April is stress awareness month. Divorce is one of the most stressful times in peoples' lives, and although there is no magic formula to take away the stress of divorce and separation, there are certain things people can do to try to minimise it.
- Don't bottle it up; share your problems. Sharing a problem with someone can help put a sense of perspective onto the problem. Often, once you have talked through a problem with someone else, the problem isn't as bad as you thought. It might even stop waking you up in the small hours of the morning. Although divorce lawyers are used to dealing with people at times of stress, remember that you should be paying for our legal skills, not our counselling skills. It is much more cost-effective to discuss problems with a counsellor or similar professional, rather than your lawyer. Be careful before discussing problems with friends and relatives. They can often take positional views when a couple separate and divorce, inflaming emotions and increasing stress levels rather than reducing them.
- Seek help if you really think the stress is getting to you. Many people, particularly parents with care of children, think that seeking psychological help is a sign of weakness that can be exploited by the other spouse. It is not; seeking psychological help is a sign of strength. It shows that you acknowledge there is a problem and are willing to do something about it. Clients are also concerned about their spouse or partner recovering their medical records as part of the court process. Firstly, that is very unusual, but secondly, what are the medical records likely to show? That you are suffering from stress because of an abusive spouse!
- Take legal advice at an early stage and make sure you ask for an indication of the likely outcome. Uncertainty is a great source of stress when a marriage breaks down and although your solicitor is unlikely to be able to forecast the exact outcome of your case, they should, at an early stage, be able to give you an indication of the likely shape of the settlement.
- Give some thought to how involved you want to be in resolving your case. Depending on your perspective, alternate forms of dispute resolution such as mediation or collaborative law will give you much more control over the resolution of your case but, if you find dealing with your spouse difficult, they are likely to increase your stress levels. Every divorce client is different and it is equally acceptable to want to be closely involved in the process, as it is to leaving as much of the process as possible to your solicitor.
- Finally, the cost of resolving the family law dispute can add to clients' worries and stress. Don't be afraid to discuss the likely cost of the process with your lawyer at the first meeting, and don't be afraid to sense-check that first indication of the cost at subsequent meetings.