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Managing Stress

Is my stress normal?

Separation and Family Law cases include many stress factors. Stress is a normal reaction! Stresses come from (and this is in no way an exhaustive list):

Feelings of stress arise when situations feel outside our control. Being stressed in these circumstances is entirely natural and appropriate to the situation.

How can I cope with these stresses?

If you find everything is getting too much, sit down with a close family member or a counsellor and prioritise what you need to do. You may decide that work will have to suffer and perhaps you need some time off for stress. Speak to your GP.

Again, use telephone help lines if you need to - it´s what they´re there for. They are staffed by caring people. The Samaritans operate 24 hours a day. They may have other advice on what you can do to help reduce some of your stress. While you cannot remove yourself from this situation, you do have to get through it, so try to make it manageable. Their telephone number is 08457 90 90 90.

If you find yourself venting at your solicitor, remember it costs upwards of £150 an hour to talk to them, while a counsellor costs £35 an hour and is better qualified to help you cope emotionally. You can find a local private counsellor by contacting the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy or by being referred by your General Practitioner. You can also find a counsellor from The Counselling Directory.

Accept that you are only human, and don´t be embarrassed by asking for help.

This site, the support guides and tools were set up to help with stress. We believe that being informed helps people to cope. We wanted to remove the sense of powerlessness that the family courts can evoke.

My work is suffering, what can I do?

It may be better to take time out, rather than struggle on at work when you´re not hitting targets or reaching the required level of performance. Your health is important for both yourself and your children.

Ensure your employer is aware of the difficulties you are experiencing. Speak to your General Practitioner and consider being signed off work due to stress.

If you have been suffering from stress for more than twelve months, legally this could count as a disability, further strengthening your legal rights. Contact the Disability Rights Commission who will be able to advise you.

My ex-partner winds me up, what should I do?

If anything contentious comes up while talking to your ex-partner, refuse to discuss it immediately by saying you want to think about what they have said. Agree to write to them, or ask them to write to you. This gives you time to consider what you say, and have someone else check your reply. Ideally, have your solicitor read, edit, and then send the letter on your behalf.

Arguments with your ex-partner won´t make the situation better, and are likely to put you in a much weaker position.

I want the Court to see how difficult my ex is

The Court will respect you if you keep your concerns objective while the case is proceeding (and afterwards) and will take note of your behaviour. Keep statements to the Court unemotional and factual, and concentrate on concerns about your children and their relationship with you.

I want my kids to know I´m not the ´bad´ party?

Disparaging your ex-partner to your children will cause them emotional harm. By all means speak to a close family member about how dreadful your ex-partner is if you need to, but it isn´t appropriate to say this to your children.

Be aware that discussing the details of the case with friends is not allowed in law (see our guide on Courts and Confidentiality). To help you to cope with the emotional stresses of the Court Case, the law allows you to discuss details of the case with a close family member or a counsellor.

Your children will make up their own minds and who is at fault matters less than how your children are cared for. Be a loving and capable parent and this will be how they perceive you to be.

What else can I do?

Humour and laughter help to relieve stress so see the irony in situations where you can. Letting out pent-up emotion reduces feelings of stress, so don´t be afraid to cry. Find places where you can let out emotions safely, and with people who will be supportive.

Try to have some activities that take you away from the situation. Don´t feel guilty about going out with friends and having some fun if you feel able to.

Stress can take its toll on you physically, so ensure you eat healthily and get plenty of sleep. Taking part in sport will also help since exercise stimulates the production of endorphins and natural opiates that help to create a sense of well-being. Sport can also help with self-esteem and act as a distraction from the Court case.

Are there things I shouldn´t do?

Don´t turn to drink and cut down on the caffeine in your diet. Both of these can increase feelings of anxiety.

Will everyone understand my stress?

Not necessarily. You need to consider how you are perceived.

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Michael Robinson © 2014

Family law information for parents whose children are resident in England and Wales

Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's printer for Scotland.

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