The legislation in family law is meant to preserve the family. For example, prior to filing for Divorce, it is my duty as a lawyer to advise a client of counseling services to allow for the possibility of reconciliation. The law relating to children does not focus on the interests of the parents but instead focuses on guardianship and parenting from the perspective of the child and their best interests. This can create difficulties in the solicitor-client relationship where the lawyer is expected to be an objective dispassionate voice of reason for their client who is in the midst of potentially the greatest period of emotional distress they have ever experienced.
After seeing many families in the aftermath of a breakdown in a relationship it is apparent that the trauma in the breakdown of the relationship is exacerbated by the need for both parties to re-orientate themselves to life outside of the relationship. At the end of a relationship both parties have usually been together for many years. Though both people may more or less contribute to the household equally, they do so in different ways. A useful analogy is with the human body. If you were to split a person you would not have two identical halves. There are organs that are over to one side in the body and others that are located on the other side. Both sides function to create the whole but are slightly different in terms of what jobs they are carrying out. This is the same in a household where one parent would be in charge of the kids and organizing the kids, where the other would be in charge of working full time to pay for the family. In the aftermath of the breakup, people will accentuate the differences in the relationship where one party will argue that the other did not have anything to do with the kids and the other will argue that they never paid for anything. Those arguments while exaggerated have a truth value to them but they miss the point. When you are in a relationship you delegate responsibilities to make life work better but after the relationship is over you have to give up control over the kids and give up money and function as a complete person outside the relationship.
It is in this period that parents who work full time and relied heavily on the other to take care of kids activities will have to step up and learn to take control of setting up the kids activities themselves. Parents who have not worked will need to be supported. There is often a point when the person at the end of the relationship will become the person that the other wanted them to be in the relationship because they have had to learn the skills that the other had wanted them to have prior to the breakup and that potentially led to the breakup.
I always remember reading the book, the Film Club a memoir written by David Gilmour, about a father’s relationship with his son. In that book, Mr. Gilmour is trying to help his son who is struggling in high school. He describes being remarried but still having a friendship with his ex-spouse and mother of his son, where every so often he would meet with her and have a glass of wine. He stated that though he loved his wife, as parents his ex and he had a connection that his wife would never be able to fully understand, that they were the only two people who knew how perfect their son was.
That is the lesson that people experiencing the breakdown of a relationship need to have in the back of their minds and that will allow for a better experience with the family lawyer. I want families to be able to move forward so that eventually both parents can be friendly and enjoy each other’s company again. If both parties are able to recognize that the upset they are experiencing is temporary and that the other person is going to be in their lives for many years to come, then they will be able to let go of their sadness and anger and see the other as continuing to be a valuable relationship in the future. This will facilitate negotiations for developing reasonable settlements on finances and parenting of children. And this in turn will allow for the lawyer to be able to work out problems without having to fight the other side and hopefully allow the family to emerge intact. That is the kind of case that I enjoy working on in family law because that is the type case where as a lawyer you can truly make a difference.