Divorce is one of the most stressful and emotional experiences a person can go through. Feelings of anxiety, grief, and anger are typical, but can become overwhelming and toxic if not addressed appropriately. Consulting a mental health professional can help a person find constructive ways to handle their emotions.
Unfortunately, some individuals turn to their attorneys for psychological support. When you are getting a divorce, you spend a lot of time talking to your attorney about your marriage. It may feel natural to start discussing your emotional issues, however, a divorce attorney should not be your therapist. Although we deal with clients daily going through divorces, there are important reasons why we are not the right person to provide that kind of guidance to clients.
- Lack of expertise. A good divorce attorney is sympathetic and compassionate. Many attorneys have even gone through their own divorce and understand first-hand the pain involved. However, there is a limit to our ability to help clients in this arena. We don’t have the education and training to advise clients on their mental health needs. A skilled therapist can offer appropriate guidance and coping techniques specifically tailored to the client’s needs.
- Separation of roles. An attorney’s job is to provide legal advice. That advice is based on legal principles and practical experience negotiating divorce agreements and litigating in court. We represent the client’s legal interests, not their emotional ones. A therapist, however, can talk to clients about how the divorce process may be affecting theirs or their children’s emotional well-being.
- Cost. Typically, a therapist is less expensive than a divorce attorney so purely from an economic standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to turn to your attorney for psychological counseling. With that said, clients shouldn’t use their therapist as a substitute for an attorney either. Therapists should not provide legal advice for the same reasons an attorney should not provide mental health counseling.
Notwithstanding this discussion, there is nothing wrong with expressing emotions about your divorce or your soon to be ex-spouse. Your attorney wants to help you through the process. However, just be mindful about how you are spending your time with your attorney.
If you are considering or facing a divorce, speak to an experienced attorney about your options. Please contact our office to learn how we can help you achieve the positive results you want.