Maintaining Civility and Sanity in Divorce

I want to preface this post with the fact that attorneys are not mental health counselors. We do not have classes in law school, or questions on the Bar exam, pertaining to mental health counseling. However, there are some trends in family law cases that I have noticed and would like to discuss below.

A while back, a friend of mine shared that he and the mother of their children (note: I did not use ex-wife because that is derogatory) and her new husband shared a holiday dinner together with their children. My friend and the mother decided to do this because they were mature enough to realize that their children, despite the divorce, wanted to spend the holidays with both of their parents; not one parent on one day and then, abruptly, one parent on the next day. This is a beautiful example of the type of self-control and selflessness that all divorce clients, especially those with children, should carefully aim to achieve (see my blog post “Out of the Gate”). In fact, when I was growing up in my extended family, it was not uncommon for former spouses to partake in our 50-70 person family holiday dinners for the same reasons. I never viewed the former spouses as “ex-wife or ex-husband,” but as the mother or father, period.

It is not uncommon for family law attorneys to hear that family law clients no longer want to have any communication with the other spouse. While this may be a necessary action in cases involving domestic violence, or to give the spouses a “cooling off” period, spouses need to be able to talk with the other spouse. While, perhaps, a spouse may not ever be able to achieve sharing holidays with the other spouse for purposes of the children, he or she can at least aim for wishing the other person happiness and success and engage in civil conversation with the other spouse as needed. Even in cases where the other spouse has cheated, spouses have to think to themselves that something great is out there and wish the other spouse happiness and success in life and love. This is a happy mentality and family law clients who are able to come to this mental state on their own or through counseling get through their divorce cases faster and are able to move on to bigger and better things.

Note that I said “come to this mental state on their own or through counseling.” I did not say “through lengthy discussions with friends or family members.” I have noticed a trend that clients who keep their family law matters to themselves are more focused and get through their divorce cases faster. Family law clients who talk with their friends, hear about what “so and so” got in their divorce case and belabor the issue with every person they meet tend to belabor their divorce cases. When friends or family members talk about “what they got” in their divorce case, they do not tend to talk about what they did not get or give up; for example, someone may have an amazing spousal or child support award, but relinquished their right to their house and/or their interest in a business.

One of my favorite judges put it best “a divorce is like a business transaction and should be treated accordingly.” When you hear about a merger and acquisition, you do not hear about the CEO’s feelings. When Mark Zuckerberg acquires another business, you do not hear him wax poetic about his “feelings” pertaining to the business venture. You hear numbers and facts and projections for the future. If judges are focusing on numbers and facts, what do you think you need to be focused on? How your spouse is a cheating, lying, (and my personal favorite) “manipulative” so and so? How your friend got “x” in his or her divorce and you feel you should get the same? Nope. Judges are finders of fact, not finders of feelings. This is why I recommend to all of my clients to find a good mental health counselor and stick to the facts and numbers. Those who can do this tend to get through their divorce cases faster and tend to spend less on attorney’s fees and costs. For more information on recommendations that I make to family law clients with children at the start of their divorce cases, please see my blog entitled “Out of the Gate.”

This material is provided for educational purposes only. Providing this information does not establish an attorney/client relationship. None of the information contained in this blog should be acted upon without first consulting with an attorney. Should you have questions about the content of this blog, please arrange to discuss via a consultation.