Episode 5 of the Split centres around Hannah and Nathan’s crumbling marriage following the disclosure of Nathan’s name being listed on an extra marital website.
Like anyone who has just discovered their partner has been unfaithful, Hannah is determined to find out the extent of Nathan’s infidelity and she instructs a private detective, one whom she conveniently has instructed for her client Goldie. As the private detective remarks - “in this digital age, affairs are easier but it’s harder to hide them”.
Hannah’s subsequent discoveries and torment lead to a collision of her two roles as a family lawyer assisting the betrayed wife, and the betrayed wife herself.
Inevitably, given the nature of our work, family lawyers naturally bring their personal experiences and values to the table as much as their legal expertise and years of practice. While most family lawyers endeavour to keep their individual lives at home, our own life experiences, the positive but especially the negative, can inevitably influence how we go about resolving client matters.
While I don’t necessarily agree with the comments of one family lawyer who remarked to me when I was going through my own divorce “I don’t think you can be a great family lawyer without having experienced divorce personally”, I can see what he meant. For me, the experience of my own divorce has had a far bigger impact on the way I practise than having had my two children. I believe it’s made me a better and more empathetic lawyer and mediator, not least as a reminder that my clients have their own concerns and battles they want to fight (or give up), some of which may seem trivial in the family law context or not align with the views of their lawyer but which can be hugely important to them and affect their decision making.
Countless unresolved issues over money and the children are in fact not about the money or the children but they are often about the different stages each partner is at in coming to terms with the breakdown of the relationship. We see this with Goldie, who in episode 5 is being asked to accept an apparently generous financial settlement offer when she is still reeling from the discovery that her husband has a ten year old child with her best friend.
To be a good family lawyer, it is essential that you have empathy for your clients and that you really listen to their individual concerns and objectives. It is also important that we recognise that they are asked to make huge decisions at a time when they can be at their most emotionally fragile. It is therefore essential to know when to bring in other professionals (usually early on) as most people experiencing a relationship breakup can benefit from counselling or therapeutic support for themselves individually and/or as a couple.
Hannah still has a long journey ahead in coming to terms with her own difficulties with Nathan. They would undoubtedly be wise to seek professional counselling in order to work out how they got into the place they find themselves, if they can rescue their marriage and also to improve their communication for the benefit of their future relationship, especially for the children. Whether the writers have scripted Hannah and Nathan with a relationship counsellor into this or any 2nd series remains to be seen.