For Therapists and Mental Health Professionals

Therapists Are Essential to the Success of Our Clients

At Ousky Law Office, we value our relationships with the mental health professionals. As therapists, you are essential to the success of our clients. Therefore, we have devoted a section of our website to providing resources and ideas just for you. We will continue to add articles, videos, tip sheets, and links over time, as well as publishing regular blogs addressing issues relating to the mental health aspects of divorce.

As we all know, divorce is not simply a legal event. Indeed, for most divorcing couples, resolution of the emotional, communication and parenting issues will have more impact on their lives than the actual legal issues. As a result, mental health professionals are often a crucial part of the divorce process, either as an active member of the divorce team, (in the role of a divorce coach, parenting specialist, etc.) or as a therapist providing much needed guidance for individual and couples during this critical time in their lives.

We provide our clients with legal counsel during the divorce process. However, in order to provide our clients with opportunities for the best possible outcomes, it is often essential that we have a good working relationship with the mental health professionals who are providing our clients with crucial support during the divorce process. We hope to hear from you in the future!  You can view our blog posts specific to your work as a mental health professional.

Videos

Therapists

5 Ways Therapists Can Prepare Clients to Make Better Divorce Decisions

  1. Help them find the information they need to make informed decisions, (before divorce is imminent).
  2. Help them clarify their goals and interests.
  3. Help them distinguish the emotional divorce from the legal divorce.
  4. Help them separate the important issues from the urgent issues.
  5. Help them engage strategies to work with their divorce professionals.

Top 10 Things Therapists Need to Know about the Legal Part of Divorce

1. There are three primary ways for your client to seek legal assistance during divorce.
2. The divorce method chosen by your client may have an enormous impact on them, and their family, for many years.
3. Legal separation can be a viable option for clients considering divorce.
4. Reconciliation (or discernment) can still be a consideration after your client meets with a divorce lawyer.
5. Keeping divorce amicable does not have to come at the price of protection.
6. There are safe and effective ways for therapists and divorce lawyers to team up during divorce.
7. There are safe ways for children to have a voice in the divorce.
8. Parenting time and finances do not need to be directly connected.
9. Post-divorce planning is crucial to client success during divorce.
10. Clients get better outcomes through interest-based divorce negotiation.
1. There are three primary ways for your client to seek legal assistance during divorce.

Most clients engage some type of legal assistance in a divorce in one of the following ways:

Traditional Representation: Many people simply hire an attorney to work with them in the traditional manner which may include some involvement by the court.  While very few cases go to trial, in traditional cases, divorce papers are filed with the court and the court provide some assistance, in the form of settlement conferences, neutral evaluations or hearings.

Collaborative Divorce: In a Collaborative Divorce, the parties hire attorneys who are retained for settlement purposes only. Because the attorneys are focused on settlement, most Collaborative cases involve “teaming” with other professionals including financial experts and mental health professionals. Learn more about the Collaborative Process we offer and through visiting collaborativelaw.org.

Mediation: Mediation means hiring a neutral person to work with the clients to assist them in resolving their issues and achieving their goals. While some mediators have law degrees, the mediator cannot provide legal advice or prepare the final papers for court. Therefore clients who mediate their matters seek out attorneys to provide them legal advice, either during the mediation process or outside of the sessions. Read more about mediation >

It is important for clients to understand each process before they take the first step. They can also learn by scheduling consultations (often at no charge) with attorneys with experience and skill in each of these areas.

See also:

2. The divorce method chosen by your client may have an enormous impact on them, and their family, for many years.

Each process has its advantageous and risks and the choice of process can have a life-changing impact. Clients who have experienced extremely contentious divorces report adverse consequences (emotional and financial) that lasts for years (and even generations). Conversely, clients who have found better ways to divorce are able to build a better life for their family in a very short time. Helping your client take the time to select the process, and the professionals, that can be serve their needs will be a great benefit to them.

