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Divorcing? Remember your Spouse is no longer your "Best Friend"


Divorce is often a rude smack in the face. On your wedding day, if you are lucky, you married your best friend. But now with the wear and tear of life, you have grown apart, you are no longer “in love” and divorce is your new paradigm.

As you decide what divorce path to take, you have to think differently about your partner and engage with him or her in a new way.

As you meet your lawyer or divorce mediator to begin work on your case, you will face an emotional adjustment. After years of marriage, no matter how much unhappiness may have developed, you are in the habit of thinking of your spouse as a partner, not an opponent. Now you will have to change your thinking.

If your lawyer starts out by seeming to encourage you to distance yourself from your spouse, the goal is not to promote conflict, but to protect your rights. A good divorce attorney/ mediator will try to keep confrontation to a minimum, but not at the expense of your present or future welfare. Because courts will act on verifiable facts, it is necessary to spell out and put on the record as much as possible — and not rely on promises or past performance.

Over a year ago, Jamie, a young voiceover artist came to see me soon after she had told her husband of 6 years, a successful accountant, that she was worn out emotionally, really wanted a child, (which he told her was not part of his plan) and wanted a divorce. Until she moved into the guest room, she had been free to take household money whenever she needed it from his wallet, often as much as $4,000 a month. Since she told him she wanted a divorce, the wallet was nowhere in sight, and he had been handing her $200 in cash every week, barely enough to cover the cost of food and daily expenses.

At my suggestion, she asked her husband to increase the amount to $500 a week and give it to her by check. When he refused, I wrote to his lawyer, pointing out that, if we could not improve this inadequate arrangement, my client would have to go to court asking for a temporary support order. We settled on $450 a week — by check — and, in my confirming letter, I listed all the other expenses that Jamie's husband would continue to pay directly while reaffirming that $450 – was barely adequate on a temporary basis. All of this was necessary to establish, on the record, a basis for future negotiations and for a judge's decision if we were to go that route. If Jamie had continued to accept $200 a week for any length of time, her husband's lawyer could have claimed that she was demonstrating that $200 a week was enough to cover her expenses.

For other women, the first problem is not to stop trusting their husbands but to contain their rage and avoid vengeful behavior that may later count against them in court. This is often the case when a husband is leaving for another woman. While some women react to this betrayal by refusing to accept the reality and hoping it will not last, others try to strike back in any way they can.

The worst damage is often done by your behavior during the first volatile weeks. During this difficult period, the best attitude to cultivate toward your spouse is polite detachment: Don't volunteer any information. Don't argue. Don't respond to threats. Don't make threats. Don't let yourself be drawn into a discussion of past grievances. Don't negotiate with your spouse. Leave that to your lawyer. Your spouse is no longer your partner. He or she is, unfortunately, your adversary. Don't use your lawyer as your therapist. Seek out support from a professional therapist and from friends.

I decided to share Jamie’s story with you since she recently remarried, and emailed me to tell me she is expecting a baby in October. Life does go on after divorce, and you can and will find happiness again.

When deciding to divorce it is really important to take the advice and direction of your attorney or mediator. You will be tempted to text back and forth with your spouse, engage in emails, interact on Facebook etc. It’s time to change your interactions with your spouse once divorce is on the table.

If you are thinking of divorce, give me a call. I will guide you on how to appropriately interact with your spouse while protecting your interests at the same time.

Free consultations are still available for the month of January.

Call 212.734.1551 and I will guide you through the divorce process.

Warm wishes,