By Shawn Weber, Attorney, Brave Weber & Mack
In any family law case, a person’s relationship with his attorney is crucial. I tell my clients that as their attorney I have “got their back” when they walk into the courtroom or a negotiation situation. It is not smart to try to litigate without an attorney, at least one on call, to make sure that any decisions you make are informed. There is an old saying that a person who tries to represent herself “has a fool for a client.” For the most part, I agree.
However, there are other professionals besides the attorney that are simply invaluable to any party in a family law case. One hugely underused professional is the Divorce Coach.
A divorce coach is typically a mental health professional such as a marriage and family therapist, licensed clinical social worker or psychologist. He or she has special training or experience in family law related issues. As a family law attorney, I find the divorce coach extremely helpful. Divorce and custody cases can be so emotional. If it weren’t for the emotional trauma, most divorces would be just like any business transaction. In essence, it would just be math.
While a divorce coach is typically trained in psychotherapy, he or she is not doing therapy when coaching. Rather, the coach is helping a client deal with the “here-and-now” emotions of the divorce. The coach helps people deal with their soon to be ex-spouse and teaches skills to help parents craft the best possible parenting plan. Coaches are incredibly helpful in short-circuiting difficult issues that could typically lead to extreme conflict, animosity between spouses and painful litigation. Coaches can also help provide a voice for children.
It is best when coaches are brought in early in a case. My experience has shown me that a case goes much more smoothly and typically costs less when parties use coaches. Many of my clients try to use me, their attorney, as a therapist. While I consider myself sensitive and empathic, I am simply not qualified to help with emotional issues. Even if I were, it’s expensive to pay an attorney to be your therapist. If a coach gets involved at the beginning of a case, many of the emotional conflicts can be resolved to make room for the case to move quickly to settlement. Patterns, boundaries and goals can be established early in the case to ensure a smooth transition for families. This reduces the amount of emotionally driven and often unnecessary litigation that can be so damaging to families and in particular children.
I am a big believer in making sure that divorcing couples arm themselves with every tool available to ensure that their divorce goes smoothly. My clients who use coaches appreciate the guidance they receive from a mental health professional during a difficult time. Their children benefit from it. Setting the stage for a healthy transition at the very beginning of a case is so important and coaches provide powerful tools to make it happen.
If you are in San Diego County, I recommend using any of the coaches or child specialists listed on the website of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego at this link.