3. Legal separation can be a viable option for clients considering divorce.

Clients who are uncertain about divorce, but see a need for a separation, can get protection through a legal separation. Many attorneys discourage clients from considering a legal separation because of the fear that, if the clients ultimately end up in a divorce, they will have duplicated some of their efforts, (and expenses). However, it is possible to create temporary legal separation agreements that give clients time and space to work on reconciliation with little danger of duplication. For couples that end up reconciling their marriage, the time spent on crafting a careful separation may have been a very wise investment. For clients who move from separation to divorce, the legal separation agreement can often be incorporated into the final divorce, avoiding any real need for duplication.

4. Reconciliation (or discernment) can still be a consideration after your client meets with a divorce lawyer.

Couples who still want to save their marriage often seek legal advice about divorce so that they fully understand their options.  This can be done without taking them closer to the divorce by having them see a divorce lawyer that is committed to making sure that is willing to stay focused on the client’s true needs.  While marriage reconciliation or discernment are not directly within a lawyer’s expertise, lawyers that are truly committed to helping the client find the best solution for their family will make sure that the client has referrals to appropriate counselors who can help with reconciliation or discernment issues. To learn more about discernment counseling, visit The Doherty Relationship Institute.

5. Keeping divorce amicable does not have to come at the price of protection.

One of the great myths of the divorce world is the idea that clients who need protection are forced to seek a more adversarial process. While it is certainly true that some clients need extreme protections that are available only through the protections of the court, in most cases vulnerable clients can get better outcome through an out-of-court process designed to address their specific situations. Because more than 95% of cases settle, divorce is essentially a process of getting both parties to “say yes” to a final settlement. Even when dealing with difficult clients, “getting to yes” may require a host of creative solutions. While we are naturally inclined to believe that the best way to get agreement in these situations is through legal argument, our experience has shown that the most difficult parties, when confronted with arguments, typically become more entrenched in their positions. Therefore, most clients can get better protection, and keep the case amicable, by using a wider range of more effective strategies, including interest-based bargaining.

See also:

6. There are safe and effective ways for therapists and divorce lawyers to team up during divorce.

Divorce creates both legal and interpersonal issues to be resolved. Clients are best served when they get competent counsel in legal and personal issues. In those instances, it is possible, and sometimes essential, that the attorneys and mental health professionals work together to help them through this important transition.

 

The Good Counsel Blog Series also helps address this question:

7. There are safe ways for children to have a voice in the divorce.

Most people agree that the needs of the children should come first. When children get caught in the middle of an acrimonious divorce, the impact can be severe.  Conversely, when parents take the time to truly understand the needs of the children, they can create a parenting plan that truly allows the children to thrive and promotes a good relation with both parent. Giving children a “voice” in the divorce is important, but delicate, as the challenge is to find ways to truly hear the children without putting them in the often untenable position of having to choose between the parents. There are many new roles that have emerged, such as the role of the child specialist in a Collaborative Divorce and the role of a Child Centered Mediator in a mediated case, that can provide children with a voice in a safe environment.

8. Parenting time and finances do not need to be directly connected.

One of the myths in divorce today is that the family support needs to be tied to the amount of time that the children spend in each home.  This can lead to unnecessary battles over parenting time as both parents suspect the other as fighting for a particular parenting schedule.  It is true that the Minnesota Child Support Guidelines set different amounts based on the amount of time that the children spend in each home. These guidelines were created out of economic necessity for parents who cannot reach an agreement on their own. However, applied in a ridged manner they can lead to outcomes that are not in the best interests of children. For example, in a strict application of the guidelines, a person who has the children in his or her home 40% of the time and pays $1,000 per month in support can see the child support drop to as little as $500 per month, simply by adding an extra parenting day each month. Adding the extra day does not significantly change either parents expenses for the children. Yet, the guidelines, applied in that manner, can create a significant imbalance or, worse, create unnecessary parenting time disputes.

Parties who choose a creative process and engage in an “interest-based” bargaining can easily avoid this dilemma by creating truly child centered economic support agreements that adapt to the family without creating conflict.

