Children are often used as the “excuse” for prolonging the inevitable experience of divorce. While some marriages need only to address their issues in counseling, where the parties can learn new tools for communication and coping with the stresses that often accompany day-to-day relationship challenges, many marriages are beyond the point of repair. The real danger is not being able to recognize when it’s time to address the problems and what the effect is on the children. Unfortunately, many spouses continue to tear each other down emotionally, and the children, as innocent bystanders, mirror their parents’ dysfunction and become more emotionally distraught by witnessing the derailment of the marriage than they would by the experience of divorce. Qualified mental-health professionals are trained to determine just how dysfunctional the family dynamics really are and to assist spouses with understanding what, if anything, can be done to repair the rift, and whether or not a separation would be more healthy for the children rather than remaining in the current dysfunctional atmosphere.
When I meet with a new client, I try to determine whether or not my services are actually necessary, or whether sending the client to a qualified mental health professional for counseling may be a better use of the community’s funds. After being with the same man for 28 years myself, I realize that marriage is an entity unto itself that is extremely jealous of the individuals at times, and it needs constant attention and nurturing to be successful. I always tell my clients in their initial interview that, while I may make a living off divorces, I am truly not a divorce advocate. I believe that if I can direct my clients to whatever resources to assist them in repairing their relationships, they will be just as happy with my services as if I fought their battle for them in the courtroom. Of course, when divorce is the only option, then I’m there for them as well.
Sondra Kaighen practices all aspects of family law — including divorce, child custody, modification, and adoption — in Houston.