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Through the darkness of divorce (part two)

Some people may be worried that if they seek out counselling or medication for depression during their divorce it will harm their case. This is absolutely not true. If anything, such steps show a commendable level of insight. Divorce is without doubt one of the most difficult experiences anyone can go through but as a lawyer part of my role must be to understand, anticipate and help a client through it as best I can. I try to lift them up, to explain that yes, they’ve reached rock bottom but now it’s time to start back up. It won’t get any worse, things may stay the same for a while, the pain will still be acute but ultimately it will get better.

I often have to explain that on the road from the painful place the client is now in now to the better place they will find themselves in the future, there will be some good days, some bad days and some days when they will quite frankly feel nothing at all. This is all completely normal. They just need to take things slowly, step-by-step. I tell them not to rush to a place they are not yet ready for and to simply let the emotional process take its course. It’s the lawyer’s job to take the strain, not theirs. Clients need to focus on their own lives rather than be bogged down with worry over the legal process. It’s always better to strive for personal improvement and a positive recovery. At some point, they will be able to envision a happier life.

Every one of us is hit hard by life at some point. No one escapes. We do have wonderful times too, but when we do get hit everything somehow seems to come crashing down at once.

So what can be done when family breakdown happens? The answer is simple: you do your very best to bounce back, even if only slowly. You didn’t want to be in this situation but you’re in it anyway and you had no choice;- so now it’s time to think about how to go forward. Close down all those negative feelings as much as you can. Don’t wallow in self-pity – instead focus on getting up and moving on.

Don’t ever make your decisions according to whether they’ll hurt your ex. “I refuse to divorce!” Why?  Take the decision that’s best for you. Say: “My marriage is over. How do I end it as best I can?”

Don’t think – if a house move is on the cards – “Oh I love this house I’m staying put.” Rather say “I can turn any house into a loving home and I will.” Yes, leaving isn’t ideal. But it’s the home that counts, not the physical house.

Ditto the children. Don’t put pressure on them to take sides in order to make you feel better. Don’t give an Oscar winning performances in front of them. It’s not their marriage. They are entitled to two parents if they’re fortunate enough to have two. A poor husband or wife isn’t necessarily a poor parent. Keep them out of your emotions and help them come to terms with their own feelings. That’s easy to say of course – and very hard to do in practice. They will, however, thank you for it in the years to come.

Learn not to look back or down. Don’t move too fast either or you risk making mistakes. Too many emotionally overwrought clients try and do everything at once. They will have many years to regret hasty decisions. You’re paying a lawyer for expert advice so listen to them.

Once you’re happy you’ve got the right lawyer, try to establish a smooth working relationship. For example, don’t bombard that lawyer with emails, especially long, rambling, incoherent ones, probably written at night after a glass of wine. Learn to react calmly and commercially. This is all about practical arrangements for the future.  Save your money – don’t throw it away. Contact with lawyers costs money. This tendency, by the way, seems to affect everyone. In the privacy of their own home clients spill out feelings that they’d never put in a letter.

Be aware too that you may find it difficult to open a letter or email from the other lawyers. Some clients don’t read them at all and instead bring them into the office.  In my firm we usually give them a draft reply at the same time, to take the pain away. It’s all perfectly understandable.

Some clients may exhibit some form of personality disorder or may have narcissistic tendencies, only thinking of themselves. Other people’s reactions leave them completely cold. Then there are those deeply embittered people you might read about who go to great lengths to hurt their spouse, often using the children as pawns, all the while presenting themselves for all the world to see as victims when they are really the predator. Happily, such people are quite rare.

Overall, however, while the vast majority of clients are traumatised by divorce, almost all eventually cope with the situation and come to terms with their changed lives.  In fact, a lot of my previous clients have told me that they actually had a newfound sense of self-confidence when everything was said and done.

When a marriage breaks down, perhaps the best way to deal with it is to develop a better understanding of yourself and pledge to keep on going. To say to yourself: “Yes, I’m here now, but I’m not staying like this forever.”

Not everyone recovers at the same pace. For some it can be relatively quick to well and truly get over the pain but for others the process can take years. However, it will happen eventually. There’s a reason that people say to give these things time: it really works. Everyone that goes through this will have a new beginning but it is entirely up to them when that happens. The best advice I can give is to take everything at your own pace.

Read part one here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Dr Grumpy says:

    Some of us had no choice over seeking help or being placed on medication. Suddenly being told by a wife of 9 yrs that its all over particularly when you are facing problems at work and when 2 of your children are suspected of being on the autistic spectrum disorder scale is enough for the switch inside your head to flip.
    With hindsight along with revelations in court it was all part of a plan however I found that suicide wasn’t the answer and in fact staying put and fighting my corner for myself and my 3 children has given me a purpose and a reason to live.
    If I was able to go back and give myself advice it would be – don’t be pressured by the other legal team and take your time and get a good solicitor who understands your position rather than someone who is local. Anyway I ran out of money and became LiP which I wouldn’t recommend but I had no choice in the matter. You need a team to take on another team but having said that I was able to appeal the final financial decision so another bit of advice is if it unfair* then it is worth challenging a decision

    (*that is the legal definition of fairness as per Section 25 Mat Causes Act)

  2. Gaynor says:

    Dear Marilyn, thank you for another insightful blog. I am a therapeutic coach myself but some times I really feel I am going a little bit crazy with the divorce. Its so important to look after you mental and physical health during this process.
    I wonder if I can ask you a question (I asked you one previously and you kindly answered on 10 Winning Divorce Strategies on 16th Nov)
    My husband moved out of the marital home 3.5 months ago (he had an affair, that’s why I’m divorcing him) and rented and furnished a lovely flat that he can easily afford at the end of our street. He is insisting he is moving back in on 31st Jan despite fact he has made mediation unfeasible (by insisting I’m not entitled to any of the £400k equity as house in his name etc but that he will give me a share of the £50k savings and dragging his heels on financial declaration)
    I’m about to change solicitors as not happy with service but my solicitor has advised me to apply for a court order to stop him moving in due to the impact on my children’s mental health, they are all struggling with the separation, why would he put them through another separation.
    His solicitor (who is known in town as being a tough cookie) has written to say that “occupation orders are only made in extreme circumstances and this is not so its unlikely to be granted”
    I just wondered what your thoughts were as its more money that I cant really afford and if he contests it and wins then I’m not sure what I will do to protect my children from further heartbreak and anxiety
    Thank you in advance, Gaynor

    • Stitchedup says:

      Firstly I’m not a lawyer but I do have experience of occupation orders. What your husband’s solicitor said is theoretically correct… Occupation orders, like ex-parte non-molestation orders, are only meant to be issued in extreme circumstances. In practice however, they’re dished out like smarties. The way the game is usually played is the wife applies for an ex-parte non-molestation order, no proof of abuse or violence is needed, which then secures the occupation order and legal aid.

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