See also:

9. Post-divorce planning is crucial to client success during divorce.

One of the unfortunate realities of divorce is that parties spend way to much getting through the divorce itself and way too little on how to manage their lives, and the lives of their children after the divorce is final. Most parties would benefit for post-divorce guidance in areas of parenting, communication and financial management during the year after the divorce. Yet, most parties report that they are essentially left “on their own” during that critical year.

The solution to this problem is to find ways for parties to spend less on the divorce process and more on the post- divorce implementation or “after-care.” This is one of the many areas where lawyers, mental health professionals and financial professionals can truly team up to help families approach their new lives in a healthier manner.

10. Clients get better outcomes through interest-based divorce negotiation.

One of the greatest ideas to come out of the 20th century was the concept of “interest-based” negotiation” as an alternative to the traditional “position-based” negotiation. This basic principle, first made popular by the best selling book Getting to Yes in 1991 and since incorporated into virtually every effective mediation and Collaborative Divorce training has allowed families to truly negotiate “Win-Win” solutions and have converted divorce from a battle to be fought to a problem to be solved. Simply put, the model of interest-based bargaining is a tool to help the parties identify what truly matters in their lives and to work toward solutions that enhance their common goals. This method can lead to radically better outcomes, particularly where there are children involved.

See also:

Good Counsel

A Blog Series For Therapists and Mental Health Professionals

I truly believe that we are embarking on a new era of enlightenment in the area of family law in which we will increasingly see divorce and separation as more of a health issue and a social transition, rather than as a Win/Lose legal battle. As that enlightenment continues, the role of divorce attorneys (in the traditional sense of “advocacy”) will gradually become less prominent and the various roles of mental health professionals will increase. During that transition, I am hoping that there will be new ways for divorce attorneys and mental health professionals to work together to help families in transition move on to a better future.

In the spirit of that new adventure, I have written a series of ten blogs, under the title “Good Counsel” to discuss the ways that family law attorneys and mental health professionals can work together. I hope that you will find this series of blogs to be a helpful beginning of this important conversation and that you will participate in that conversation, and in this great revolution, in the months and years ahead.

Divorce FAQ’s for Therapists

What are the methods going through divorce?
How can clients learn about the advantages and risks of each method?
What is a Collaborative Divorce?
What is Collaborative Team Divorce?
Do both clients need to retain an attorney?
What does it mean to ``file`` for divorce?
How can I help my client prepare for divorce?
Should clients who are hoping for reconciliation seek advice about divorce or separation?
How can children be protected in divorce?
Does my client need to use “hardball” methods in order to be protected?
Is it possible to avoid custody label by using a parenting plan?
Will family support be affected by parenting time or custody?
How are issue of dependency and addiction addressed in divorce?
How are power imbalance issues addressed in divorce?
What are the methods going through divorce?

Traditional Representation:  In a traditional divorce process, each party hires an attorney to work with them in a conventional manner.  While very few of these cases actually go to trial, this type of representation often occurs “in the shadow of the courthouse”.  Once the papers are filed with the court, the parties, and their attorneys may participate in some court-supervised events such as settlement conferences, neutral evaluations or hearings.

Collaborative Divorce: In a Collaborative Divorce, the parties hire attorneys who are retained for settlement purposes only. Consequently, all of the settlement negotiations occur outside of the courthouse and without the direct threat of court. Because the attorneys are focused on settlement, most Collaborative cases involve “teaming” with other professionals including financial experts and mental health professionals. Learn more about the Collaborative Process we offer and through visiting collaborativelaw.org.

Mediation: In mediation the parties hire a neutral person to assist them in resolving their issues and achieving their goals. While some mediators have law degrees, the mediator cannot provide legal advice or prepare the final papers for court. Therefore, clients who mediate their matters seek out attorneys to provide them legal advice, either during the mediation process or outside of the sessions. Read more about mediation >

It is important for clients to understand each process before they take the first step. They can also learn by scheduling consultations (often at no charge) with attorneys with experience and skill in each of these areas.

See also:

How can clients learn about the advantages and risks of each method?

