September 4, 2013

Friends Don’t Let Friends Divorce Badly: 5 Ways to Help Your Friends During a Difficult Time

hugDivorce is never truly good. But a bad divorce can create many years of devastation.  If you have a friend or family member approaching divorce it can be difficult to watch the economic and emotional turmoil unfold, particularly if there are children involved.  As a friend, or a family member, you want to help; but can you?

In my 30 years as a divorce lawyer, I have seen how friends and family members can provide much needed support and comfort that has helped my divorce clients get through this process in a much healthier way. At the same time, I have often watched well meaning friends and family members give my clients advice that actually made the divorce more adversarial.

If you know someone who is going through divorce and want to help, here are five things to consider.

  1. Encourage them to seek counseling, if appropriate. Whether they are trying to save the marriage or simply manage the emotional turmoil and grief during this difficult time, a good counselor can be even more important than a divorce attorney. They will soon be making some of the most important decisions in their lives during a time in which their sense of reason and judgment may be impaired by emotions. Getting help with the emotional and psychological aspect of divorce is crucial.
  2. Give them support and encouragement; but not legal advice. If you have been through a divorce, or have experienced the divorce of close friends, you may be tempted to advise others based on your observed experience. This advice, though well intended, can often be quite harmful.
  3.  Encourage them to truly research their options. Most people rush into divorce without truly understanding their choices.  As  result they often choose a method that is not the best alternative for their family.
  4.  Help them understand that civility is not weakness.  Divorce can create fear and anger that tempt people to seek “a pound of flesh.” Few families can emerge from an adversarial divorce unscathed. Help them understand that resolving their divorce in a civil and respectful manner can actually get them a better outcome.
  5.  Avoid demonizing the spouse. Divorce often creates a delusional reality that causes people to see their spouse in a very negative light. Accepting  your friend’s emotionally impacted negative view off their spouse can even seem like the “supportive thing to do.” Usually it simply adds to the misperceptions that make future co-parenting more difficult.

People facing divorce need emotional support and friendship as much as they need professional help. If you can provide that support, without giving into the temptations to do more, you will be doing your friend or family member a great service.

Ron OuskyABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ron Ousky
Attorney, Ousky Law Firm

Ron Ousky is a Collaborative Attorney and mediator who has worked with divorcing families for thirty years and focuses on helping his clients find better outcomes through Collaborative Practice, mediation and other creative alternatives. Ron is also the co-author of The Collaborative Way to Divorce, and has trained divorce lawyers throughout North America and in Europe. He is also the co-founder of the Collaborative Alliance, an office sharing suite in Edina, that brings lawyers, mental health professionals and financial experts together to find better solutions for families. To learn more about Ron and his practice, go to www.Ousky.com

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