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Lawyers Are Not Therapists

By: Alan Freed

I have built my practice around resolving divorces through mediation, collaborative law, and other peaceful means of reaching settlement outside of the courthouse. One of the reasons these processes succeed is that they allow the divorcing couple to express their anger, fear, and sadness about the end of the marriage in a safe environment, knowing that they will be heard and acknowledged without their words being used against them in litigation.

That said, neither mediation, nor collaborative divorce, nor any process used to bring a marriage to its legal conclusion, should be interpreted as a substitute for counseling. Family law mediators, while sensitive to emotional issues, are not hired to work on long-term relationship issues; they are hired to assist the couple by facilitating their negotiations leading to the resolution of disputes involved in terminating their relationship.

Legal professionals are not mental health counselors. Lawyers and courts cannot provide counseling to assist people in working through the emotions intrinsic in the breakdown of a marriage. Lawyers lack the proper training, and courts, even if they wanted to fulfill that role (which they don’t) have neither the time nor the resources to listen to the entire history of your marriage and the list of wrongs people feel were committed against them.

While it’s important for your lawyer and your mediator to understand what is going on in your life while you go through your divorce, the lawyer can only assist you with legal remedies to legal problems. We can provide a sympathetic ear, but we will not be able to obtain relief from emotional pain and heartbreak.

Fortunately, relief is available in the form of professionally trained counselors—psychologists, family therapists, individual therapists, and others who know how to help you cope with the loss of a relationship and the disappointments that came with that loss. Those are the people you should be speaking with when you find yourself unable to get over the end of your marriage.

The family law attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal can help you sort out which problems are legal and which will require other kinds of professional assistance.


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