Divorce cases can be emotionally devastating to the parties. As a family law attorney, I not only have to evaluate the facts and give sound advice to my client, but I need to use my best set of skills to assess the client’s emotional stability, support network, and anxiety level. Sometimes this is relatively easy and in other cases it is extremely tough.
I am writing about this topic after reflecting about the Dayton Daily News article on August 28, 2008, about the local Trotwood police detective who survived two gunshot wounds inflicted by his wife because she was upset that he was divorcing her. It is so sad that apparently her anger led her to take such an irrational and violent act. I have learned that reaction to a divorce can run the entire gamut, ranging from happiness, paralysis, anger, depression, revenge; and yes, even to murder or suicide. I often spend as much time in a client conference considering the emotional aspects of the client as the legal aspects. While lawyers may be well trained in the law, we are not psychologists or experts in evaluating a client’s mental health. But the more experience we gain as family lawyers, the more we learn, and hopefully, the more perceptive we become. Having to assess and respond to client’s emotional volatility is one of the reasons that practicing family law might be the toughest area of law of all.
I believe that having a support network of some sort is extremely beneficial for most clients, and in many cases it is absolutely necessary! Going it alone can be extremely difficult even for the most “healthy and well-balanced” person imaginable. The importance of getting professional help from your medical doctor or a psychologist can’t be overstated. People going through a divorce can become obsessed with the belief that they are a failure. I try to explain to clients that priority number one has to be taking care of their own health and that a much better perspective is that the marriage has simply run its natural course and come to an end. Refection, while important, can and will come in time.
If the divorce proceeding is overwhelming you, be sure to ask your lawyer for a referral to a qualified therapist. See your doctor. Join a support group for people divorcing. If you feel that you might become violent or out of control, go to the hospital emergency room and request that you be admitted to the hospital. Contact a friend, family member, or co-worker and reach out to them. Be sure not to think that drinking alcohol will ease the pain. It won’t. It will only make you more depressed. Fight through the pain. Do everything necessary to protect your health and well being. With time and much effort your pain will diminish and your feelings will gradually improve.
Next week, Attorney Anne Shale, who was a nurse before becoming a divorce lawyer, will be posting an interesting article sharing her insights of “When to seek professional Counseling/Therapy.”
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.