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How You Can Help the Person Getting Divorced

As a divorce lawyer, it's often not just the client that we deal with but the client's friends and family. Those well-intentioned friends and family often don't know how to help so it's time to give some suggestions to the friends and family of the person soon to be divorced. Here are my suggestions on how to help the person in your life going through a divorce:

  1. Make sure the divorcing person has lots of support people. The divorce will likely take longer than anyone thinks it should take and it will be emotionally draining. The client needs lots of people to talk to during this time; not just one person.
  2. Don't take sides. Taking sides is a form of all or nothing thinking that reinforces seeing one person as all good and the other person as all bad. When kids are involved this is particularly bad because the child involved will continue to have a relationship with both parents. Keep in mind that judges don't like this. Divorces are never all one person's fault. If you write letters, emails, make social media posts, or engage in behaviors (saying or doing things) that can be perceived as blaming the divorce entirely on one person this may come back to haunt the family member or friend you are trying to protect which is exactly what you don't want to have happen.
  3. Don't believe everything you hear. If you hear something particularly bad ask the client about it directly. Sometimes clients have a way of convincing themselves that certain information is true whether it is true or not; this is particularly the case when we are trying to convince ourselves that divorce is the right option. Don't change your feelings or gossip about information that may be false. The only two people that really know what happened during the marriage are in the throes of divorce and neither one of them are really thinking clearly.
  4. Don't pass judgment on the client for deciding to settle or for deciding to go to court. Every case is different. The advice given in every case at different times is different. There may be very good reasons to settle or to go to court. You may not understand those reasons or you may not value the factors going into the decision the same way that the client does.
  5. Ask the client what you can do to help. You may be able to go to court with the client as a support, help the client gather, complete, and organize paperwork (almost always needed), make phone calls, or just explain something to the lawyer that the client doesn't feel like he or she can explain to the lawyer.