Consider that virtually every divorce and family law attorney assumes the title “attorney and counselor at law”. What does that really mean? Attorneys are quick to dispense technical and purely legal advice as “attorneys at law”. But sometimes, it’s the advice that I give as a “counselor at law” that can make a huge difference in the outcome of a case. Here are my top 5 “counselor at law” tips.
1. Keep Yourself Healthy
Focus on your health. Exercise, every day for 45 minutes. Mix cardio, stretching and weight training. Exercise reduces stress hormones that are produced from the body’s fight or flight response to conflict, and will help you clear your mind and sleep better. Improve your diet, and make sure your body is getting appropriate nutrition. Consider joining an exercise class, yoga, plates or running group, or investing in a regular weekly massage.
Even a nightly walk around the block will help. These are all great stress reducers and will make you feel better in the long run.
Then, with a healthier body and better attitude, you’ll be better able to take care of yourself, your children, your finances, and to handle the divorce process.
2. Meet with a Therapist
Meet with a qualified psychologist or licensed clinical social worker who can be an emotional support for you through the divorce process. Keep regular appointments and share with your therapist the trials and tribulations that you are going through. Your therapist can give you advice and strategies to help reduce conflicts with your spouse, deal more effectively with your children, and to maintain a healthy and positive attitude.
Recognize that not only are you going through a legal process, you’re going through an emotional divorce as well. Everyone needs someone to talk to and talking to a trained mental health therapist is a better choice than friends, relatives, and neighbors. The things you tell your friends and family may wind up in the court record, but a therapist client relationship is protected by a privilege, which allows statements made in counseling inadmissible in a court of law.
3. Focus on the Positive Future and not the Negative Past.
OK, this is easy for me to say and hard for a divorce client to do. But it’s so important, that I say it to every one of my clients, anyway. Always keep in mind that you can create your own happiness and a prosperous future, and a divorce is actually a great opportunity to do so.
You control your destiny. The divorce process is a means to transform your life into something much better.
Sometimes a fresh start, free of the negative things about your spouse, is what is needed for someone to flourish. Seize the opportunity to change old bad habits and to make better decisions. Envision who you want to be when the divorce is over and work towards that vision.
4. Try Not to Fight with Your Spouse
Again, this is easy for me to say and hard for a divorce client to do. Do your best to not engage in fights with your spouse. Fighting with someone you are divorcing is a complete waste of energy and can often hurt your case. You may say something you may regret in a fit of anger, and what you say may wind up in testimony heard by the judge. I have introduced many nasty emails, texts and voicemails written or left by opposing parties as exhibits at trial, often with devastating effects. So while you may feel good for a few seconds by calling your spouse an expletive, you may regret it tenfold down the line if it comes out in court. Be smart. Talk to your spouse, and try to secure agreement on issues.
But if you can’t agree, then agree to disagree and let the attorneys handle it.
Moreover, if your spouse becomes nasty to you, do not respond. Just say you’re sorry he or she feels that way, and end the conversation. Don’t allow yourself to be hurt by what was said, instead take satisfaction from the fact that your spouse exhibited less self-control than you did, and know that he or she potentially gave you ammunition to use later in court, if necessary. Of course, you should keep a journal, noting dates, times and places of conversations in which your spouse got nasty, and what exactly was said.
5. Don’t Trade Short Term Pain for Long Term Pain.
Make good, independent decisions after consultation with legal counsel. Take the advice that you’re paying for and try not to let your fear, anger and pain dictate what your new life will look like. I’ve seen many parties to a divorce rush into a bad settlement to try to end the divorce quickly, only to find that they have traded away the future. Fixing a bad settlement is much more difficult than taking the time on the first go around and getting it right. And living the rest of one’s life with a bad settlement can be excruciating over the long run. The divorce settlement serves as a foundation for your new life, so take the time to get it right. Take smart positions and set realistic goals. Then be strong, but flexible, compromise some, bend but don’t break. Be patient and persistent and your settlement will most likely be far more fair and your divorce and post-divorce life far more successful.
Consult with a Qualified Divorce Attorney
Even if you’re not sure about proceeding with a divorce yet, it’s worth the time and financial investment to get accurate legal advice. Find a knowledgeable and experienced attorney that you feel comfortable with. Consider an attorney who focuses his or her practice on divorce and family law. Try to find an attorney that has helped other people just like you and who will try to work amicably with your spouse’s attorney, should you or your spouse choose to file for divorce.
Your attorney can give you a step-by-step explanation of what to expect in your individual case. Ask the attorney all of your questions so that you fully understand what may lie ahead and what options you may have. You’ll feel better when you know where you stand.