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Family law is not your family's friend, from Ask the Experts' Gretchen Walther

???????????????????????????????????????I’d like to talk about two disciplines not usually considered in the same context: the law and psychology. Psychology is about how we work as human beings, how we think and feel, while the law is about enforcing rules of conduct, most usually those based on our society’s notion of individual rights.

These disciplines tend to exist in different universes. The law simply has no place for how people feel and “people feeling” don’t usually give a hoot about “legal rights.”

The problem with family law is that families tend to feel a lot. In fact, divorce, custody and even prenuptial agreements are likely to bring out the most primal of feelings … and place them right in the crosshairs of a discipline totally unequipped to deal with them.

When clients come to me with a family law issue, they come looking for a practical fix, but also for a resolution that will leave them feeling understood: Their grief or joy perceived and acknowledged. They want a human experience. They want resolution at the level of relationship.

The family law arsenal for dealing with that? “Let’s file a motion.”

It’s pretty predictable. As Maslow famously said, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

To be responsive to the needs of families, family law has to evolve to putting as much weight on the personal aspects of family conflict as on the legal aspects. There is some progress afoot, but it is a long way from being included in the everyday practice most people encounter when they face a legal family dispute. Until it is, I’m afraid the words “family” and “law” will remain just about as compatible as “airline” and “food.”

About Gretchen Walther

Gretchen Walther is managing partner of Walther Family Law and a board-certified family law specialist. Find out more about Gretchen or family law at or contact Gretchen at<br>