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Hiring a divorce coach makes life easier for family lawyers

Family law practitioners who engage the services of divorce coaches to assist clients will find that the job is more rewarding, writes Anne-Marie Cade.

user iconAnne Marie Cade 25 August 2022 SME Law
Hiring a divorce coach makes life easier for family lawyers
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It is no secret that practising family law is stressful, and having a divorce coach at hand to assist their clients navigate the traumatic process can lead to better, more efficient client service delivery, among other flow-on benefits. Like many areas of law, family law is going through a period of change, and family lawyers, as well as clients, are questioning the traditional models of the practice.

The legal system is premised on the idea that people going through divorce can make rational decisions, yet they are in turmoil, are disoriented and are not able to think clearly. Stress for both family lawyers and clients is a constant reality, and divorce can wreck both personal and financial havoc for a family. But within this changing climate, family lawyers are expected to work diligently and professionally in the best interests of their clients. This seems to come with the territory of being a family lawyer.

Clients often attend their lawyer’s office wanting to retell their story. They are often blind-sided by a sudden separation or, after careful planning, leave an abusive relationship. The fear and pain they are going through are real, and their lawyer’s office is often the first place that they have had an opportunity to disclose these very personal problems. Hearing clients tell their traumatic stories repeatedly affects lawyers and can cause them stress. 


Clients lose sight of the fact that lawyers can only assist them with the legal process. I often have lawyers tell me that their clients want to vent to them and that they are not able to assist them as they are not counsellors. Lawyers are not trained in dealing with crisis and stress and can become frustrated and exhausted by the difficult work they do every day, and this sometimes leads to more serious consequences, including depression and substance abuse.

A report recently released by the Victorian Legal Services Commissioner on lawyer wellbeing confirmed this and also stated that lawyers do not adapt to the stressors in their profession over time. So how can we alleviate this problem for lawyers?

Enter the divorce coach who can assist clients and provide them with a wide range of emotional, organisational, motivational assistance and companionship, which clients desperately need when going through a divorce.

This is an emerging profession and is now gaining more popularity in Australia. Divorce coaches have been around in the US for a little while now, and the American Bar Association defines divorce coaching “as 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”.

As a divorce coach, I am a supportive resource and I help clients make better decisions. I create a peaceful framework and help clients clarify their goals, interests and outcomes relating to their divorce.

I also assist a client by helping them improve their communication and negotiation skills on how best to communicate with and interact with their spouse. The goal is to increase collaboration and decrease conflict and encourage a mutually agreeable outcome. Coaching produces transformation in a client’s thought and actions and produces a better client for the lawyer. This is the client lawyers seek to champion, clients who both listen and speak effectively, communicate easily and clearly, accept the reality of the divorce process, ask relevant questions and partner with their lawyer in the divorce process, thereby reducing the stress for lawyers.

Coaching is different to therapy. In a coaching relationship, the coach partners with clients in a thought-provoking and creative way that inspires them to maximise their potential, focusing on personal change management. It’s forward-moving and future-focused. Whereas therapists work with clients to diagnose mental health concerns and any underlying issues.

Divorce coaches add great value in normally highly contentious divorces and can also assist in resolving parenting arrangements. A coach will also make referrals to other professionals as well. Divorce coaching is a specialised form of coaching.

It is not life coaching. It requires a deep understanding of family law and the divorce process. Presently, divorce coaching is an unregulated profession in Australia, so it’s important to engage a coach who is certified and has done comprehensive training, which includes role-playing as well as training in conflict coaching.

Anne-Marie Cade is a 2020 Churchill fellow. She is a lawyer, mediator and conflict resolution specialist.