How to divorce well and stay solvent and sane while consciously uncoupling
In a world where barely a day goes by without news of a high-profile celebrity split, and where statistics show almost half of marriages are destined for divorce, it is easy to forget the personal trauma and cost to all parties that ending a marriage can bring.
This month and next, JW3 will host talks on ‘How to Divorce Well’ presented by Hampstead-based divorce consultant Laura Rosefield and forensic psychologist Dr Angela Smith.
“There is so much information out there about divorce and therapy,” Rosefield comments. “In these talks, we’re aiming to give people information and tools that you can’t get in a book or from the internet.”
It’s an interesting collaboration. They work independently but Rosefield and Smith say that it’s very rare for the legal and therapeutic sides to meet in a divorce.
They are aiming to change that by – where appropriate – seeing clients together. They believe this more holistic approach can make all the difference to their clients, both emotionally and legally.
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Helping people to deal with difficult personality types is a passion of theirs.
“We feel there isn’t much understanding in either the legal or therapeutic professions of how to approach these difficult cases,” Rosefield explains. “But you need to recognise what kind of personality you are dealing with on the other side early on, otherwise you can make hugely costly mistakes. The approach you take should be tailored to this, for example, which type of solicitor you instruct, how you structure emails, or how you negotiate. This can make a real difference to the legal outcome of the case as well as to you emerging with sanity intact. Sometimes clients feel they have been getting nowhere for months, and even years, until they try this approach.”
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Rosefield, a trained criminal barrister, built directly on her own experience of divorce when she set up the Rosefield Divorce Consultancy.
Despite her training and experience in the legal process, she felt overwhelmed by everything when it came to her own divorce. She has set about building a service that offers clients a high-level of personalised support, preparing and empowering them, but also saving on legal costs.
“People say that divorce is like a bereavement, but when you are bereaved, people look after you, take things off your hands.
“With divorce, you are suddenly expected to produce and digest all this complex information, as well as make wise life-altering decisions, at a point when you are full of emotion and anxiety. It can feel almost impossible to handle.
“When I started the business it was mainly to refer clients to the right solicitor and to hand hold, taking those late night, teary phone calls, but now I’m doing a lot more of the legal work as well.”
Rosefield also works with many clients who are contemplating divorce to explain what their options are and what particular outcomes may be.
As she says: “You can’t make a life changing decision when you don’t know what’s going to happen to your children, your money and your home as a result.”
When Dr Angela Smith sees clients going through divorce, their thoughts are often “totally circular and caught up in the law,” meaning they can find it hard to make progress with their therapy.
In order to counsel them effectively, empathising with and addressing these concerns, she believes it is crucial for the therapist to be aware of what goes on in the legal proceedings.
She brings an understanding of the legal system to her work as she is a consultant for prisons as well as teaching companies and individuals how to become more resilient – a key part of divorce survival.
Much of her counselling focuses on mindfulness and as part of this she takes her clients walking in her neighbourhood of Queen’s Park during their sessions to help connect the mind and body.
Rosefield and Smith believe it’s crucial to separate out emotion from the legal process, especially in all forms of communication – with ex-partners, with lawyers, mediators and in front of judges.
As Smith says: “The legal process has its own life. Our clients’ emotions aren’t always ready for it.
“By working together, we can get them through the legal side of things in the best possible way and then their therapy can continue afterwards if they want it to. We really want to try to educate people about how best to approach their divorce. You have to be adept at how to sell a case to a judge – they might have 20 cases in one day.
“The courts aren’t usually interested in emotion and behaviour - being preoccupied with this kind of thing can really damage a case.’”
The aim with these talks is for Rosefield and Smith to pass on real value added information.
Smith adds: “Tips that they can use not only in divorce but in life”.
How to Divorce Well sessions mediated by Laura Rosefield and Dr Angely Smith run at JW3 in Finchley Road at 12.30 on May 9 and 7pm on June 28. Tickets priced £5 can be booked at jw3.org.uk