find someone else's couch to cry on

by: mara bernstein
posted: wednesday, march 11, 2015

Let's start with a given, divorce is difficult. It's an enormous life change filled with so many conflicting emotions. You may feel disappointment at your unrealized expectations of marriage, anger, hurt, resentment and loss of faith in your own judgment. You may feel fear in all of its permutations: fear of the impact on your children, fear of being alone, and fear of financial instability. All of your emotions may be mixed with sheer relief. The Ying and Yang of it can cause havoc on your psyche. It can be a crazy ride, which means you'll need lots of emotional support from people you trust and feel comfortable with to get through this period.

The key to working through these feelings is surrounding yourself with the "right" people. Whether it's a trusted friend, relative, therapist, or support group, you must find an appropriate outlet to address the array of feelings that are inevitable during divorce.

For so many going through divorce, it may feel natural and comfortable to look at your divorce attorney as you "quasi" therapist, a shoulder to lean on, your savior or your "rock" ... DON'T!!! Your attorney is not your therapist. You hired her to advise and represent you on legal matters, use her for that purpose only.

Even though I pride myself on being a patient and empathetic listener, I've always steered people away from using me as their quasi therapist. In my years in legal practice, my first meeting with prospective and new clients as well as friends and family who've come to me for advice about their divorce is always the same: divorce can be challenging, maddening and tough. One of your top priorities should be taking care of your emotional and mental health by connecting with a therapist, support group, trusted friends, family or clergy. Unfortunately, most don't heed this advice.

Far too many people rack up unnecessary legal fees and jeopardize their divorce case by monopolizing their attorney's time addressing emotional needs instead of the legal aspects of their divorce. The fact is that there are only so many hours in a day and a divorce attorney's role is to counsel and represent you on the legal issues of your divorce. There are documents to be prepared, meetings to attend, phone calls to return, court appearances to prepare for ... the list goes on. If you're taking your attorney's time calling her to vent or hash out your emotional stuff, your taking her away from what her focus should be -- your case. Her job is to get you the best results in the most cost and time efficient manner.

Another reason not to use your divorce lawyer as a therapist is that it is a rarity to find a divorce lawyer who is equipped to deal with the myriad of emotional issues that keep coming up during the divorce process. Look at it this way; you wouldn't go to your therapist for legal advice, would you?

Finally, divorce lawyers' hourly rate are often two to three times the cost of therapists' hourly rate. You may as well spend that money on a licensed therapist who is trained to give you the tools to navigate the rough emotional terrain of divorce.

It definitely takes discipline and restraint to stop yourself from venting to your lawyer whom you may trust, respect and feel connected to. It may be challenging, but it will be definitely payoff in the end.