There can be a great deal of negativity and fear about who people are and how they behave when going through separation. Often we buy into the expectation that people will behave in stereotypical ways and so end up relating to them from their pain rather than from the truth of who they really are. As professionals working with Family Law Clients, we need to be mindful not only of the pain they may be in, but also of their capacity to learn and grow and adapt to the vicissitudes of life. What is happening may in fact be the greatest opportunity they have had to take responsibility for their lives and the choices they have made heretofore. It might also be their most longed-for change in life, whether or not they were prepared for the responsibility which goes with having to make that choice on a conscious level, let alone what it takes to act on it.
In our work, perhaps our greatest challenge is not so much about how well we present their case through the legal process, or how diligently we protect their assets, or even how skilfully we respond to their emotional needs … but to be a stand for who this person is and to provide the space for them to show up as capable at a time when they feel terrible and out of control. It can be difficult to take that position when your first contact is at the very time that all hell hath broke loose. Added to that is the concern for establishing the truth and the timelines dictated by processes which have little regard for the emotional state of the parties involved. Judgement is the last thing they need – they may already be consumed by it; about themselves, their partner and their relationship! We need to provide the space for them to go through this process in their own time and way and at their own pace wherever possible.
When people go through a break-up they need something solid and grounded to lean up against so that the gamut of feelings that are bound to come up don’t run the show. The real challenge is to allow for the feelings without being overrun by them. What might have been a storm brewing for years, kept in abeyance by necessity, fear, or ‘reasonableness’, often erupts into volcanic proportions when the purpose of ‘keeping our cool’ becomes defunct or the subject of our affection, for whom we have tolerated what was essentially unacceptable to us, leaves. All reason to keep it together goes out the door with our mate! On one hand our clients may have every right and reason to be angry … how they express that anger and what they do with it … and how we respond to it, is a whole other matter. Truth is, few of us are masterful with the expression of our emotions, particularly anger and sadness, both of which can be overwhelming at the end of a marriage or de-facto relationship.
Traditionally we hold our relationships as sacred ground. We don’t want our ‘laundry’, dirty or not, to become the knowledge of all and sundry. In our role, we ask a lot of our clients. We must remember that here is a family divided, dreams lost, financial goals torn asunder, lifelong friendship threatened, networks of support in chaos. What we communicate, directly or otherwise, about their ability to get through this not only demonstrates our respect, but will also go a long way toward empowering them to take the steps that will be required in the weeks and months and years ahead.
For training for Family Law Professionals or information about ‘The BEING of the Collaborative Practitioner’ Workshop please contact me.