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Should there be a movement for family law becoming more therapeutic?

Family lawyers? Or Family Solutions Advisors?

When is a family lawyer not a lawyer?

When they’re a coach, counsellor, emotional support, psychologist and spend their lives trying to find magic solutions to intractable and complicated emotional and familial issues….

Alongside the advent of no-fault divorce, there has been a fair bit of publicity of late about the Family Solutions Group. Their campaign is to help put children first by taking family issues out of the justice system. 

Experience has shown us all of course that the courts are not the right place to help with such issues. And the fact that court is there as an option gives families the wrong impression about the system and a mistaken idea that judges and courts can offer them solutions.

The truth is sadly far from that. This means that much of your average family lawyer’s time is spent trying to dissuade their clients from going to court, sometimes to little or no avail.

The FSG argues that we should have a Government department devoted to children and families, as is the case in Wales. And that there should be a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to helping in such situations, comprising therapists, psychologists, social workers and other experts, much as is the case at the fantastic Family Drug and Alcohol Courts.

I work with many family lawyers as a therapist and trainer. And looking at it from the other end of the telescope (from the vantage point of the family lawyer), there are three things that strike me:

  1.     Many family lawyers dislike confrontation;
  2.     Many are not that interested in the black letter law aspect of the job; and
  3.     Most are fascinated by psychology.

Family lawyers often spend huge amounts of time explaining to clients who have a tendency to become dependent on their lawyer that they’re not therapists. Again, often to no avail. But actually, family lawyers are usually pretty interested in learning therapeutic skills.

So why not acknowledge that?

Why don’t we take family law out of the traditional legal path?

Given that it’s a job that requires so much more than legal skills, why not train people in psychology from the outset as well as training them in the legal aspects. 

Why not call everyone who works with families in this way ‘family solutions advisors’ and finally equip them with all of the tools they need to navigate this type of work. 

A lot of the issues around wellbeing for family lawyers have arisen because they haven’t been equipped with such tools. 

So why not do that and harness the interest and willingness of young family lawyers to occupy more holistic roles in the future?

What do you think?