- Timing is everything.
In my former, married life, as a divorce attorney, I never quite understood why clients were obsessive that their divorce pleadings filed as soon as possible. The process seemed artificially accelerated upon the client’s decision at consultation. Usually, clients admitted when I met them that the Titanic had been sinking for a long time. So why the sudden urgency?
When you realize that your body is on fire, the only option is to jump into a pool of water. Once you make that decision to put out the fire, you feel it to your core and want to begin to rebuild your life. Filing for divorce is that first step. So, today when clients ask for me to file an Original Petition for Divorce “stat,” I know that even hours can make the difference.
- Divorce is not for the weak of heart-even when kids are not involved.
Divisions of assets are highly emotionally charged. The balance sheets, or the Inventory and Appraisement, all provide symbolism for the clients. While these Excel spreadsheets are black and white numbers, they tell a story of how there was a power imbalance throughout the marriage, a lack of respect between spouses, hidden or deceptive spending; or simply a general lack of trust. Every dollar counts, and almost counts as double if insult is added to injury.
If divorce were exclusively transactional in nature, finalizing it would be a matter of plugging in numbers and deciding on a percentage for the division of assets. However, as humans, our tit-for-tat relationship score keeping bleeds over into division of the community estate. The true question is the point of diminishing returns: do you really want to spend $1000 to chase down $100? Answer: how angry are you?
- Being a demanding, needy client is perfectly acceptable.
When I first meet clients in my office and rhetorically ask how they are doing, they smirk, and say, “well I’m here.” Here is a place where you am signing a retainer agreement to end your marriage. I know that the couch in my office is typically not where I deliver the manifesto of hearts and sunshine. In fact, I must remind clients that they pay me to tell them the truth, to be realistic and to offer them a continuum of good, firm strategies to achieve their goals.
Regardless, the truth can be frightening and hard to digest. Today, I don’t see how a divorce client can be anything but demanding and needy during this process. With one’s self confidence shot, depression ensuing, and a general belief that your reality is crumbling, clients need a lot of support- both emotional and legal. They need a quick response time to calls, emails and updates, especially during a journey when some family and friends are at a loss as to how to help their struggling friend. I like clients to understand I am here for them, and that my job is to walk them through this difficult journey in the legal sense. A good counseling referral always helps too.
- Temporary insanity is a symptom of divorce.
Albert Einstein said, “Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” In the process of divorce, we emotionally stop moving forward, and get stuck in the past. Sadly, the past is not a productive place to be. It makes us crazy and causes behaviors that may be out of character. The failure to keep moving and progressing forward, exposes us to a process of degeneration.
Now, I forgive the emotionally charged thirty-minute conversations with clients about how big of a @##@# (expletive) the other spouse is. I understand that sometimes (even though not condoned), my client feels compelled to Facebook stalk their former mate, instigate fights by draining the accounts, or sleep around within days of finalizing their divorce. As family lawyers, we are taught that divorce clients are “good people on their worst day,” while criminal clients are “bad people on their best day.” Short of doling out Xanax and antidepressants, (which my credentials strictly prohibit), my job is to help rein in the crazy. I am charged with the task of helping clients understand that this temporary insanity is not who they are- just a moment in time which will pass…only if they keep moving.
- Revenge is irrational but natural.
You have been irreparably harmed. Your hurt, anger and rage regardless of who may be assigned blame in the breakup of the marriage, is valid. I have heard clients utter the phrase, “I will spend every last dollar tearing her down.” This illustrates a process where destruction of the other seems almost more appealing than moving on.