in her role as a PPC, will arbitrate a binding decision. If necessary, the Court may review all decisions made by the PPC. Dr. Bryson views her role as a Parenting Plan Coordinator as one of helping parents establish better decision-making procedures so they will ultimately have less need for outside professional help.