To practise family law, specializing in divorce, you have to enjoy conflict resolution. To achieve this, lawyers must have certain qualities that will allow them to navigate troubled waters better.
When a separated person hires a lawyer to settle the details of their divorce, they are often at the end of their rope. “She needs someone who will listen to her, understand her and console her,” says Mtre Josephine Sorgente, who works for Hamon Screnci. “Our role is not just to be legal advisers. Sometimes you are a psychologist and even a social worker.” In addition to being an attentive ear for this client experiencing intense emotions, the lawyer must also be attentive to his own needs in order to find common ground with the ex-spouse.
When it comes to a divorce case, there is property at stake, but there are especially humans, that is, the former spouses and the children. Hence the need for the lawyer to show empathy towards them. For Mtre Louis Baribeau, who has been practising family law for ten years, it is essential to have their well-being in mind. “The best interest of the client is almost always to stay in good contact with their ex-spouse and to settle the dispute, because an [unresolved] dispute will have an impact on the children,” he says. “It is not just a matter of making agreements on paper.”
Family lawyers must exercise their creativity to reach an agreement. “The law is the same, but the facts are always different,” emphasizes Mtre Sorgente. “We need to find solutions that could be of interest to our clients in order to avoid going before the judge.” Decisions regarding child custody, alimony and estate sharing are preferably made by ex-spouses, with the help of their lawyers. Otherwise, the judge will decide and both parties will have to submit to his decision.
Although a breakup is usually accompanied by sadness and anger, the purpose of a divorce proceeding is not to fight, but to determine the terms of the new broken family. Thus, a family law lawyer must have good judgement to readjust if necessary. “Sometimes you have to refocus clients,” notes Mtre Louis Baribeau. “We’re not there to crush anyone. It doesn’t do anything to do that. It’s not in their interest.” In the same spirit, the lawyer must decide his strategy wisely, so that his client obtains the best agreement. “Sometimes the situation demands that we be very firm and assertive,” explains Mtre Baribeau. “Often you have to be very flexible and very open.”