There are more obvious long-term physical effects of trauma. If we look at a veteran of war who comes home after losing a limb. They may have been fitted with the most advanced artificially intelligent limb you can imagine, but they’re still going to have a memory of that traumatic event. Their body is going to have a memory of that missing limb. Although the trauma is in the past, the body doesn’t forget.
Studies show the more traumatic experiences we have, the more it affects our physical body. Interestingly, when someone says they have stage fright and they can’t breathe, one of the reasons is because, in the belly region, we carry most of our nerves and nerve endings. When a person has suffered a trauma more we shut down our breathing, we’re not getting oxygen being pumped throughout the blood to the brain. This reaction to trauma causes us to become more anxious and physically less healthy.
Trauma experts have spent time focusing on breathing to assist patients with gaining more resilience. As an attorney, we can do this with clients, even without having to delve into what the situation may be. The physical health and benefit of belly breathing is an excellent remedy for what otherwise could be increased physical stress on the body.
When we’re triggered, all-of-a-sudden we’re losing our sense of communication and our sense of intimacy. When this happens, we lose our ability to relate to another with a deep sense of respect and honor. When this occurs, meaning someone’s earliest traumas go unchecked, it may breed narcissism and other self-indulgent behaviors. What we’re trying to prevent is the repeating of these old patterns.
Moral And Legal Principles Of Trauma In Family Law
There is a moral and ethical approach to dealing with some very difficult conversations in family law. One example is a client is having an affair and they’re committed to continuing the affair, although they recognize the harm that’s being done to their spouse. At that point, you could go full-stop and recognize there’s a whole study of moral and legal principles at play in this example. When there’s evidence of adultery, depending on the jurisdiction, it’s going to be a factor in the divorce. In Maryland, for example, it’s one of 12 factors that’s going to be looked at in shaping alimony. It’s not going to be an all-consuming factor but it’s going to be looked at. In an adversarial breakup we may often see private investigators that are aimed at shaming the cheating spouse and ultimately using it as leverage in their divorce settlement. Simply the conversation about an individual committing adultery, though in some circles may be considered acceptable, in terms of the integrity of the marital vows there is a breach. If there’s continuing bad behavior that’s being done secretly, punitively, or maliciously, then that could raise the stakes of an award of alimony, depending on the circumstances of the couple and the family.
This could also apply to embezzlement of funds from the marital assets. The spouse who depletes marital funds either out of spite, greed, anger or you name it, has some serious moral, ethical and legal challenges to face. The whole concept of using a mediative or collaborative approach is to tamp down the emotional states in order to avoid one spouse from completely going off the rails and sabotaging any remaining good will that exists in the relationship.
There are several moral factors addressed in family law. Often clients may say, “We’re divorcing and we’re separating. I want to be able to see and date, but I don’t want to do that unless I know I have permission given that we’re separated”. This is an adult form of behavior. To raise that issue, to address the issue, and to see what concerns there are. When there are children involved, then this will factor into the parenting plan. It factors into the types of conversations about when to introduce someone to the children or should you introduce them to your soon-to-be-ex-spouse first? How long should you be dating before introducing the children? A whole series of questions comes out about the welfare of the children and how they should be exposed to the new partner.
Another example is when there is a misappropriation of funds in the marriage. The legal implication is that you have misappropriated, or depleted the marital assets, intentionally harming the other spouse. We could take a step back from both the affair or the depleting of marital assets and ask, “What were the behaviors that might have caused someone to do that? What were they so afraid of that they couldn’t, in a healthy way, raise their concerns with their spouse? What happened to prevent them from being respectful and honoring this person that they vowed to stay true to?”
Another example of a moral topic in family law is the role of the gatekeeper. The gatekeeper is one parent that has the children and looks for excuses or reasons to keep the children away from the other spouse and/or grandparents to be malicious. The moral and ethical piece here is clear. The best interest of the children is to be exposed to each parent for as much time as they can, as well as the grandparents. This is presuming that each of these individuals are healthy, functioning adults, and are not putting the children in harm’s way. But the question is, are they gatekeeping to be abusive because of some sort of trauma that they experienced as a child that’s showing up in this form?
The use of an interim agreement is an important procedural method to incorporate understandings reached between spouses or partners as they proceed through the rest of the separation or divorce process. In other words, all outstanding and preliminary issues need to get addressed in order to maintain balance and cooperative behavior. We could cover that without having to go to court. We could work through those issues and come up with an interim agreement that’s going to be a thoughtful, meaningful approach to how the couple is going to work together as they go through this divorce process. You can imagine that if you don’t have that type of agreement to start the process, then everything else on top of that is going to be a who’s to blame situation. We’re just continuing to act on top of those broken agreements that we started with.