A Few Things I Want My Little Sister to Know About Divorce
Divorce does not discriminate, it happens to anyone at any time. When you’re going through the motions of a separation, it’s easy to forget about the new responsibilities you’ll have to tackle in addition to your daily routine. You’ll want to have a revised budget, any shared accounts will have to be re-settled into single accounts, your family dynamics will be impact greatly.
Knowing these costs will help put you in the right standing towards your future’s overall stability. To give you a better sense of progress and direction: remember to forgive yourself.
Mistakes are made every day and it’s important to surround yourself with empathetic friends and family who are willing to help put you back on track.
Apparently, Karma has a very different opinion of enough is enough and there are lessons yet to be learned and new perspectives each day, even after almost 22 years as a divorce lawyer. I am the child of divorce, a divorce survivor, a divorce attorney and now the sister of a soon-to-be divorced person. On the list of these somewhat unfortunate credentials, this one, on its surface, would seem the least traumatic of all. But she is my little sister, she was the tiniest casualty of my parents crumbled union, and I always felt a little like I have to watch out for her. Today, I can’t fix her troubles by warming up a can of Spaghetti-O’s and watching a Brady Bunch episode as I did when we were little. Nor can I really give my little sister legal advice. Well, technically, I can, but she would likely ignore my advice and do as she pleases just the same. I didn’t represent myself in my own divorce. I doubt that I could be any more objective in my sister’s divorce. Maybe, because she wouldn’t be paying $400 an hour, my advice might seem less valuable anyway. So here are a few pieces of “free” advice, a bit sisterly and a bit lawyerly for my sister and maybe yours too — you get what you pay for, after all.
1. Choose your counsel wisely.
By counsel, I don’t just mean your divorce lawyer, I mean those who are there to monitor “your crazy”. There will be crazy at some point. You may ultimately have that full on bat-shit crazy breakdown over something seemingly innocuous and totally unrelated, like finding a random white sock sitting in the hallway after you just finished folding and putting away all the laundry. (Ok, ok, that would be me but you get the picture) Some people have a little more crazy than others, but there is always a little drama. There is a saying “criminal lawyers see bad people at their best and divorce lawyers see good people at their worst.” Don’t worry about the crazy part, everybody has a bit of crazy during this time, there is generally a free pass, at least for a while and so long as no one is arrested.
Advice about how to proceed during this time will come from all walks of life and everyone has some advice, solicited or not. These advisers may include; the never married friend, your best new “just divorced” friend, your Mom, your therapist, your co-workers, and even your lawyer. They are all potential sources of some really bad advice. Just make sure that your particular group of rallied advisers are not just parroting your feelings, thoughts or desires to make you feel good about how and why you are proceeding. Listen to those friends and family who challenge you to really take that sometimes very difficult look in the mirror. This divorce thing is no fun; the only way it ever makes sense is to come out the other side learning absolutely, positively as much as you can about yourself and why you ended up here in the first instance. Friends who support you unconditionally are great; friends who challenge you to be a better person and behave in a way you can later be proud of, are even more valuable. Make sure you have a few of both.
2. Recognize there will still be problems.
Someone much wiser than me once said, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Divorce is just like that. Some issues will be worse with divorce, some will be better. Some problems will be different problems and some of them will be exactly the same. If you didn’t communicate well during the marriage, don’t expect a miracle now. In fact, when people live under the same roof there is LESS of a need to communicate on the tiny little things about the kids, schoolwork, schedules and the finances. After the divorce, you will take two people who struggled to communicate and try and get them to effectively communicate about a thousand times better. You will have less money no matter how much you have to start with. You will have to figure out how to go to the grocery store before the sitter leaves, because late night runs will require the bundling up of two small children. You will still have sick kids, laundry piling up and a stressful job. You will be exhausted and want those little ones to just go to sleep and there will be no one there to spot you. Divorce is not a cure for all that ails us in this life. It is hard, it is supposed to be, or we all might give up a little easier than we should. When we divorce with the reasonable expectation it will fix some, but not all, things wrong in our universe and welcome its challenges as an opportunity to show how truly bad-ass we are, problems won’t be so overwhelming after all.