Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Use Professionals Wisely

When we approach divorce, the most obvious professional that we believe we must engage is an attorney. After all, the act of getting un-married is a legal event, and we want to make sure that we have correctly completed all pre-requisites for accomplishing that according to the law.

If divorce were merely a sterile legal event, with no emotional, or financial, or family ties, then the only role of an attorney would be as something of a clerk: to check procedure, ensure that all paperwork was correctly filed, and to prepare to legally dissolve the entity called "your marriage", which no longer exists.

But, divorce is not sterile. Feelings are involved. Parties are disappointed, hurt, betrayed, frightened, sad, angry, anxious, or otherwise distressed. And since we don't know how to deal with the emotional part, we tend to absorb it into the legal part. Rather than saying "I feel betrayed, and I don't know what to do with that", we say "that S.O.B. cheated, and I'm going to skewer him in court!" We expect the legal system, via a judge, to first validate our feelings; and second to 'fix' them by giving us something tangible, such as the marital assets or the children.

Once the feelings start to impact our legal decisions, we transition from using the legal profession as a compliance mechanism, to using it as a retribution mechanism. Rather than asking an attorney to make sure that the paperwork gives us a legal divorce, we ask an attorney to protect our 'rights' in the law.

Take your emotions in to the average attorney, and at best, you will find yourself paying attorney's hourly rates in order to get some emotional ranting off your chest... something you could have done for about half the price, had you gone to a licensed psychologist instead. At worst, you will stumble into one of the handful of attorneys who love to make their living off of highly emotional, combative, angry, and irrational people who cross their thresholds. Such an attorney can keep you in your emotional state, keep the conflict stirred up, and keep the fees pouring in.

You may feel a sense of hope -- a promise that if this attorney can protect all of your 'rights', then the feelings of anger, sadness, betrayal, grief, disappointment, and fear will go away. The problem is, they don't go away. Even if you somehow "won" everything in the divorce (extremely unlikely), even if you got 100% of the marital assets, the kids, and a permanent latch onto your ex-spouse's future income, you'd still be saddled with the exact same emotions that you had before. This is because those emotions do not go away by fighting in court. Those emotions only go away when you do the heart work that it requires to deal with them. And that does not happen in a courtroom... that happens in a counselor's office.

Getting through divorce is huge. It is not something to be taken on by an amateur. By the same token, there is no one single professional who can handle every aspect of your divorce. Use an attorney to help you take care of the legal part. Use a counselor to help you take care of the emotional part. Use a financial expert to help you take care of the financial part.

Use a coach to help you manage all of those parts, help you find the right professionals, and help you engage that at the right point and in the most optimum way. What you'll find is that -- when all is said and done -- you got through your divorce with more of your dignity intact, more of your heart intact, and more of your assets intact. This is the best possible position to be in when rebuilding a life of singledom, after dissolving your marriage.


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