Reflecting on my years of practicing in Georgia as well as my litigation and practice experience in Russia, it is still very hard for me to understand the level of hostility between the parties in divorce and custody cases. I understand that things cannot be easy if a family unit is being split apart, but even in many cases where the spouses have been drifting apart for years, the parties still often show a lot of aggression and anger toward each other during the litigation.
Divorce and custody litigation is not a sprint, it is a marathon, and it is extremely important that both parties get some mental health support in addition to legal counseling, whether it is a support group, talking to a priest or minister, talking to friends or family members, or, preferably, being in therapy. In the long run, being in therapy during divorce or custody litigation will yield a number of important benefits. First of all, getting professional mental health support will help a party in litigation to feel better and to better cope with the events in litigation and everyday life. Divorce and custody litigations are major triggers and can quickly ignite some dormant issues that previously existed. Family law practitioners see time and time again when people try to take their own lives or lives of loved ones during divorces or they resort to violence, drugs or alcohol abuse, etc. Further, if the underlying issues, for example, of being in an abusive relation or having a low self-esteem are not addressed, the client will end up eventually starting up new relations with the same old problems weighing them down and they will just repeat the mistakes they made in previous relations, restarting the vicious circle. Moreover, the mental and physical health of each parent is one of the factors the judges consider when they make a determination of the custody arrangement that promotes best interest of the children (O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3 (a)(3(I)).
Further, getting support and addressing difficult personal decisions can promote amicable resolution in litigations sometimes as people are forced to face the real issues rather than make the other party the ultimate “enemy” and blame all that went wrong on them. As the old saying goes, some people cannot be cured, but everyone can heal.
In addition, therapy can decrease the amount spent on attorney’s fees. Family law attorneys can empathize with the issues their clients are experiencing, but the mental health professionals will be so much more effective and efficient in addressing the non-legal problems, allowing the legal issues to get wrapped up faster with less cost.
Ending up in a better place, healing mentally and having a fresh start for the parties and the children is the ultimate goal of the divorce or custody litigation. Each party will be a much better parent for the children if mental health issues are being addressed. I hope one day getting therapy during divorce and litigation might be mandatory, just like finally we have a mandatory requirement of taking co-parenting classes. Until that day, please take care of yourself and your mental health needs.
You are certainly worth it.