Entering the world of family law, attorney Julie Rountree anticipated dealing with a lot of emotions. What she couldn’t foresee was how blurred the line would become between serving as her divorce client’s legal advocate and their counselor.
Now, as a certified divorce coach and founder of the coaching company, Divorce Coaching Solutions, she has been helping clients navigate the difficult process of divorce with a holistic approach, focused on helping clients move forward with their lives in a positive and productive way.
“Early in my practice I used to think, ‘well, this comes with the territory, it’s family law, of course it’s going to be emotional,’” she says. “But after years of working with so many of my clients going through the trauma of divorce who felt confused, intimidated, anxious and so obviously overwhelmed with the whole process, I began to feel overwhelmed myself. I felt like I should be able to do more for them which created stress in my own career, and I began to lose focus of my reasons for practicing family law.”
Rountree’s background is in law, but she quickly realized her passion is in supporting people emotionally and practically during divorce. Prior to discovering the relatively new concept of divorce coaching, she felt something lacking in her efforts to help her divorce clients. Although she was an excellent legal advisor, she didn’t feel qualified as a therapist. And she questioned if it was appropriate to be charging her clients legal fees, when so much of the time was really spent sorting out emotions?
“I realized that I was spending a lot of time with my clients on non-legal issues, yet had to charge them attorney rates,” she says. “That didn’t seem right, so I started wondering if there was another professional who could help them with these problems and charge a lot less.”
Missing Puzzle Piece
These concerns led Rountree on a quest to find what she calls “the missing puzzle piece” of the family law puzzle, which led to exploring the concept of divorce coaches.
“Basically, a divorce coach is someone who supports the client as they’re going through the divorce or even other family law issues,” Rountree explains. “An attorney is trained to guide their clients through the legal process whereas as a divorce coach, I’m also trained to support them through their emotional journey.”
Although she became certified as a coach in Florida, her certification is recognized throughout the 50 states and Rountree not only has clients across the country, but also helps them navigate a variety of family law issues as well as divorce.
“I conduct sessions virtually with clients in other states, so location isn’t a problem. Also, I have many clients that have paternity issues or a break-up for instance,” she says, “but they’re still going through kind of the same issues that we would find in a divorce. As coaches we really support our clients, we become what I like to call their ‘thinking partner’ or sounding board. We help them make the best decisions moving forward and guide them in becoming the best version of themselves not only during the divorce but also through the transition that comes after.”
Those who haven’t gone through a divorce cannot fully appreciate how complex and confusing the process can be. Because there are so many unresolved issues and emotions are running high, it can be challenging for the attorneys, especially those representing the “wronged” party to keep their client focused and moving forward.
“Frequently my clients are stuck on the event or events that led to the divorce,” says Rountree. “They are still focused on the feelings of betrayal and the wounds are still so fresh they struggle to get past that. Then there are those who come to me, and they really aren’t even certain they want a divorce. Still wavering they’ll ask for advice, ‘should I stay, or should I go?’ As a coach I can help them sort out their feelings and decide on what they really want.
“Many times, I’m helping them address their emotions so they can move on to the practical aspects of the divorce,” she adds. “Most people don’t even know their options. We talk about marriage counseling or mediation or even a collaborative divorce. The point is, immediately hiring an attorney may not always be the answer for everyone. Whichever path they choose, I help prepare them and ensure they have reasonable expectations of the legal system. I can help them with questions to ask their attorney and help them get their thoughts organized so when they do sit down with their attorney, they are fully prepared. Ultimately, this means when they meet with their attorney it’s more efficient, they are saving time and money and it provides the attorney with a very organized, credible client who has their goals and outcomes in mind.”
One of the unique aspects of Rountree’s coaching technique is that she takes a collaborative approach with her clients. Rather than dictating what they should do, she works with them to create a personalized plan reflecting their specific situation and needs. She also emphasizes the importance of self-care during the divorce process and works with her clients to prioritize their physical and emotional health.
“It’s virtually impossible to make sound decisions when your mind is tangled,” says Rountree. “I realize that going through something as traumatic as a divorce takes a toll on a person, so I encourage my clients to take care of themselves. To do something that brings them joy and find a minute to celebrate themselves, and forgive their spouse in order to move forward.”
Rountree’s coaching sessions typically cover a wide range of topics from practical issues such as legal and financial matters to emotional aspects such as grieving their lost relationship. They even discuss issues such as how to discuss the topic of divorce with children, family and friends. While providing emotional support and guidance throughout the process she also helps her clients set goals and create a plan to achieve them.
Step By Step
In addition to her one-on-one coaching services, Rountree’s current goal is to spread the word about divorce coaching and how this amazing resource helps not only family law clients but the attorneys who represent them. Rountree believes that having a certified divorce coach as part of the law firm’s legal team is invaluable to the client.
“Providing access to a coach truly reinvents the divorce experience for the clients, attorneys, and anyone involved in family case law,” she says. “I’ve made it a priority to help clients sort through the emotional part of divorce, become more involved in their own cases, and thrive in the post-divorce transition once the lawyers and judges were out of the picture. I knew I had to reinvent the divorce experience by providing support to my clients, as well as guidance, focus, and tools for a peaceful transformation.”