Most people know someone who has experienced separation and divorce. In the past, divorces were rarely amicable and often were the opposite adversarial and polarizing. Many times, extended family and friends took sides and cut off communications with the other spouse. Family and friends would often fuel the fire by telling stories of divorces. They might even provide advice, which could make the situation worse. Without realizing it, these people can make the fear and uncertainty increase, which could lead to one, or both, of the spouses taking legal action that may be regretted later.
Today, we have the benefit of Collaboratively Trained Divorce Professionals from different professional disciplines who can talk with clients in a manner that is not adversarial or polarizing. These professionals can also advise clients about how they can communicate with extended family and friends in a way that discourages those people from taking sides or emphasizing the negative.
Clients using Collaborative Practice or Mediation can discuss and develop an approach to take when talking with friends. For example, Harry might say I don’t want you to take sides or say negative things about Sally. We have chosen to use a respectful, out-of-court, process to reach agreements relating to our separation and it does not have to be adversarial. With this goal in mind, the Collaborative Team of Professionals can help divorce clients to continue to stay in communication and attend the same family gatherings.
When a friend or parent gives advice about the divorce, it may be with the best of intentions yet it can interfere with achieving the goals and interests relating to the separation.
A friend may want to play matchmaker and get one of the spouses dating before a settlement is reached. The spouse getting divorced may not be emotionally ready to date, adultery might be a legal issue and, even if it is not, the other spouse may not be agreeable to either spouse dating and it could stir up a lot of negative feelings and/or blame that can make it difficult to focus on the issues relating to the financial matters and/or the children. It takes two to reach a settlement.
Protracted negotiations can take longer and be more expensive.
Clients need to get advice from the professionals they are working with. These professionals will be familiar with the facts and the dynamics between the parties and provide legal, financial, parenting and communications advice that is tailored to the situation. The message to extended family or friends can be, I have selected top-notch professionals who have extensive training relating to the issues in my divorce. What helps me most is for you to support me by doing something fun together from time to time, listening when I need someone to talk with, and helping care for the children. There will likely be times in the future when family will gather at graduations, weddings and funerals and I do not want the divorce to make those times unpleasant for anyone.
Anticipating negative comments or unsolicited advice from family or friends is a good idea. Formulating a positive message to convey to others can make a difference. Preserving relationships with the other spouses family and/or friends, where possible, can be healing, better for the children, and leave the door open for supportive and caring connections that may provide dividends in the future.