Family Law Attorney

Tips for therapists to help clients facing the trauma of divorce and separation.

Divorce and separation are emotionally and physically difficult. Many people involved in this process suffer with a diminished capacity to make important decisions and seem overwhelmed by lethargy.
Here are a few tips that I hope will help you help your clients that are facing the trauma of divorce and separation.

Your client is “served” with divorce papers.

What your client is likely feeling:  They are terrified by allegations of custody, spousal support, and equitable apportionment.  They feel that their spouse is out for blood and they are helpless, vulnerable and unsafe.What to tell your client: Lawyers are strange people and they have their own language. It’s all lawyer talk and 90% of all cases will settle on terms agreeable to the family. Talk to your lawyer, listen to their advice, and understand that you are paying them to suffer this burden for you!

What’s really going on:  A Complaint, Answer, Counterclaim, and Reply are pleadings required by court rules in all cases. They are “bookends” and all things that either party wants, may want, or could someday possibly want, must be alleged or they are waived.  It is a rare occurrence when a litigant gets 100% of everything contained in their pleadings and the settlement will reflect a compromise on all issues raised in the pleadings.

Your client has a court date approaching.

What your client is likely feeling: Fear of loss, lack of control, confusion.What to tell your client: Their lawyer is preparing their case and they will be on equal footing with their spouse. Both sides will be heard completely on all issues and the judge will do their best for the family. Make sure that your client is cooperating fully with their lawyer and have told them everything.  Put the burden on the lawyer, that is why they are getting paid!!

What is really going on: The clear policy of our courts is to promote out of court settlements of disputes. This is why mediation is mandatory in all cases (except criminal matters).  South Carolina family court judges are very good and your client will not suffer the fate of a biased, lazy, or careless jurist.  The judge will listen carefully, read everything presented and do their very best for your client’s family but, at the end of the day, their decision will likely not satisfy either party.  Unfortunately, if the matter can not be settled, a third party will need to make a decision and regardless of the effort, time and care a jurist puts into their decision, neither party is likely to be happy with it.

Your client is about to attend a mediation on the issues involved in the divorce.

What your client is likely feeling:  The same as preparing for a court hearing: Fear of loss, lack of control, confusion.What to tell your client: Nothing will happen in mediation unless she/he agrees, no resolution of the issues will occur without their consent, no one will be forcing them to do, or agree to, anything. Be prepared, trust their lawyer, and attend mediation with the intent to reach a resolution that is best for the family.  Finally, mediation will almost certainly settle their case.  The fact is that 90%+ of all cases settle before trial.

What is really going on:  It will be very unlikely that your client will see their spouse at  mediation. Family law mediations are “caucused”. This means that both parties and their lawyers are in separate rooms and the mediator will shuffle back and forth with offers, counter offers, etc until the matter is resolved or an impasse is called. It is going to be a long, hard, slog with mediation starting at 9 and continuing for as long as there are meaningful discussions.  I have been in mediation up to 15 hours.

I could go on and on with this, but the three issues above seem to be the ones that cause the most anxiety for my clients. If you have specific questions about family law I am always just a phone call or email away and am happy to help.


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