This is an excellent question, as it is the type of real-life feedback that is often discussed in a modern law office. The lawyer’s client-centered approach will help this conversation develop. Also remember that we are also dealing with clients who experience their spouse’s extramarital affair and consequently are reacting with anger, confusion, dissolution, despair, and impacted self-esteem in contradistinction to guilt. Accordingly, there are some common messages designed to assist either client.
Firstly, family-dispute resolution is a process. It is unreasonable or unprofessional for all of these significant longer-term instructions to be fully decided by the client at an early stage in separation or file management. It is a process of information and balanced client deliberation. Often, a client’s negotiated settlement or court case involves the most singularly significant decisions about their own as well as their children’s destiny. It just takes the time it takes — and every client has their own unique personal time-clock.
A good family lawyer or dispute-resolution practitioner will have skills in separating the legal from the emotional divorce. These are entirely separate dimensions of a person’s thinking and feeling. A poorly functioning solicitor-client relationship or less competent practitioner will add to the chaos by promoting this enmeshment and stoking the adversarial blame-frame of the affair. In my view, this is an unprincipled or unprofessional intervention. A better way would be some honest dialogue as you and your lawyer validate, separate, and contain these very challenging dynamics arising in the divorce and separation experience. Give yourself some time and space to make the decision that’s right for you.
Nigel Macleod practises family law, mediation, and Collaborative Divorce in Ottawa.