by Mel Mackler, MA, LMFT
Coaching and Education for an Emotionally Healthy Divorce
When it comes to divorce, many people hire an attorney out of anxiety. They feel compelled to get advice or protection, often before they’ve discussed the situation with their spouse or partner. Once the discussion is on the table, a spouse may feel compelled to seek immediate protection.
How do most people choose an attorney? It’s often by word of mouth: friends who have used an attorney, a friend who practices law, or a recommendation from a family member. While the advice may bring quick relief by reducing anxiety, the advice is frequently biased and won’t necessarily take into account the individual needs of the person or their family.
Most people don’t realize that when they retain an attorney, they are not only hiring a personality, they are also buying a divorce process.
In California, there are four different methods that can be used to attain a divorce. Typically, attorneys specialize in one of these processes although they may have experience working with more than that one specialty. And each process has its merits and costs—financial as well as emotional.
If you’re considering divorce, become familiar with each of theses of processes before you retain your attorney. Think about which process fits the emotional make up of your family and which can offer the kind of emotional support you imagine your self, your spouse, or your kids needing.
Divorce is a process of negotiation and communication so you’ll want to think about the skills you and your partner share. Are you able to have productive conversations when there are differences of opinions? Do each of you have the capacity to manage your anxiety when tensions build so that you stay focused and can come to a rational agreement? Is there a balance of power in your relationship or does one person tend to dominate?
In many communities there are divorce educators and divorce coaches who can lead you through the process of determining which process would best suit your family make up. They will give you referrals to attorneys who specialize in the process you decide is going to be best for your family. They can also help you to understand the financial costs associated with each process.
Become an aware consumer before retaining an attorney. If you and your spouse or partner can go through this process together and mutually choose a suitable divorce process, all the better. This would be a great beginning to what I hope will be a cooperative and constructive future. It may also help indicate what processes are compatible with your and your spouse’s abilities.