It is important for each client to fully understand all of the options before they make their decision. They should start by reading as much as they can about each option, through websites, blogs, articles and books. They should then seek a consultation for divorce professionals with knowledge and experience in each of these areas. They can also seek the help of a Divorce Advisor to help them understand the benefits of each process option

What is a Collaborative Divorce?

A Collaborative Divorce is one in which the husband and the wife retain lawyers for settlement purposes only. In fact, the lawyers, and other professionals agree, in writing, that they will not go to court at the beginning of the case.

The success of Collaborative Divorce is based on a principle of addition by subtraction. Making sure that your Collaborative Lawyer won’t go to court, closes one door, and opens many others. The biggest door that is opened is the opportunity to settle difficult divorce issues in a less threatening environment. This generally results in better settlements because the full team provides direction on how to reach long term agreements.

See also:

What is Collaborative Team Divorce?

Collaborative Team Divorce is a process, in which the clients work with mental health professionals and financial neutrals, as well as with attorneys, to help them achieve the best outcome for their family.   One of the keys to your success is selecting a team that can best meet the unique needs of your family.

See also:

Do both clients need to retain an attorney?

While no client is required to hire an attorney, almost all people going through divorce would benefit from getting some legal help. The real question is deciding just how much is the right amount.  Many divorcing people are, understandably, afraid to get lawyers involved at all, fearing that once you get a lawyer on board, they will be on a slippery slope in which legal costs will rapidly spin out of control.  It is true that this can happen, but there are ways to prevent this danger.

Most people don’t realize that there are ways to hire attorneys in a divorce and carefully manage your costs. Part of the key is to understand the difference between a retained attorney and a consulting attorney.

Retained Attorney: A retained attorney is someone you hire to serve as your “attorney of record”, meaning that they are identified, to the court and to your spouse as your legal representative throughout the divorce. Retained attorneys generally have a responsibility to take all actions necessary to comply with court rules and move your case forward, and therefore, costs can be hired.

Consulting Attorney: On the other hand, a consulting attorney is an attorney who works with you, as a consultant, and will only perform the specific tasks that you authorize. (This is sometimes referred to as unbundled legal service since you are choosing select specific legal services rather than the full “bundle” of things that retained attorneys have to do.)

What does it mean to ``file`` for divorce?
How can I help my client prepare for divorce?

There are many resources available for clients as they go through divorce by visiting the Consultation Room. In addition, clients should consider the following questions as they prepare for a divorce:

Should clients who are hoping for reconciliation seek advice about divorce or separation?

Often the essential discussions about divorce, separation or reconciliation occur in the offices of the therapist. However, it is increasingly common for couples who are unsure about the future of their marriage to seek out legal counsel to help them understand what might lie ahead for them. These conversations are often precautionary with individuals and couples trying to find out what happens in a divorce and whether they need to do anything to “prepare” for divorce.   While some clients come in seeking advice about divorce preparation strategies, most are more concerned about simply understanding what happens during a divorce or legal separation so that the can be emotionally prepared to make important decisions.

In these instances, it is important for client to understand all of their reconciliation or discernment options. It is also important for clients to understand that they can choose a process for divorce or separation that leaves open the possibility for reconciliation in the future.

Read more >

How can children be protected in divorce?

We have all heard too many stories of children who suffered significantly as a result of conflict between their parents. The choices that parents make during divorce are likely to affect their children for many years. Parents who want to protect their children from the harmful effects of divorce need to gather as much information as possible about their options before taking the first steps toward divorce.

For more information on family support and how children are affected by divorce, see our Children page.

Does my client need to use “hardball” methods in order to be protected?

More than 95% of all divorce cases end in a settlement rather than a trial. Therefore, it is most effective to think of the divorce process as an exercise in getting your spouse to “say yes” to your most important goals.

It is important to think about the technique that is most likely to get your spouse to “say yes” to the things that matter the most to you. Playing “hardball” is generally a strategy of having your attorney make aggressive arguments. While that might, on the surface, seem like what you want your attorney to do, is this really likely to work? How often have you seen arguments cause your spouse to change his or her mind? Arguments and aggressive tactics in divorce court, like most arguments in the kitchen, generally just lead to more arguments and aggression.

