Given the extreme stress placed on practitioners in the family law space, having a divorce or conflict coach on hand to help the client navigate traumatic processes can lead to a better, more efficient client service delivery, among other flow-on benefits, argues one professional.
In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, Anne-Marie Cade — an accredited mediator and practitioner who brands herself as “The Peaceful Divorce Lawyer” — explained that stress for families in crisis, and then for their lawyers, is “a constant reality”.
This “seems to come with the territory of being a family lawyer”, she mused.
Such practitioners want to be able to focus on the legal issues, and within a challenging professional climate, family lawyers are expected to work diligently and professionally in the service of their client’s interests, she said.
“When the client is more grounded and mindful, he/she is a more credible participant in all the discussions and this makes the lawyer’s job less stressful, thus contributing to a lawyer’s wellness,” she posited.
“Coaching produces transformation in a client’s thought and action to produce a better client. This is the client lawyers seek to champion: clients who both listen and speak effectively, communicate easily and clearly and accept the reality of the divorce process, ask relevant questions and partner with their lawyer in the divorce process.”
Divorce coaching, Ms Cade outlined, is a “flexible, goal-oriented process designed to support, motivate and guide people going through divorce to help them make the best possible decisions for their future, based on their particular interests, needs and concerns”.
“When I work with clients in the capacity of a divorce coach, I provide them with the practical and emotional support they need, act as their objective-thinking partner and help them become more self-aware, shift perspectives, learn the tools to manage the conflict and improve communication so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their family moving forward. I also help them manage the ‘life admin’ that comes with getting divorced.”
The legal system is premised on the idea that people can make rational decisions, she said, “yet people going through divorce are in turmoil, are disoriented and not able to think clearly”.
“They generally see their lawyer with a singular focus on something, they form an emotional attachment to a particular position and that’s how they want to settle their divorce. They don’t see the bigger picture, and it’s hard for the lawyer to get them to see things differently. Clients who work with a coach have more realistic expectations.”
In the United States, Ms Cade continued, lawyers engage divorce coaches to help clients throughout the process, bringing “invaluable” assistance to the table.
“Because of the coach’s expertise, they are able to understand and support the clients, explain the process to them, provide clarity, empathy and courage to clients. Clients then feel supported, encouraged, uplifted and empowered the entire time,” she said.
“When clients reach an emotional equilibrium, they make for better clients, make better decisions, willingly provide documents as needed etc. The flow-on effect for client service delivery is that when clients feel supported, this makes for happier clients as well as happier lawyers.”
Collaboration is “key to changing the narrative” around divorce, Ms Cade argued.
“The old ways of working have not helped. Everything about the Australian family is changing, clients want to get divorced inexpensively and effectively,” she said.
“However, the prevailing wisdom on how to get divorce is hopelessly outdated. We need a more forward-thinking, holistic approach. When there is a collaboration, the client has a team to assist them to move on to the next chapter of their lives.”
And, she added, engaging a divorce coach will not break the bank.
“Coaching services are very affordable and will save the client money, time and stress. A coach, on the other hand, keeps a client focused on the future, helps them discover their best self, helps them create the outcomes so clients can go from where they are to where they want to be,” she concluded.