At the Beginning: What I Wish every Client knew about Divorce

Divorce is tough.  No way around it.  Even the most amicable of cases are filled with emotion and hardship.  The reason is actually quite simple and obvious: No one enters a marriage thinking that it will end in divorce. 

As a divorce lawyer and mediator, I deal with the legal aspects of dividing a couple’s estate, setting support, and crafting parenting agreements.  There is also the matter of the emotions, which enter into the decision-making process no matter how much we talk about setting priorities based upon reason and logic. Emotions can lead to cloudy judgment, short-sightedness, and indecision.  The good news for clients is that this is all normal – there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

When the process feels murky, unending, and confusing because you are dealing with so much in such a short period of time, know that you are not alone.  I often wish I could transport clients three years into their future so they could see that there isan end to what is happening to them in the moment.

In that vein, here are a few things I wish all clients could feel and understand at the beginning of their case:

  1. It will get better.You will not always feel like you do when you are going through the legal process.  You may not be able to envision what your life will be like or even how you are going to get through this, but it does get better.  The interactions you are having with your soon-to-be ex will change after all of the lawyers, mediators, coaches, judges, and financial experts exit your life.  You will settle into a new normal with a new schedule and cadence which will feel much more natural.
  2. Yes, the process is awkward.  Sitting in a settlement meeting, mediation, or a court room with someone with whom you share children and thought you would spend the rest of your life with is daunting and scary.  Suddenly this person is sitting at a table across from you with a bunch of strangers and you all are talking about ending your marriage. Understand this:  The professionals know it’s awkward.  We are just used to it and are doing our best to make it feel relaxed yet professional – its’ a balancing act.  But it is not lost on us that it is difficult and awkward.
  3. Your children see, hear, and feel way more than you think they do. Parents listen up!  Those little eyes and ears are everywhere.  And tweens and teenagers are as perceptive as adults.  They are sponges, and even if you think that you are insulating them from tension and arguments, they still feel it.  The best thing you can do for them is make sure they have a therapist to check-in with as needed and support them with their feelings.
  4. Reason and logic-ish are your best friends. If you can make decisions based on reason and logic, you will put yourself in a significantly better position.  When reason and logic fly out the window, it is because emotions take over.  Now, you will not be able to eliminate your emotions.  You are human. But understanding how your emotions affect your decision-making will help you separate yourself from those emotions when you need to make a critical decision.
  5. Yes, there is life after divorce.  You just can’t see it right now.  But that’s part of the process.  I can’t tell you how many times I have had a client who tells me that they will never get married again.  Never, they say.  Ever.  Those are the clients who end up calling for a prenup.  And as their former divorce lawyer, it is wonderful to see those clients happy and looking forward to the next chapter of their life. 
  6. Your children will be okay. If you keep your children front and center, support them, co-parent on major decisions, and you and your ex-spouse are able to be in the same room together, your children will adjust.  Child psychologists consistently tell parents how adaptable children are if their parents are aligned on a parenting plan.  And children of divorce often say in their adulthood that whether their parents could (or could not) be in the same room together at big events such as sporting events, graduations, and weddings was formative in their childhood.  Putting your children as your highest priority during the divorce not only will help anchor your decisions, but will benefit your entire family. Your family unit survives the divorce.  It is just restructured.