Newcastle and Hexham’s leading family law divorce specialist, Joanne Major comments in the Tyne Valley Express:
Spring is upon us once again, traditionally the season of fertility and new beginnings. Colour is bursting through the earth in the form of snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils, hinting at the promise of longer, warmer days.
If only the emergence from old relationships into the world of starting afresh were so predictable and reliable. Irrespective of the length of a relationship, there is always some level of sadness and mourning when it ends, but for some people, moving on from a previous relationship can prove some overwhelmingly difficult that it causes loss of function in all aspects of the person’s life.
In my profession, relationship conflict and pain goes with the territory. On the other hand, I am neither trained nor equipped to deal with the emotional side of relationship breakdown; my role is to resolve practical issues arising within a prescribed legal framework.
It is something of an oxymoron: relationship and marriage breakdown is a distinctly emotive issue, and yet the solutions I offer as a family law solicitor largely eschew taking account of how either party may be feeling.
So how do I support a client who is faced with making practical decisions about a future beyond the relationship when there are clearly unresolved issues? I am very fortunate to have forged a professional relationship with a local relationship counsellor whose area of expertise lies in assisting couples and individuals to heal or move on from broken relationships.
Put away all stereotyped 1970’s images of marriage guidance, this is emotional maturity 21st century style. Graeme works with couples, whether or not they want to try to save the relationship, with individuals to help them come to terms with what has happened and move on, and with entire families where it is appropriate to involve the children.
He is firmly of the view that many people instruct solicitors too early, simply because they do not know who else to turn to. He is right that this can lead to unclear and conflicted decision making, which is both flawed and reactionary. He helps people to work through feelings of grief, fear, anger and depression, and supports them towards self-compassion, mutual respect and ultimately the ability to move on from the relationship and the hurt.
Whilst this kind of work is not a new phenomenon, what is a significant shift is the legal profession’s willingness to acknowledge that feelings and emotions need to be dealt with and supported to allow for a more effective and balanced resolution of any practical and legal issues.
Having always sought to take an holistic approach to advising my clients, this is an ancillary service that I am very pleased to be able to offer. Whether the client spends time in counselling before returning to me, or whether the two professional approaches work concurrently, the result is a smoother, clearer and less painful transition for all involved, and not just the client receiving the counselling.
The sessions are of course entirely separate from my involvement and entirely confidential, but many clients would not be aware of, or consider such a service if I were not able to make the referral.
Acknowledging and accepting the end of a relationship can mean more than getting a Decree Absolute. Helping a client to move on is as important as advising on the law.