Archive for the ‘ counselling support ’ Category

Post Traumatic Court Disorder



What is PTCD and what’s the cure?


No, you won’t find this particular disorder in the official manual of standard psychiatric disorders. But that doesn’t come as much comfort to thousands of traumatized Canadians, forced to handle their own family law matters. One such self represented litigant coined the phrase to describe her own experience with the family law system.


A recent report authored by Law Professor Julia MacFarlane also documented the widespread dissatisfaction of many others in BC, Alberta and Ontario, including middle class, University educated litigants, who felt isolated, overwhelmed, and abandoned by the system.


So if this condition affects you, or someone you know, what’s my prescription for a cure?


As a family lawyer myself I have made an effort to support those who represent themselves, whether out of financial necessity or otherwise, and there are certain steps you can take to help yourself.


Firstly, PREPARE. Take the time to access available on-line resources to familiarize yourself with the basic legal issues.


But also be sure to access sites from the same jurisdiction, for example, if your family matter is in BC, don’t bother accessing on-line resources in Ontario, or complete a precedent on-line agreement from a different province. That’s because each province has different laws and terminology.


Secondly, CONSULT. Just because you now have a general knowledge of the law, trust me there will be serious legal gaps.


Now’s the opportunity to invest in spending some time to talk with an experienced family law professional, especially before you prepare your own application, or respond to one. If you don’t, and mistakes are made in the paperwork ,your case may be doomed before you start.


Also keep in mind that some family law lawyers, such as myself, will

provide legal advice on a when, and as-needed basis, which eliminates the need  and cost of retaining a full-time lawyer. Technically, you are representing yourself, but you still have access to legal support when needed.


Thirdly, VISIT. Most self reps are intimidated, and totally stressed, at the prospect of going into court. This feeling is purely natural, but treatable. If you can, prior to any court date, take the time to visit the courthouse and observe some family trials or applications, which should help to put you at ease. You also don’t need the added stress of getting lost on your way to the courthouse on your first court date!


Finally, HEAL, My last prescription has nothing to do with legal advice, but at the same time will have a profoundly significant impact on both your case and the rest of your life. Being healthy, confident, and emotionally secure radically enhances the prospect that the legal choices you make are the right ones.


If you are an employee, check to see whether your company has an employee assistance program which provides free or reduced cost access to personal counselling. If not, look for other personal or group counselling resources, such as my counselling group.


Lastly, unlike most prescriptions, mine comes with no adverse side effects!












 Why love hurts and what you can do about it!

 Love hurts.

In fact, as a recent Suzuki documentary appears to confirm “Addicted to Love” is much more than just a Robert Palmer song title.

Actually the way your brain is wired, being in love triggers the same chemical reaction as any other kind of addiction.

 This is great when things are going well, but not so great when you separate. Think withdrawal, that’s right, your brain handles separation the same way that it does with any other addiction. You become an emotional wreck.

Now imagine while you are already feeling emotionally overwhelmed you are faced with the unknown and terrifying prospect of resolving your legal matters.

In such an emotionally vulnerable state you are in no condition to deal with the stress of protracted legal proceedings.

That’s why I suggest, unless it’s an emergency, to first consider your court alternative options, including utilizing either an experienced family mediator or collaborative divorce lawyer.

As both a family mediator and qualified collaborative divorce lawyer these options offer three key advantages over the traditional court process.

 - Firstly, they are non-confrontational. This means there are no points to be scored through aggressive and adversarial legal proceedings.

- Secondly, they are emotionally supportive. This means they can provide a better and more sympathetic understanding of your and your ex’s emotional states, thus improving your decision making.

 - Thirdly, they are future friendly. You and your partner get to decide your own future, not a judge.

There’s also something else you should do for yourself. Take advantage of available counselling for yourself.

 Also check out my support group which offers group members both legal guidance and professional counselling support.

 Remember love hurts – but your separation or divorce doesn’t have to!

Upstream Without a Paddle

How to keep yourself afloat during separation!

