Cape Argus

Divorce lawyer helps piece
together broken marriages
A new book advises that a legal split should be a last resort, writes Melanie Peters
A DIVORCE lawyer who offers advice on how to save marriages? Surely not in this life, many would say - after all, divorces are their bread and butter. But Alastair van Huyssteen, a Cape Town attorney for more than 25 years, believes divorce should be a couple's last resort. He hopes that in drawing from his experience in handling divroces, he can help couples whose relationships are in turmoil. Van Huyssteen has written a book called The Giant Puzzle which offers married couples advice on how to survive a relationship crisis or breakdown. He said it was not a book about the legal aspects of divorce, but rather dealt with relationships under stress. It presented a unique and affirming discussion about identifying the missing pieces in a relationship, and fitting these back in to the equation. He said he had not set out to write a book, but it had evolved out of various processes. He was asked to write an article on divorce for a medical newspaper and opted to deal with the emotional side rather than the boring legalities. This later became the subject matter of a pamphlet he gave to his clients, and a friend then encouraged him to expand the material into a book. Van Huyssteen said divorce rates had risen because society had become more accepting of it. "A divorce does not happen in court but when a relationship has come to an end. People who have been married for 30 years have gone through their own private divorce during the course of their relationship but have learnt to love their partner again and 'remarried' each other again." He said anyone who said divorce was the easy way out had not been through one and was talking nonsense. "The legalities are easy but the emotional split is extremely difficult. For many it's often the last option." He said the book would help ease the anxieties of couples experiencing relationship problems and who wanted to divorce. "The anxiety and the pressure of going into the unknown can turn into a war zone because people can't see the wood for the trees." He said if the veil of stress was lifted, the couple were able to pause to consider the situation, their choices and the consequences, and see things more clearly. They might opt to reconcile, or if they still wanted to split they would do so amicably. Van Huyssteen said he did not think he was not being true to his calling because, he felt, all lawyers who handled divorces should get couples to reconsider reconciliation. "A lawyer's task and calling is to help people find the right solution."

This article was published in the Cape Argus on May 14th, 2005