As a holistic attorney and mediator, I find the practice of family and divorce law the most complex and the most troubling. When parties are facing a marital breakdown they often confront their deepest fears and insecurities and this can trigger a wide range of emotions. Often they lose the ability to communicate with one another, their interactions with each other are defeatist in nature, the love they once professed is lost in a sea of pain, frustration, anger, fear, loss, and betrayal. Preparing for a divorce can be confusing and frightening. It’s like moving to a strange country where you don’t speak the language, don’t understand the customs, and the conditions are harsh. Generally, in a traditional divorce, two lawyers hash it out in a court of law and parties have very little direct contact with each other and what little interaction is bitter or unproductive.
When the lawyers become the mouthpieces for the clients they rob the client of the ability to explore how they can best resolve their differences in a peaceful manner. Nowhere is this more evident than in divorces with people with children where parties need to be able to work out their differences without the constant need for attorneys.
In many of the divorce or mediation cases I have witnessed or been part of, the key piece that many people have in common is the love they have for their child or children. Yet, in their anger and desire to prove the other wrong, they hurt the other for the pain they have been caused, and generate a toxicity and negative energy throughout the familial unit that seeps through, permeating a deep stain in the future of these familial relationships. When fear is present, almost any behavior can be rationalized as just. One example of this is where one spouse has seen himself or herself as a victim. This image can perpetuate a desire or need to continue to see the other spouse as a wrongdoer. This need and belief can often lead to an inability to move forward because the person becomes stuck in the past of “what happened” rather than listening to what the other is saying. They have a difficult time letting go of blame and finding what they need rather than what they think they may want and engaging in that dialogue.
I am a strong proponent that people need to speak to each other when they choose to divorce. I find that this minimizes post judgment matters than can arise after divorce like change of custody or parenting time. The exception, of course, is where domestic violence is or has been present.
FINDING THE PLACE OF PEACE AND HEALING AND NOT BITING THE HOOK
As holistic lawyers, we strive to find the commonality that people share and in that commonality, we help clients navigate and explore the piece they need so that they can go forward and contribute to their own solutions. In a holistic approach, the parties can come together either in a collaborative process or participate in a traditional process with mediation and can discuss how to protect their rights, move forward without fighting fire with fire or with unnecessary acrimony, and communicate better. I find that most parties don’t want a nasty divorce but may not know how to work out issues or communicate with each other.
Each one of us has accumulated much baggage over our lives, some more than others, but all of us have baggage nonetheless. The limiting and sabotaging beliefs have lived in our psyches for a very long time. We have learned that when a person criticizes us we feel an urge to do something, an urge to judge, and this rapidly spirals into mentally blaming them, criticizing them, wanting revenge, or blaming ourselves. We have, in some cases, fragmented our souls to avoid the pain we have been caused. We are mindful of our hurts and rejections, supersensitive to the opinions and circumstances of others, seeped in our own self-centeredness that we isolate ourselves and put up walls to protect us from the hurt. Yet, how we move forward is up to us. In the area of family law and divorce it means looking at issues with an eye to the future. Just because a couple is divorcing it does not mean that the family ends. It is hard to separate even when all parties agree to do so.
I had a client who still loved her husband and wasn’t ready to let go. She didn’t understand why he wanted the divorce. She did not want the divorce. She felt that he was uncommunicative with her. She had spent over two decades with him. She had adult children with him and was in her 50s. Both parties acknowledged that they would probably be in each other’s lives because they were awaiting the birth of their first grandchild. They didn’t know how to move forward. He felt guilt and she felt anger and depression. She needed support and in a holistic practice she got it. She started going to yoga, mediation classes, received help with life insurance coverage, and went to support groups. Six months later, she was in a better place emotionally and felt prepared to accept the Judgment of Divorce.
In my practice, I often consult or involve other professionals who can help my client navigate through the emotional or financial issues that he or she faces either during the case or after the case, so that he or she can bring his or her highest or best self to the process.