Paulette Harwood is a certified divorce coach based in Massachusetts. Paulette works with all types of clients but specialises in working with ambitious professional women in high-conflict divorces. Paulette’s goal for her clients is to come out the other side of divorce with their dignity intact and a feeling of pride in how they conducted themselves. In this piece, Paulette discusses co-parenting after divorce and shares tips on how to do so effectively.
How did you get started as a divorce coach and why do you do this work?
I do this work because I can’t not do it. I feel that coaching found me. Originally I was doing yoga teacher training and was heavily involved in all types of healing and wellness modalities, which I incorporate into my certified divorce coaching because I don’t like to approach the process as a unilateral flat process. We are fully dimensional human beings and we are not simple cell structures, much like the human body. We’re not just a skeleton, we’re not just muscles, or organs, we are completely integrated beings. Everything that we experience in life affects us, and divorce couldn’t be a greater example of something that affects every cell, every nuance, and every layer of our being.
When I was training yoga teachers, almost all of my students at some point went through a relationship transition. I would say at least fifty percent, if not more of the students that came for their yoga teacher training certification, had gone through a divorce, or were going through a divorce, or were contemplating a divorce.
I really feel like I’m here to change the landscape of the divorce process, and the entire framework of the conversation. I don’t do anything [my clients] haven’t asked [me to do], I work hard, and I expect my clients to work hard too because this is the biggest change they will ever experience. Trust is vital, I’ve got my clients back. I only work with people that I really feel connected to.
It’s so gratifying to see confused, overwhelmed, fearful people leave satisfied, and purposeful, and proud — able to look back at the process and say, “Man that was hell, but I did it with pride, dignity, and I created a wonderful future for my children, myself, and my ex-spouse.”
What type of client do you typically work with?
I’m very open-minded about being able to cater to most situations, although I specialise in working with professional or entrepreneurial women in high conflict divorce cases. I help these women find a clear direction and move resiliently through a situation of extreme stress. With entrepreneurs, it is incredibly important that they don’t waste time; saving precious time and money is vital. [These women are] typically prepared at work but when it comes to their personal life, they tend to be a little helter-skelter.
What are some things that parents can implement at the beginning of their divorce to create and foster a healthy co-parenting relationship going forward?
Acknowledge that it doesn’t in any way serve the child to argue in front of them. It is important for co-parents to not be reactive, to take deep breathes, to shake hands in front of their children when they can, or give a gentle gesture of respect.
What are some common mistakes parents make when co-parenting after divorce?
One big mistake is a text messaging and email wars. I believe email and text messaging can actually be a detriment to parental communication and the divorce process. Another common mistake is being disrespectful of the established schedule by not adhering to the schedule, but another mistake is not allowing for some flexibility if and when scheduling conflicts come up.
When you were in the middle of your own divorce, did you receive any unforgettable advice?
I can still hear my attorney’s secretary saying to me, “Do not engage.” It’s so tempting when you are angry and the heat of the moment to want to engage in arguments, confrontation, dissertation — but even chit chats can backfire. You can say something so innocuous that could be misinterpreted, so when you’re in the middle of a divorce, my best advice is to not engage, because it doesn’t serve you or the process.