Three ways family and friends can land your divorce in trouble

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date published

31st January 2022

written by

Emma Heptonstall

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date published

31st January 2022

When you embark on divorce it’s great to have a support network around you. Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences of your life, so knowing that friends and family have got your back can be a huge relief. But it’s not always plain sailing. Even the most well-meaning friends and family can cause more problems than they solve in your divorce journey. Here are three ways friends and family can land your divorce in trouble, and what you can do about it instead.

They give you wrong information

Let’s take a scenario: Your mum’s friend Beth got divorced three years ago. It was a protracted, messy process. Her ex-spouse was difficult, and finances were complicated as they were co-directors of a multinational business. Beth instructed a legal team which was a great help in getting Beth a settlement she was happy with.

When your mum hears about your divorce she tells you that you absolutely must get a solicitor straightaway, as you can’t divorce without one. She sends you links for the firm Beth used – a firm specialising in high wealth cases.

It’s easy to see why your mum wants you to get a solicitor in place now. For Beth, in her circumstances, a solicitor made all the difference. Your mum is panicked that you will be taken advantage of without extensive legal support.

But it is absolutely not true that you need to instruct a solicitor straight away. In legal terms, you don’t need a solicitor at all – you can self represent. It may be advisable to instruct one, depending on your circumstances, but certainly not immediately. And your situation isn’t anywhere near as complicated as Beth’s. Your husband is co-operative, you have only been married for four years and the only shared asset you have is your house.

If you followed through and contacted the firm your mum provided, hopefully they would tell you that their expertise isn’t warranted for your case. Or they might not, in which case you’d be engaging expensive legal help you didn’t need.

Either way, your anxiety is through the roof, you’ve wasted time, you’re worried about money and your mum has created a scenario that simply didn’t need to exist.

They give you poor advice

I was going to give you another scenario as an example of poor advice, but the truth is there are a thousand ways friends and family can advise you badly. Why?

For three main reasons. One is that they are usually not experienced in legal matters. They are working from their own experience. Or perhaps they have some legal experience but that doesn’t make them an expert in family law.

Secondly, they absolutely want what’s best for you, so they can’t see why the divorce system doesn’t play out like they think it should. Sometimes what we wish were the case simply isn’t. And no amount of wishing will change that.

And, finally, they bring their own emotional baggage

Maybe your neighbour Sue had a horribly acrimonious divorce. She’s still not happy with how things turned out, she had to sell the beloved marital home, and urges you to “keep hold of the kids and take him for all he’s got.”

That particularly poisonous piece of advice comes entirely from her hurt and bitterness. It won’t do you any favours at all. That’s not how the divorce process works. The court aims to make a fair settlement based on the welfare of the children and the needs of all involved. Your children should never be used as pawns in power games between you and your soon-to-be-ex. And a judge will not look kindly on a parent trying to manipulate a situation to hurt the other party.

Anger on your behalf

Sometimes loved ones have got your back so closely they think they can act on your behalf. Maybe they call your soon-to-be-ex to tell them what they think of them. Or confront them in the street. Any action that creates more emotional heat is not doing you any favours, and could get you in trouble.

Or they might get involved in your parenting and tell your children what an idiot their other parent is – causing enormous hurt and damage.

Often our loved ones are so emotionally involved in our worlds that they simply can’t see the wood for the trees. Yet the divorce process is a calm, ordered, legal one. It’s far from perfect. But it’s not there for point scoring or dramatic scenes from the witness box.

So what can you do to avoid these (often well intended) interventions from friends and family?

Set boundaries

You need to take the lead in what’s on the table for discussion and what’s not. And the number one way to do that is by setting boundaries. Make it absolutely clear what you want and need from your friends and family, and where they are overstepping.

What does that look like? You might say:

‘I’m getting specialist advice about money at the moment, but I’d really appreciate it if you could watch the children for a couple of hours while I go to the appointment.’

Or:

‘It’s great your divorce worked out like that and those solicitors helped. I don’t need legal support at the moment but I will definitely bear them in mind when and if the time comes.’

Or:

‘I’m not sure what to do about this financial situation so I’m asking a few trusted friends for their thoughts, as well as my solicitor. Of course, I will make my own decision but I’d love to hear your perspective.’

Or:

‘I’m really grateful to you for being so supportive, but I must insist you never contact Jane again. I know you think you’re helping, but it stirs up a lot of trouble for me. Please don’t.’

Or simply:

‘I’ve got people around me who are helping advise me on the divorce. What I really need from you is a good laugh over a takeaway and a bottle of wine. And not to talk about the divorce at all! Can we get together next Friday?’

Join the Absolute Academy

As we’ve seen, sometimes it’s best to keep family and friends at arm’s length when it comes to your divorce. They can help, but only in ways you want and need them to. But where can you turn for the inside track on divorce?

The Absolute Academy is a community of women navigating divorce. All wanting the same thing. All at various stages of the process: from making the decision to waiting for the Decree Absolute (or Final Order from April 2022). It’s a place where divorce, every aspect of it, is on the table for discussion.

And, of course, all the discussion is overseen by me and my team. So you have a safe place to vent, with others who get it. But you won’t be on the receiving end of any advice that could derail your divorce. And as well as all that peer support, I’m in there every week doing a Q&A so you can get up-to-date, accurate information about what to do next. Plus you’ll have access to training and resources to guide you through the entire divorce process.

So if you want advice you can trust, a community you can relax in and some accountability to keep your divorce on track, what are you waiting for? Come and join us in The Absolute Academy today!

 

About Emma

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of  The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com

 

 

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