STRESS MANAGEMENT FOR DIVORCE
So clients frustrate me. They frustrate me pretty often in fact. My frustration usually stems from client conversations that typically start with clients asking a very simple question and expecting a very simple answer. The answer is inexplicably long and complicated usually ending with “it really depends on…” Clients get upset because they don’t get the answer they want. They aren’t so much upset with me because of poor work product or poor legal work but rather they are having an emotional reaction to a situation that is completely out of their control.
Under normal circumstances clients are usually able to pose a question, assimilate the answer and information provided and make a reasoned decision on the best course of action to proceed. Under the pressures of matrimonial litigation, clients typically have emotional reaction(s) which often result in making poor decisions with negative consequences. I’ve been through it. I know first-hand what clients are going through. I’ve been practicing long enough to quickly determine which clients have come to terms with the dissolution of their marriage and those that have not. Sometimes clients are totally blindsided with a divorce and walk into my office in pieces. Even when working with the client who is the one initially filing for divorce, he/she is often as devastated about the marital failure.
At the first sign of clients struggling emotionally, I recommend clients seek a mental health professional and immediately make an appointment with a therapist. Historically, clients have been very reluctant to seek help in this area. I have tried everything to get clients to pursue help in this area. I tell them I have been through this too and that I when I sought assistance it helped tremendously. Crickets. I tell them the research unequivocally shows seeking help reduces the stress of the process and helps enable them to make better decisions. Blank stares. Maybe they are in denial about the amount of stress they are under or worse not even realizing they are under stress. If they believe there is little or no stress then there is no reason to seek help.
I may have found the silver bullet to overcome this problem area.
I begin by asking the client if they would go through the divorce alone, without a lawyer, and handle the divorce themselves. The answer is always ‘no’ I do not want to do this by myself. I then explain that the same reasoning applies to the area of mental health. Just as a lawyer handles the legal issues and paperwork and just as a financial expert handles the financial issues and just as a custody expert handles custody issues, a mental health professional handles coping issues. I explain to clients that just as they wouldn’t go through the divorce process without a legal team, they should not go through the divorce process without a therapist. When couched in these terms, I have had success with clients seeking help. It’s much easier to help clients and achieve success when they are in a good position to make informed, non-emotional, non-rash decisions. Clients are definitely better off because they now have an outlet and a mechanism to cope with the stress that is inevitably involved with matrimonial and custody litigation. The benefits are boundless for both the client and the lawyer.
The number one question I get from clients is how to help save on legal fees. The number one answer is simple. Manage your stress so your lawyer doesn’t have to manage it for you.
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