As a retired trial attorney, I handled hundreds of divorces, and have personally been through two marriages that ended in divorce.
I learned that it is critical for lawyers to guide their clients through an experience that is emotionally charged, life-changing and potentially devastating.
Therefore, I gave each of my clients the following list of 10 Commandments of divorce to help them through the quagmire.
The 10 Commandments of Divorce
Divorce is Not the End of the World
All relationships have a life span, some last longer than others. Just because your marriage is ending doesn’t mean anyone did anything wrong. Many times, relationships last too long and become unhealthy. Most importantly, you can learn from the past and let go of incompatible people.
The Best Revenge is to Be Happy
When you obsess about what you or your partner did wrong, it changes nothing and only causes you stress and discontent. Revenge is often the gasoline poured on the flames of separation. This is how many people approach divorce, as a war with no survivors. Therefore, the key is for you to focus on yourself, on how you can be successful and happy.
Better to be Happy than Right
I always asked my clients with fire in their eyes and acid on their tongues “do you want to be happy or to be right?” In other words, do you want to prove your partner is a bad person and you are a victim? In my experience, it is always more painful and expensive to be right. Let the lawyer focus on getting the best result in splitting up the marital assets, the client seeks the resources they need to heal.
“No One Ever Gets Married To Become Divorced”
Focus on the Good Parts
Because clients tell me their tales of woe and years of abuse, I ask them why they got married in the first place. Often times they married for security, prestige, financial status or other reasons that had nothing to do with love. I would point out that they could still love their ex even though the marriage is ending. Besides, focusing on bad experiences would only prolong their bitterness and being the victim.
Be An Adult
Many times, the former couple acts more like adolescents in their divorce than adults. Emotionally mature adults do not want to hurt someone they love and express compassion, empathy, and gratitude. Therefore, many divorces completely lacked these attributes. The lawyer has to be the adult and guide the client through this process.
Be Aware of Children
While clients can feel like they are the victims, the only victims in a divorce are children. Because they did not cause the divorce; they did not ask for it. Both parents must have a unified front for the children’s best interests. Children need emotional support and comfort; they don’t need money or stuff. Be aware that children consciously or unconsciously hold power over their parents when parents are feeling guilty.
“The Devil Is In The Details And You Are Capable of Embracing Them”
Prepare for Financial Questions
Courts require a detailed accounting of finances for equitable distribution. Be ready to answer basic questions about bank accounts, insurance policies, intangible assets, business interests, stocks, and other assets. It is a lot easier to get this information while you are still in the relationship.
The Lawyer is Not a Therapist
It is my opinion that the judicial system is not designed to control people going through a divorce. I often heard complaints about the other party that would be better served by therapy with a mental health expert. If you are feeling emotionally distraught, it is smart to find a helpful therapist. Because lawyers are not trained to deal with emotional issues.
Kill Them with Kindness
My mother had a lot of sayings, including: “when you are up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remember your initial objective was to drain the swamp.” And “kill them with kindness” was her way of saying you don’t have to react to bad behavior in kind. Oftentimes when in emotional distress people will do or say something to make the situation worse and escalate to regrettable behavior. I would remind clients that they once thought their ex was the best person in the world. Most importantly, being kind will always help to keep the peace.
“It Will All Work Out In The End…And If It Doesn’t Work Out, It Wasn’t The End”
This Too Shall Pass
Misery is often short-lived if you let it be. People will grieve and suffer during a divorce, this is a fact of life. However, as counselors at law, oftentimes lawyers can be a calming and healing influence. People do not have to go to every fight they are invited to.
Ex’s don’t have to be friends, but for the good of all it is better they remain friendly. Everything changes, and just like the marriage, the divorce will be a distant memory one day.
It is crucial that people going through divorce remember that they are adults. Being childish, selfish, or vindictive does not help. Oftentimes our maturity is tested when we go through the trauma of divorce and being the adult in the room will benefit you from start to finish.