Following the breakdown of a relationship, family lawyers face a challenging and, at times unenviable task of helping their client through one of the most difficult periods of their lives. The role is usually evenly split – part lawyer and part counsellor – requiring empathy and objectivity in equal measure.
When I tell people I’m a family lawyer their response and the look on their face is always the same, “How do you do that kind of work?”, or “That must be draining and emotional”. Truth is – it’s all those things. But I do this kind of work because I want to help people. I want to help them get through the separation, deal with the grief cycle, sort out their financial and/or parenting issues and at the end of it all, make sure they are in a position where they can move forward.
When I started my career my then boss gave me some words of wisdom that have stuck with me over the years. He said that if I was going to do this type of work then I needed to make sure I left work at work. Over the years, I’ve learned to listen more and talk less. I have found that clients want an opportunity to tell their story and be heard.
I believe the family law system is fundamentally flawed – how can two people go to Court, exchange affidavits slandering each other, put their lives on hold for 2-3 years and at the end of it all come out if it and effectively co-parent their children? There has to be a better way. It is for these reasons that I am very passionate about alternative dispute resolution (ADR) including mediation and collaborative law.
I always provide clients with the ‘best case/worst case’ scenarios and ensure that they are fully informed about their options whether that be resolving the matter through ADR, or as is sometimes the case, commencing proceedings because there is no alternative.
Family law is incredibly challenging but equally rewarding. I am in the business of relationships, and my work continues to show me that our relationship with those closest to us is the most important thing in life. Sometimes, without warning or explanation, those relationships come to an end. But if you look at it with a glass half full attitude, the end is just the beginning of something new. As Marilyn Munro famously said,
“… everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right… and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together”.
Tash Nolan, Director