What is Family Consultancy?

“People getting divorced are under exceptional stress. They are expected to do something which is contradictory to human nature. They have to negotiate and make decisions about children and money before they have had the opportunity to grieve and mourn the loss of the marriage.”  (Dr Mark Berelowitz at the London launch of Collaborative Law, 22 November 2006)

What are Family Consultants?

Family Consultants are counsellors, clinical psychologists, life coaches, psychotherapists, family therapists or family mediators, who are registered with their relevant professional bodies, and who have many years experience of working with and supporting the emotional needs of individuals, children and families going through divorce or separation.

How can Family Consultants help you?

We can help you to find your feet again after what may be the greatest upheaval you will ever experience. For some, divorce can hold out the possibility of a fresh start but for many it is a very difficult transition from being an individual who is part of a couple, or a parent facing the radical reorganisation of your family unit and the need to negotiate a way to work as separated parents in the best interests of your children

Your lawyers are there to guide you through the decisions involved in the legal and financial side of separation and not everyone going through divorce will need or want to see a Family Consultant. However, many individuals and couples find that meeting a consultant can help them to focus better on getting the most out of time spent with their lawyers.

In divorce you are faced with the need to make sense of what has happened and to deal with the emotional impact of change.  You may want support to help you to mobilise your own strengths to find the best way through the legal process and to minimise as much as possible the inevitable emotional wear and tear.

There are so many questions that arise that do not have a strictly legal answer. These are all ones linked with how you can regain your sense of yourself as someone who can cope with the challenges of a changed everyday life. You may feel stuck or uncertain about finding the way forward.

Individual needs

There are losses involved, even for those who have initiated the separation. For those who did not initiate proceedings it can be especially hard to come to terms with things.  Either way, you will need to make decisions about the immediate situation and plans for the years ahead at a time of stress and uncertainty. The realisation of being a single person again can be very daunting: having to make decisions alone, renegotiate friendships and family relationships, and discover losses you had not anticipated.   You may need to reconsider work: maybe changing direction, considering further training or resuming work after a long break raising your family. A Family Consultant can be an invaluable sounding board while you consider such issues as well as helping you find your voice for communicating effectively during the legal meetings.

Parenting issues

You may need help in re-negotiating the relationship with your ex partner in a way that supports your children emotionally and ensures that they come through the upheaval securely. A Family Consultant who specialises in working with children can help you focus on your children’s needs and find ways of jointly prioritising these at a time when your own needs can seem overwhelming. Sometimes, having a neutral figure to meet with the children to try to establish their feelings and wishes for the future can help you make the best decisions for them. Getting the right residence and contact arrangements is crucial for the future well-being of the children and developing a good working relationship between you as separated parents can enable you to help your children adapt to the many possible changes in their lives that they will need to confront, such as losing the family home, changing schools or dealing with the introduction of a new partner.  A Family Consultant can facilitate a family meeting for you to be able to give the children a joint message about the plans for their future to reassure them.

The process

You set the agenda for a meeting with a Family Consultant, depending on your needs as an individual, couple, parent or family.  If you have opted for the collaborative process, these meetings are usually separate from collaborative meetings with lawyers but the Family Consultant can accompany you at these meetings if you wish.

For some individuals or couples, one or two meetings with a Family Consultant are enough to help make discussions with their solicitors more productive. Others opt for continuing support thoughout the divorce process and until they feel restored to more solid ground.