21st February 2024

By Judi-Beth Atwood 

In the intricate tapestry of family law, a disconcerting narrative often unfolds—one that remains conspicuously absent from public discourse. This opinion piece seeks to cast light upon the maladaptive behaviors entrenched in family law attorneys, a phenomenon exacerbated by an industry built upon the pillars of deception, dishonesty, and bullying. Drawing a poignant parallel with the experiences of domestic violence victims, the intent is to unravel how the constructs within the legal profession contribute to the development of maladaptive behaviors in attorneys, ultimately influencing their approach to cases involving familial disputes.

The correlation between intimate partner violence victimization and maladaptive schemas, particularly in the disconnection and rejection domain, offers a stark illustration of the profound impact of abusive relationships on individuals. In a similar vein, this piece endeavors to scrutinize the family law environment and how it becomes a breeding ground for maladaptive behaviors in attorneys, establishing an unsettling parallel between the distorted worldviews of victims and legal practitioners.

Much like victims of abuse drawn into neglectful relationships, family law attorneys may unwittingly adopt maladaptive behaviors rooted in deceit, manipulation, and cruelty. This exploration aims to shine a spotlight on an area that demands greater scrutiny, emphasizing the connection between the legal industry’s constructs and attorneys’ inclination toward behaviors aligned with the disconnection and rejection domain.

Drawing parallels between victimization and the impaired autonomy domain reveals shared struggles faced by abuse victims and family law attorneys. Ensnared in an industry prioritizing power dynamics and manipulation, attorneys may exhibit impaired autonomy, hindering their ability to approach cases with objectivity and ethical considerations. It’s time to confront the challenges that impede genuine advocacy and change within the profession.

The correlation between other-directedness and victimization sheds light on a tendency among both victims and attorneys to prioritize external factors over ethical considerations and self-awareness. This piece underscores how this dynamic perpetuates maladaptive behaviors in attorneys, impeding their ability to advocate for clients while maintaining professional integrity.

In the face of these challenges, there emerges a glimmer of hope. Inspired by evidence suggesting the benefits of schema therapy for abuse victims, this piece concludes with a discussion on potential avenues for reform within the family law sector. Schema therapy, a comprehensive therapeutic approach, offers a roadmap for attorneys to address and modify their maladaptive schemas, fostering a more ethical and empathetic approach to family law practice.

By acknowledging the prevalence of maladaptive behaviors within the legal profession and advocating for therapeutic interventions, we can aspire to catalyze a transformative journey toward a family law system characterized by empathy, integrity, and justice.