Kemp Klein

Family Matters: How to Help a Friend or Family Member Who is Considering or Going Through a Divorce

There comes a time when a person considering or going through a divorce decides to break the news to friends or family. There are certain things you can do if a friend or family member decides to confide in you:

  • Listen. The first (and often, best) thing that you can do is listen; in my more than 30 years dedicated to the practice of family law, my clients tell me that the people they hold most dear months – and even years – later, are the ones who were there to “lend an ear” when it was most needed.
  • Let them talk. Don’t interrupt; let them tell you what they want to tell you before you ask any questions.
  • Offer non-judgmental support. When it’s time for you to speak, offer support without judging the person or the potential/soon-to-be ex-spouse. Most people are feeling exceptionally fragile at this time; saying things like “I thought something was going on” or “it’s about time” might make you feel better momentarily, but it may be damaging to the person who still feels ambivalent. After all, it has to be an individual decision and by offering support – rather than judgment – you can encourage individual decision-making without the interference of your opinion.
  • Don’t compare. You won’t be doing the person any favors if you make pronouncements about others’ divorces as if one divorce can be closely analogized to another. Every divorce is fact-specific and dependent upon any number of variables, including income, property, children, length of the marriage, and so much more.
  • Keep things confidential. Don’t betray the person’s confidence by telling friends or family members what you just heard. If they want other people to know, they will decide who to tell, and when. This is not your news to share.
  • Be the friend they’re counting on you to be. If this same person just received a serious medical diagnosis, you’d probably tell them to get a second opinion from a qualified expert. That’s also good advice for anyone considering a divorce. Knowledge is power, and lack of knowledge can keep a person in an unhealthy, stagnant situation. Encourage the person to seek professional legal advice. That’s because relying on opinions of those without legal experience – however well intentioned – may unintentionally and needlessly exacerbate the situation. An initial, no-cost, fact finding discussion with a Family Law attorney will help them get a sense for what they can reasonably expect in terms of options, end results and cost.

My number one priority as a family law attorney is to help my clients understand the divorce process and the impact of their decisions will have on them and on any children they may have. After that, it’s to help them achieve the best possible outcome going forward. People need to seek information related to his or her particular case, and not rely upon lay opinions, stories based on dissimilar facts, or the internet.

Note: This article is not intended to take the place of legal counsel, nor should it be considered personal legal advice. It is solely intended to provide information about the issues that may arise when contemplating divorce. Call for an appointment and I will be pleased to have a preliminary discussion with you about your specific situation.

For further information regarding these matters, please contact Ms. Stawski at 248 619 2590 or via email.