There is an old saying that “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”, which, of course means that you get better agreements through smart civil tactics. This saying is even more true in the divorce world where aggressive “vinegar” arguments are nearly certain to create an emotional response that will simply lead to more arguments.

Is it possible to avoid custody label by using a parenting plan?

Many people start their thinking about a parenting plan by focusing on custody labels. While focusing on custody labels are still  an option, under the new parenting plan laws, the actual labels do not matter as much as they once did. Nevertheless, it is helpful to have a general understanding of the labels since it is likely they will be used in your final papers.

Legal Custody: Legal custody relates to the right to make major child raising decisions, such as where the children will go to school, their religious upbringing and their healthcare. In most cases, parents share joint legal custody meaning that they are expected to make these decisions together.

Physical custody:  Physical custody primarily relates to the daily care of the children, including where they will spend their time. As a general rule, we think of sole physical custody as a situation in which the children spend most of their time in one home and have “parenting time” (formerly visitation) in the other home. Joint physical custody generally implies a situation in which the children spend nearly equal time in both homes. While this is the general understanding of how joint physical custody and sole physical custody differ, the law is not clear regarding how much parenting time the primary parent must have in order for the schedule to be called sole physical custody.

Parenting Plans: In addition, where the custody label once had a significant impact on things like child support and the right to move the children, the label has little, if any impact on those issues under current laws. Therefore, parents are, for the most part, able to disregard these labels and can focus on creating a parenting plan. To download samples of two types of parenting plans used in Minnesota, click here.

Will family support be affected by parenting time or custody?

One of the myths in divorce today is that the family support needs to be tied to the amount of time that the children spend in each home. This can lead to unnecessary battles over parenting time as both parents suspect the other as fighting for a particular parenting schedule for the purpose of gaining an economic advantage.

It is true that the Minnesota Child Support Guidelines set different amounts based on the amount of time that the children spend in each home. These guidelines were created out of economic necessity for parents who cannot reach an agreement on their own. However, there are creative ways to work with these guidelines that do not put parents in the position of choosing between their children and their economic well-being. Parties who choose a creative process and engage in an “interest-based” bargaining can easily avoid this dilemma by creating truly child centered economic support agreements that adapt to the family without creating conflict.

How are issue of dependency and addiction addressed in divorce?

Nearly half of all divorces involve, at minimum, allegations of some type of alcohol abuse. How these issues are addressed during the divorce can have a significant impact on the future of the family. For more information, go to Alcohol and Divorce: A Truly Toxic Cocktail

How are power imbalance issues addressed in divorce?

All negotiations can be impacted by issues of power, or perceived power, by both parties. Many couples face a power imbalance that affects the way they negotiate issues during the marriage. While those imbalances may carry over into the divorce, a primary role of the divorce attorney is to provide a safe and effective negotiating environment so that the power imbalances do not cause the “weaker” party to get a less desirable settlement. (The weakness can stem from a variety of sources, such as the lack of information on the matter at hand, a fear of conflict, or simply being less inclined to exert control over the issue.)

In a court-centered process, the attorney might be doing all of the direct negotiating which can sometimes correct the power imbalance. In Collaborative Practice and mediation, where the clients are likely to be more directly involved in the negotiation, the attorney needs to exercise great skill in helping to provide a level playing field.

For the attorney, whether they are representing the weaker spouse or the stronger spouse, understanding the power dynamics is essential to truly effective negotiation and future skill development. Getting insights from the client’s therapist me prove to be invaluable both in identifying the power dynamics and in helping the client learn how to develop more effective negotiating strategies for the future.

Essentially, the therapist’s knowledge about the interpersonal dynamics, combined with the attorney’s understanding of the realities of the decisions that need to be made, provide the best opportunities for helping the client get his or her best outcomes.

Contact Ron Ousky

Do you have a question about one of your clients? Feel free to contact me and we can schedule a confidential telephone call.

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