By Jill H. Breslau
Divorce lawyers sometimes finds themselves being part time social workers in dealing with the problems in family law. Harvard Medical School is having a series of programs for psychologists, but the titles remind me of issues that family lawyers deal with daily.
1. What’s Love Got to Do with It?: Updates on the Neurobiology of Attraction and Attachment. What? Love is just about the brain? And it causes so much suffering? Divorce lawyers frequently have to deal with the underlying mystery in intimate relationships.
2. Sex, Sexuality, and Sex Therapy: Female and Male Perspectives. Divorce lawyers, especially in “fault” jurisdictions (like Maryland, Virginia and DC), have to learn more about your sex life than is comfortable for anyone.
3. Working with Couples Around Financial Issues. Interesting to consider this occurring during a marriage rather than at the end.
4. Domestic Violence: Challenges and Opportunities for Intervention. Sadly, people in abusive relationships tend to forget what behaviors are acceptable and where to draw the line. Violent relationships tend to get worse without intervention. Yet people are often so ashamed that they don’t even tell their lawyers about it.
5. Behavioral Therapy for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. When the client tells us about a spouse who is using drugs or abusing alcohol, do we go full speed ahead with the divorce? Or do we have resources to provide information about the possibilities of rehabilitation, so the client can better assess his or her options?
6. Stepfamilies: Ways to Live with Each Other. We talk about “blended” families, but divorce lawyers often see them as more like oil and water that don’t mix.
7. Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Partners. Getting a divorce doesn’t change your difficult partner into a reasonable person. If you have children, you still have to deal with them.
8. Understanding High Conflict and Emotionally Distant Couples. While the traditional divorce lawyer may be able to avoid understanding these folks, a mediator, collaborative professional, or parenting coordinator could benefit from knowing what drives high conflict and what creates emotional distance. Both of these factors make shared decision-making during and after divorce a real challenge.
Divorce lawyers are not psychotherapists, but they need to know something about psychology and human behavior to be successful working with people going through a divorce.