August 24, 2016
Monthly Misconception for August-“We’re getting divorced, I have to hate him to protect myself.”
For many clients, Legal Assistant Lori Cipollone was their first contact with my firm. Lori will often hear a new client’s story or field their questions before I’m able to get on the phone or meet for an initial consultation.
So I asked Lori what she sees as the biggest divorce misconception from potential clients. Lori’s response, “People think they have to hate their spouse to protect themselves in the divorce process or get a good outcome.”
Let’s explore this misconception from two perspectives.
First, hatred is often a natural and understandable emotion. Mental health professionals may even say that hatred, for a limited period of time, is a necessary or at least appropriate part of the divorce recovery or healing process.
But hatred doesn’t help a person or that person’s lawyer get a better divorce outcome.
Instead, focusing on hatred more often than not will increase the cost of a divorce and the time it takes to complete the process. And as a practical matter, even if your spouse is clearly a scoundrel, neither your spouse’s lawyer nor the judge is going feel the same hatred you feel. Obsessing over hatred and trying to convince the divorce professionals, or your kids for that matter, that your spouse is as rotten a person as you think they are will sometimes backfire and generate sympathy for the person you are trying to vilify.
Perhaps even most importantly, too much hatred for too long prevents a divorcing person from making rational, well thought out, good long term divorce decisions. It prevents you from healing and moving forward with your life.
Second, relying in part on what my mental health colleagues have taught me, fear, rather than hatred, is the emotion which usually drives a divorcing person. Expending energy on hatred may not leave enough energy or time for a divorcing person to be afraid. It may make it easy for a person to avoid acknowledging their role in the marital breakdown or provide an excuse for not making necessary divorce decisions. Simply, for many people, hatred is more comfortable than fear.
Fear of what? Generally of the unknown future, but specifically about whether a divorcing person will have enough – it may be enough money to live on or enough time to spend with their kids. The “good” thing about fear is that in most divorces, when the couple and their divorce professionals are working together, we can create solutions to the problems causing the fear. We can’t necessarily problem solve away hatred.
By the way, thank you to Lori for the tremendous work she has done for me and all our firm’s divorce clients. I don’t thank her enough.
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