We have 11 family law attorneys at my firm, both men and women, of various ages and backgrounds. We all represent men and women in divorces and related legal actions. Each one of my colleagues is thoroughly familiar with, and well able to understand, the numerous and varied emotional issues that many of our clients have lived with during their marriages, as well as during the all too frequent high conflict cases that are emotionally and financially difficult, costly and, frankly, regrettable and ugly, whether or not they result in an actual trial.
However, sometimes, our comments about therapy can be misperceived by our clients. Clients sometimes react to comments about therapy with anger and disbelief, that it is none of our business, or with a feeling that we are not on their side or that we do not believe what they are telling us. Perhaps this is due to our society not always seeing emotional illness or issues as something that is as real as a physical illness. Perhaps this is due to stigmas about mental health.
As family lawyers, we do not simply practice law and manage only the legal issues. To work in a legal vacuum, we believe, does a disservice to our clients.
Frequently, we see people who have experienced, and are experiencing, abuse (both physical and mental), harassment, coercion, stalking, trauma, addictions, and what could even be called posttraumatic stress. Some already have diagnosed mental and/or physical disabilities. Some have addictions to alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, sex, pornography, etc.
Although we are not social workers, therapists, M.D.’s or even financial advisors, through our experience in seeing countless people going through all kinds of difficult, emotional, psychological and abusive situations, I believe we are able to identify in many of our clients that they have had, or are having, a difficult time coming to grips with the ending of their marriage and the trauma they may have incurred during their marriage, the grief of a lost marriage, and even trying to get through the divorce process in a civilized, honorable and hopefully healthy manner. Some are angry, want revenge and even their day in court so that the judge understands what they’ve been subjected to.
We believe our role is more than just managing a lawsuit, but is also is to manage expectations and to assist our clients through the process, with the goal and hope that they come out at the end of the process feeling better than when they came in the door. Unfortunately, this is not always possible and we cannot control everything that happens during a high conflict or difficult divorcing process. We believe that for many of our clients it is helpful for them to receive counseling as an adjunct to the divorce process. There is nothing shameful about this.
To those clients to whom we suggest therapy, some feel that this will harm their chances with custody if they see a therapist. To the contrary, we believe it may be harmful if they are not getting help and remain emotionally distraught throughout your case, as this can negatively impact their children and make a difficult process even more difficult.
In my years of experience, I know that not only at my firm, but at many other highly regarded firms both here and nationwide, a caring and more holistic approach is needed to address the unique issues and problems that arise from, or exist in, family law cases.
So I do not believe it is presumptuous, insensitive or unsupportive to suggest to a client that if you are not getting some therapy that it might be beneficial for you to do so. It is our hope that with therapy you can find peace and a better place for yourself through the process and in this world and not let the emotional and other trauma continue.
We believe these suggestions not only help us manage some of our clients’ actions so as to avoid negative consequences before a judge, but they are sincerely intended to be helpful to those clients as people, regardless of their sex, age, ethnicity or religion.