Family lawyers typically talk legalese to their clients. After all law school is great at teaching about legislation, precedents, procedures and case law. This would be perfect if family law clients were robots!

Kind of like, but not quite, the situation involving some doctors, brilliant diagnosticians, with crappy dispositions, and pathetic bedside manners (a la House?).

The main difference is that unlike family law clients the role of the medical patient has always been to take direction, while the primary role of the family law client is to give direction.

Unfortunately however, as I have experienced over many years as a family lawyer, family law clients are often emotionally incapable of providing good direction to their family lawyer.

This is not surprising since separation itself often triggers intense and overwhelming emotional shock and trauma, while the family law system only multiplies the feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Since I have always been, and remain a firm believer that the client not their lawyer, makes the choices in their own family law matter, once provided the available legal options and alternatives, a client unable to make good choices imperils their own best interests.

This is why I am an advocate for anyone experiencing separation and divorce to obtain emotional support and counselling in conjunction with receiving good legal support.

One without the other is like a boat without a paddle. Trust me; you definitely do not want to be up this legal stream without a paddle. And throwing yourself overboard is not recommended.

This is also why I started the support group, a place where people can find professional guidance along with the support of others in the same boat!











Good Choices

It’s not about blame it’s about choices!

Human relationships inevitably involve the dynamic of conflict and blame, (or at least the ones that I’ve experienced!)

The success or failure of any relationship is often decided by the extent to which spouses address and resolve this dynamic, or not. The “or not” is typically when I become involved as legal counsel.

That’s why it’s frustrating, but no real surprise to me, when a family law client refuses to “let go” of old bad habits, namely playing the “blame (or victim) game”.

Whether it’s about their spouse’s addiction to porn/alcohol/gambling/affairs/hogging the remote/abandoning the home, or some other scurrilous behaviour, with very rare exceptions, such misdeeds are given absolutely no legal weight by the courts. The concept of “blameworthy conduct” in family law has been virtually expunged.

That’s not to say that my client’s reasons for the breakdown of the relationship are not genuinely, or keenly felt, (that’s the very reason I established my kitchentabledivorce support group with the assistance and participation of a professional counsellor), nor does it mean condoning bad behaviour.

There’s also no doubt that “blame” can often come in handy, giving us a ready- made, and convenient, excuse for doing, or often not doing something, when in fact the actual reasons have much more to do with our own fears or insecurities.

Really, it’s all about choosing NOT to let your former spouse continue to control your life.

After all, the only person whose behaviour you can control is YOU, and the only person responsible for your happiness is (you guessed it) YOU!

So get out there and try and make some better choices – and you may just find a better life!


Happy New You! Part 1


Great resolutions – if you’re separating – and how to keep them!

Making New Year’s resolutions is naturally big this time of year. Although according to a psychologist I heard on the radio, much harder to make than to keep, with 80% of resolutions failing within the first two weeks.

But I don’t think it takes a psychologist to tell us that most resolutions fail; I mean there is an obesity epidemic after all, and half of marriages end in divorce.

So here is the first of three New Year’s resolutions I suggest you think about making, if you’re experiencing, or seriously considering, separation or divorce, with some important advice, to help you keep them.

Resolution #1Take care of yourself (and your kids.)

I shop for Kleenex at Costco for a simple reason. Breaking up is hard to do. But I’ve also discovered after many years of advising, and representing, my family law clients that very few actually take any steps to obtain supportive counselling while suffering tremendous stress and strain.

Sure knowing your legal rights is crucial (see Resolution #2 to follow) but unless you receive effective emotional support, and feel confident about yourself, and your choices, you’re less likely to make good legal decisions.

I’m a long time advocate for family law clients to explore both group and personal counselling, because I know it works! For more information about the counselling advantages of my support group (and testimonials) visit my site at 

Also don’t ignore the profound impact of separation and divorce on any children. They should also receive, at the very least, a professional assessment to see how they’re dealing with it all.

Because such an assessment is not intended as a tool to provide an advantage to either party in the event that custody is contested, there should be no problem for you and your spouse to agree that the children’s best interests demand such professional attention and evaluation.