Divorce is difficult and painful; so it can feel very important to have friends, family and an attorney “On Your Side”. But what does that truly mean? Sometimes, during a divorce having someone “on your side” might mean the very opposite of what your instincts tell you.
Let’s take this example. Imagine that you are near the end of the divorce negotiation and your spouse has made what seems like his or her final proposal. If the case cannot be settled, the judge is going to schedule this matter for trial.
You want to settle, but the settlement seems very unfair to you, particularly since your spouse was the one who had an affair and your spouse is the one who files for divorce. Your instincts and feelings tell you to reject the agreement “out of principle”.
You go to your closest friends and family members and ask them what they think, because they are truly “on your side.”
In my opinion, without even knowing the details of the proposal, I believe there is at least a 90% likelihood that your friends and family will agree that the proposal is unfair. How could I know that? Because, over the past 32 years of representing divorce clients, that is what my clients have reported hearing from their friends and family at least 90% of the time. More importantly, in the majority of the cases, the advice of the trusted friends and family turns out to be against the interests of the client.
How can this be? How could these trusted friends and family members be so certain to give you bad advice? I believe it is primarily caused by three conditions.
First, your friends are hearing your skewed version of things. No matter how objective you try to be, you are nearly certain to describe the settlement in a way that supports your belief of its unfairness.
Second, because they are your dear friends; they have likely become a bit suspicious of (and maybe even angry) at your ex spouse, so that nearly any proposal will seem like far less than you deserve.
Third, they want to remain your friends, and they want to “support” you. So they tell you that you are right, in a way that “validates” your feelings and helps cement their relationship.
The sad reality is that in many of these instances, the settlement offered might be as good, or even better, than what a court would do, and that accepting the settlement is actually in your best interest. If that is true, then your friends, in helping talk you out of the proposal; in telling you what you desperately want to hear; instead of what you need to hear, are doing you a great disservice.
During these times, you may turn to your attorney; to get his or her advice about the settlement. Will they be a “friend” and tell you how unfair that it all is, or will they be wise counsel, and recommend a settlement, even though it will cost them some money and, perhaps, cause you to like them less? It depends on whether they are truly “On Your Side”.