After practicing family law for nearly 25 years, Lex has seen a full -range of behavior in divorce court. Probably the most disconcerting is witnessing people that are self -destructive. The following is a compilation of the ten ways people ruin their lives in divorce cases:
1. Self pity. Buck up and deal with it. When people get mired in self-pity– they lose focus on resolving the conflict and instead focus on their perceived victimization. If people drive their car looking in the rear-view mirror, instead of the front windshield, they ultimately crash. Same with a divorce.
2. Ignore your lawyer’s advice. Why would someone hire a lawyer and ignore their advice? It sounds implausible, but it happens all the time. Find the smartest and most mature lawyer available and listen and follow their advice. Lawyers are paid for their wisdom and experience–not to help satisfy client’s self destructive impulses. This is why it is so important to get competent representation.
3. Play games with your lawyer. If you aren’t honest with the lawyer, how can they help? Let a lawyer make representations that aren’t true and the lawyer won’t be around for very long. Or don’t cooperate when the lawyer asks for information. All of these behavioral problems just end up in a disastrous result.
4. Transference of anger. Sometimes people transfer their anger at their spouse towards their lawyer. If you are hostile with your lawyer or his staff, how effective do you think they can be? Get a counsellor and work through the anger . The lawyer is not the enemy and should not be treated as such. They are there to help. And if they aren’t helping–fire them and get one that can help. In general, anger = trouble in divorce court.
5. Understand the nature of the relationship. The attorney client relationship is a professional relationship. Treating the lawyer as a friend, therapist or the enemy (see above) is not particularly helpful. Boundaries benefit everyone. The lawyer must remain clinical and detached enough to help guide you through the tumult. Blurred boundaries help no one and actually become destuctive.
6. Using your lawyer as a therapist. Not helpful. Lawyers are not typically trained as therapists and frankly, using them as such will quickly exhaust a litigation budget. Let the lawyer manage the domestic conflict and use a therapist or coach to help to manage the toxic emotions that need to be appropriately addressed.
7. Pick a lawyer from the phone book. The two most important professionals you rely on are your divorce lawyer and doctor; neither of whom should be chosen based upon the size of their yellow page ad. Get a referral and research the competence of your lawyer. A bad lawyer needs the bigger ad–not the better lawyer. Too much is a stake to pick a name at random. And for that matter, there is a reason why some lawyers cost significantly less than others. You get what you pay for.
8. Have unrealistice expectations. If the bar is set too high, the crash landing is more painful. Unrealistic expectations prolong litigation and the pain to the family. In general, avoid an egocentric world view. Make your best deal and get on with it. People that get stuck on the litigation carousel sometimes never get off–a painful and miserable existence.
9. Relying on friends and family for advice. While they mean well, they sometimes are less objective than the person actually involved in the divorce. People that follow well-meaning family member’ s advice over their attorney’s ususally end up getting screwed by that advice–a poor choice. The delicate world of divorce negotiations cannot and should not be impacted by angry friends or relatives–too upset to understand the implications of their advice.
10. Maintain a sense of entitlement. Nobody is entitled to anything! If you dwell on the notion that you are owed–trying to fill an emotional void brought on betrayal–the end result will never compensate and will only cost. While a trite idiom, life is indeed unfair sometimes. But to dwell on that instead of trying to figure a way forward will be hazardous and destructive.