Counselling a must for couples before resorting to divorce

The increasing divorce rates are of concern ("2015 marital break-ups 3rd highest on record"; last Thursday).

We need to consider why marriages fail. Ineffective communication skills, high expectations of each other and insufficient preparation for the journey of marriage are some of the reasons.

Estranged couples should consider seeking professional counselling when they experience marital woes. This will help them to identify the problems, find solutions and work on the marriage.

They can also obtain clarity as to whether their marriage is capable of being saved or has to be ended.

Often, couples whose marriages have broken down hold on to the marriage for the sake of their children, to provide a complete family to them. Sometimes, more harm is done to children in these marriages, as they become badly affected by their parents' disputes.

As a family lawyer, the first question I ask clients is whether they are absolutely sure they want to file for divorce. I have seen many cases where clients have a change of mind after the commencement of divorce proceedings and decide to discontinue them.

This is not only a waste of financial resources for the couple, but the aborted divorce proceedings also have a negative impact on the marriage. This often leads to further problems in the marriage.

To support couples whose marriages break down, the ecosystem must consist of lawyers, counsellors and the court, working together to assist in saving marriages or helping the parties to end the marriage amicably with minimum emotional pain.

Family lawyers have a civic responsibility to assist their clients who are uncertain about divorce in seeking professional help.

Couples must also be given an opportunity to attempt to resolve their marital, child, financial and property matters amicably through mediation or collaborative family practice.

Only when the couple have sought the help of family mediators and collaborative family practitioners, should they consider filing for divorce in court.

Rajan Chettiar

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2016, with the headline 'Counselling a must for couples before resorting to divorce'. Print Edition | Subscribe