Josh D. Simon
Family Lawyer Magazine Contributing Writer
Family Lawyer Magazine spoke with Judge Harvey Brownstone, who has been sitting on the family law bench for over a decade, and asked him to share some advice for family lawyers on how they can be more successful and better serve their clients. Judge Brownstone shared six outstanding tips with us.
1: Know and respect your client’s emotional stage.
It’s rare that divorcing spouses are at the same emotional stage. It’s far more common – in fact, it’s the norm with very few exceptions – for one spouse to have emotionally disengaged from the marriage months, or even years before formal divorce proceedings begin.
And while it’s an overstatement to say that even the most emotionally prepared spouse is 100% ready for what the real divorce experience holds in store – with all of its uncertainties, stresses, procedures, complex children’s issues and of course, costs – it’s true that the spouse who initiates the divorce is almost always in much better shape to make key divorce decisions: what to do with the house, how to tie up the loose ends, and so on.
Family lawyers therefore do their client – and themselves, for that matter – an immense service by paying close attention to their client’s emotional stage. Are they emotionally disengaged, and therefore capable of seeing their divorce as a business transaction? Or are they reeling from having the “divorce bomb” dropped on them from above, and can’t separate the emotional issues from the practical ones?
If it’s the latter – and it’s not difficult for a perceptive, attentive family lawyer to quickly evaluate this – then my advice is clear: family lawyers should get their client into heavy duty counseling at the earliest possible opportunity.
Why? Obviously because their client is suffering deeply and perhaps even emotionally shattered, and attending to that serious problem ASAP is why professional counseling exists in the first place. But in addition to that, in the context of the divorce, family lawyers need to equip and empower their clients to separate the emotional issues from the business ones, so they can make wise, long-term decisions now — and not later, after the divorce is finalized, and when it’s too late.
I won’t suggest that counseling during divorce can totally heal clients – for most spouses divorce is traumatic, and it can take years for the healing to completely finish (if ever). But with that being said, counseling helps clients get to a point where they can make objective, well-considered decisions regarding their divorce. And frankly, that’s what clients want, that’s what their children want, that’s what judges want, that’s what family lawyers should want, too.
Category: In the News