Couple discussing with a Family Counsellor

The Benefits & Limitations of a Family Counsellor

When faced with separation or divorce in Maple Ridge, Langley, New Westminster, Burnaby or Coquitlam, a few different approaches can be used to work through the process in the most effective and least emotionally difficult way.


Some people strictly employ a lawyer to handle their case in a traditional way, dealing with their spouse’s lawyer, and attempting to negotiate a settlement agreement and custody arrangements (failing which, the parties may need a formal court hearing to reach a resolution). Others employ a lawyer or mediation professional to engage in “collaborative family law”, which is a unique  approach to resolving family issues that aims to take a less adversarial approach.


However, prior to using either a lawyer or mediator, some individuals use a family counsellor or registered clinical counsellor. A family counsellor may help to foster better communication in the anticipation of the work ahead on difficult and contentious issues that arise when trying to finalize a separation agreement. A family counsellor may also be considered if at least one of the parties believes the marriage may be salvageable.


What Are The Benefits of a Family Counsellor?


A family counsellor may help promote communication where two spouses struggle to discuss matters in an effective and positive manner. The counsellor may help each spouse to understand the other’s viewpoint and communication style and their own strengths and weaknesses. The counsellor can also act as a moderator during spouses’ conversations to ensure that each spouse hears the other. The counsellor can help to maintain a respectful and peaceful environment for communication.


A counsellor may also help the parties reconcilie where that is possible or, at the very least, forgive, which often helps foster more fruitful communications moving forward. The counsellor can help the parties discuss a parenting plan where children are involved and the methods to communicate in the future. For example, by text or by an annual meeting with a counsellor or through a joint online notebook.


How Can a Lawyer Help Where a Family Counsellor Cannot?


While it is always important to remain on good terms with your spouse, it is prudent to speak with a lawyer about the law, your rights, your entitlements and your responsibilities in your case. Here are some reasons why this is recommended:


1. A Lawyer Has a Full Understanding of Your Legal Rights and Entitlements


While reaching a solution collaboratively is always ideal, you should know what you are legally entitled to. A lawyer’s understanding of the law and the legal process will give you a better idea of the possible range of outcomes in your situation, whether you resolve matters outside the courtroom or inside the courtroom. Keeping the peace with your spouse is important, but no more important than ensuring that you end up with a resolution that is fair and that is similar to what you are legally entitled to under the current law.


2. A Family Counsellor Has Limited Power At Law


Should you ultimately need to litigate your case or go to arbitration to reach a binding resolution, a family counsellor will be unable to represent you at hearings or prepare the legal arguments necessary to achieve the best outcome. This is beyond the scope of their skill set.


3. A Lawyer Can Provide Common Sense Advice and Support


While most family lawyers are trained in collaborative techniques, family lawyers are not trained as counsellors. A family lawyer will have experience in dealing with relationship breakdowns. A lawyer is always required to work in her client’s’ best interests and this requires her to carefully listen to what the client wants from the process. There are often many ways to achieve the result you wish. How you get there will depend on the experience and creativity of the lawyer you choose. A good lawyer will listen to what you hope to achieve and suggest the best route to achieve that result in your situation. A family law lawyer must be extremely practical and ensure the resolution works both today and in the future.


4. A Lawyer Has The Ability To Protect Your Legal Interests If Things Go Sideways


In the event that your spouse does not comply with the terms of an existing settlement agreement or Order, a family counsellor will be unable to help you take the necessary legal action to enforce the agreement or Order. An experienced family lawyer will know how to ensure the legal documents are enforced.


5. There Are Situations Where Counselling Is Ineffective

While in many cases, family counselling is an excellent way to facilitate a happier and more fruitful resolution between separating spouses, there are situations where it simply may not make sense. If you are dealing with an abusive or manipulative spouse or there has been family violence in your household, family counselling may just prolong this difficult process, and lead to further and  unnecessary expenses.


Consider Your Best Resource, Valerie M. Little, Family Lawyer


Talk to Valerie to discuss whether a counsellor may be of assistance in facilitating better communication between you and your spouse. Valerie M. Little is a separation and divorce lawyer in New Westminster with over 25 years of experience in family law. Call her office staff today at 604-526-3333 to arrange your initial confidential in office consultation to discuss your options in how to resolve your family law problems.

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