If you practice family law for any length of time, you are likely at some point to experience secondary trauma. The massive changes our society has undergone, and is still undergoing, have affected families—and therefore family law—more than any other legal practice area and will continue to do so. We already experience stress from the constant adjustment of our methods and practices to deal with new situations, some of which are not yet adequately covered by current law. Consider for a moment:

  1. The advent of same-sex marriage and same-sex divorce, as well as the continued challenges same-sex couples still face.
  2. New kinds of blended families that may include his, her and their children, as well as both biological and adopted children.
  3. Families from other countries that may have children and property here and abroad and have radically different marriage (and divorce) customs in their countries of origin.
  4. New kinds of methods of reproduction, including in vitro fertilization and the use of surrogate mothers, which are also being challenged by new legislation.
  5. The heightened friction and polarization in society, which is bleeding into families and the work of those who serve families.

Now, on top of all that, we are dealing with many clients who are going through one of the worst experiences of their lives. Our clients and their soon-to-be exes are naturally emotional and upset. We may spend hours every day coping with people who are deeply unhappy and distraught.

Susan Myres is a Houston-based, board-certified family lawyer with more than 35 years
of experience.