Laurel’s Law

  • Jun. 13, 2011 2:00 p.m.

How to address the emotional issues involved in family litigationBy Laurel Hudson, Barrister and SolicitorOne of the most frequent things I encounter as a family lawyer is my clients’ fear – fear of the unknown, fear of losing their children, fear of financial upset and loss.Addressing their fear is a high priority for family law lawyers, as they work to ensure their clients cope with their litigation and make wise decisions throughout its duration.Please read the article I posted to my website at, entitled, “You’ve been served with family court documents. What’s next?”I recommend readers review that previous article along with this one because it provides more substantive, procedural information than this article does regarding how to handle a newly commenced family matter.This article, by contrast, is meant to suggest ways for litigants to cope with the emotional issues involved in family litigation.Obtain counseling or a doctor’s help, if requiredLawyers are not counselors or doctors. Lawyers do not have the professional training to offer their clients support that a counselor, or doctor can.Family lawyers usually suggest, often at the first meeting they have with their clients, that the clients ensure they are taking care of themselves emotionally.If that means a client requires counseling or medical help, the lawyer will usually recommend accessing such help and usually provide related contact information. Ask your lawyer to help you take steps to remain safeLitigants should remember that they are safe, or that if they do not feel safe, their lawyers are available to give them advice about steps litigants can take to increase their safety. Such steps can involve for example lawyers helping their clients apply for family court restraining orders, no-attend-at-the-family-residence orders, or leave-upon-request type orders, all available through the family court.Such steps can also involve, in extreme circumstances, lawyers connecting clients with the police and/or with shelters for abused spouses and their children.Remember the litigation will ultimately endLitigants should remember that their family matters will eventually draw to a close. As tough as that might be to see in the short term, it’s true. Once a family court matter has resolved, either via the more common out-of-court settlement or via judgment at a contested hearing or trial, litigants are usually able to move on with their lives more quickly than they anticipated would be the case.Express your emotions, but preferably do it in a counselor’s office or with a trusted friendIt is okay for family litigants to feel afraid, sad, and angry. What’s important however is for litigants to choose the appropriate manner in which to express their feelings, particularly anger, which is usually not in front of their children. Ideally litigants should express their feelings in a counsellor’s office or with a trusted friend or family member.The views expressed are those of Laurel Hudson only and are not intended to be, nor should they be construed to constitute, legal advice.Laurel Hudson is a family law, criminal defence, and civil litigation lawyer in Smithers, serving the BC northwest, including Haida Gwaii.

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