McCarthy says a family lawyer’s goal in every case is an elegant divorce. “Sometimes people say I’m not interested in an elegant divorce, I’m interested in vengeance, and I say, ‘I don’t think I’m going to be the right person for you because I’m not here to be an instrument of your revenge.”

At the beginning of a family law proceeding, McCarthy says many people are hurt, assaulted and often going through the five stages of grief written by psychologist Kubler Hyson Ross – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. She says people in family law proceedings are not ready to bargain until they have moved through the anger and denial stages and are at the end goal of acceptance.

Some clients come for a family law consultation prematurely. For example, McCarthy says someone who finds out on Thursday that their spouse is in an extramarital affair and has a consult on Friday is too early and cannot hear the legal advice, receive, or evaluate it because they are in full crisis and trauma. She says they must get to a place where they can have rational conversations, hear advice, and think about things reasonably.

“There’s nothing wrong with taking two, three weeks or a month from the initial crisis moment to talk to your counselor or get some therapy. You can’t consume legal services if the volume of the emotional content is too high.”

McCarthy says about half of her initial consults have a helper in the room, which is highly encouraged. She says lawyers in family law never mind consulting with a family member or best friend because many people need a helper and find it helpful to have a “second set of ears.”

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