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Using Your Lawyer as Your Therapist:
Find Someone Else’s Couch To Cry On

© 2023 Mara Bernstein, Esq

Let’s start with a given, divorce is difficult.


Divorce is an enormous life changing event that frequently sparks overpowering and conflicting emotions. At any point in the process you may be flooded with disappointment, anger, hurt, and resentment. You may experience a loss of faith in yourself and in your own judgment. A constant sense of fear may take over your thoughts. And fear, in all its permutations, does not foster good decision making. Guilt and dread about the impact your divorce is having on your children may become a self-fulfilling prophecy as you overindulge them or provide them with TMI. Ultimately and ironically, all these emotions may be mixed with sheer relief. This crazy roller coaster effect can wreak havoc on your psyche.

Divorce is a transition from married to single.


The best medicine for getting through this transition is lots of emotional support from people you trust. It’s critical that you surround yourself with the “right” people. Whether it's trusted friends, relatives, a therapist, or a support group, you must find an appropriate outlet to address the array of feelings that are inevitable during divorce. It may feel natural and comfortable to look to your divorce attorney to work through some of these feelings. Your attorney may show up like a superhero, your savior, your rock, or the shoulder you lean on. DON’T GO THERE! Your attorney should only play a limited role in your life. You hired her to advise and represent you on legal matters, use her for that purpose only.

Even though I pride myself on being a patient and empathetic listener, as a divorce lawyer, I always steer my clients away from using me as their “quasi” therapist. My first meeting with prospective and new clients always includes the following advice: divorce can be challenging, maddening, and tough. The way to maintain your mental health throughout the process is to connect with a therapist, support group, or clergy. In the long run, maintaining your mental health will also help you achieve the best legal result. Unfortunately, many do not heed this advice.

Far too many people rack up unnecessary legal fees and jeopardize their divorce cases by monopolizing their attorney’s time with their emotional needs instead of the legal aspects of their divorce. There are only so many hours in a day and a divorce attorney’s time is best spent focused on the legal issues of your divorce. There are documents to be prepared, meetings to attend, phone calls to return, court appearances to prepare for… the list goes on. If you’re using your attorney to vent or hash out your emotional stuff, you’re taking her away from what her focus should be--your case. Her job is to get you the best legal results in the most cost and time efficient manner. Let her do

her job!

Personally and professionally, I know hundreds of divorce lawyers. And, honestly, most of them are just not equipped to deal with the myriad emotional issues that come up during the divorce process. Look at it this way: you wouldn't go to your therapist for legal advice, would you?

Finally, your divorce lawyer’s hourly rate may be two or three times the cost of a therapist’s fee. So clearly, when it comes to navigating the rough emotional terrain of divorce, you get much more bang for your buck when you spend your money on a licensed therapist or a divorce coach who is trained to give you the tools you need. It may take discipline and restraint to stop yourself from venting to the lawyer that you

trust, respect, and feel connected to. Yes, it may be challenging, but it will definitely pay off in the end.

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