Our law firm has represented hundreds if not thousands of clients in divorce and related family law matters. During the past several years there is one question I routinely ask clients once their divorce decree is signed and their case closed. That question is simply this, “if you could go back to when you were just starting the divorce process, and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?” As you might imagine, people have said all kinds of things, some funny, some sad, some very insightful. Among the many responses I noticed 3 most common tips which could apply to almost anyone involved in these difficult family cases. Today I believe I am a better lawyer for asking this question because it helped me understand what new clients sometimes need to hear. Often, when I am meeting with a potential divorce client, I’m not just pulling from my past knowledge and experience as a Utah Divorce Attorney, but rather I’m tapping into the nuggets of wisdom from my former clients to help the new ones along. Before now, I have only jotted down responses here and there keeping general notes on what my clients tips would be to their former selves. The purpose of this blog post is to organize the 3 main divorce tips I hear from former clients, in hopes others might benefit as well.
Patience, the Children, and You
Patience is a Virtue. It couldn’t be more true than in a divorce. Keeping patience with the court system, your lawyer, your children, and even your ex can be key to getting through the process. First, with regards to patience with the courts. Many people had the good fortune of never stepping foot inside a courtroom prior to their divorce. Be aware the courts move slowly in most everything they do and that is mostly because of the way the civil process and rules have been set up by law. Additionally, be advised when you actually go to court, you might be stuck listening to other cases for hours before your’s is called. Second, patience with your attorney. Divorce is frustrating in general and it is easy to take out your frustrations on your lawyer. Sometimes that might be justified but patiently remember that your lawyer cannot possibly know everything you know first hand about your case. You will need to guide him or her along with the process. Think of the relationship with your lawyer as a partnership. Third, if you are a parent, maintaining patience with you children is most important under this category. You will be stressed, you will be frustrated, divorce is no fun. Be careful your feelings don’t bleed over into your relationship with your children. They need a strong parental bond more than ever. Finally, and probably the most difficult one to maintain, is patience with your soon to be ex. Your ex might be the most difficult person in the world to you right now. Trust that they will get to a more reasonable place either by being forced to comply with court orders or because they will finally come around on their own. It might take a while but in my experience even a completely irrational spouse comes around. Patience is key to not losing your mind in a divorce and it is one of the most frequent pieces of advice I hear from former clients.
Children First. This one is pretty self explanatory. When you are thinking about what custody arrangement you want, what parent time schedule should apply, how the holidays and summers should work, make sure you are looking at these issues through the lens of your children’s eyes. Every divorcing parent should ask themselves one specific question, “will this be in the best interests of my children.” Now, this doesn’t mean the children get their way every time; that is a different situation. Sometimes kids don’t want a certain custody arrangement but you know it is in their best interests to do so. Just like sometimes kids don’t want to go to school, or do their homework, or any other number of things. They don’t always act in their own best interests. For instance, the kids might want to live with one parent simply because that parent allows them to get away with bad behavior or even criminal behavior. Is it in there best interest to live with that parent? Obviously not. Where this principle can be really hard for parents to follow is when the children’s best interests don’t match up with the parents desire for more time with the kids. Example, lets say you work 60 hours a week and are rarely home as a result, but you really want a joint custody arrangement because you love your kids and want to see them as much as possible. You need to be in touch with your reality on what custody arrangement can actually work. If you are never home, and would rarely see the kids except on the weekends, or if you happened to make it home early one night, it might not be in their bests interests for you to be acting as a joint custody parent.
Take Care of Yourself. As a parent it is easy to lose site of things that are important to you and go to the other extreme of taking care of everyone but yourself. Counseling is often the best way to manage your own well being in a divorce. Having a third party to talk to about your personal needs and emotional well being is critical. To be clear, I don’t recommend using your lawyer as your therapist. Most attorneys are great at the law and horrible at the touchy feely stuff. Under this heading also comes the advice to be careful in dating and pursuing relationships while you are wrapped up in a divorce. There are several reasons for this that counselors often give. If you have children the general advice is to avoid another relationship until you are stable and emotionally healthy. Don’t let the stress of your divorce overtake you. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and don’t slip into addictions like alcohol, drug use, etc. A divorce can be a catalyst for further problems creeping up in your life. Being conscious of your weaknesses and taking time to focus on your own happiness is absolutely essential. Taking care of yourself is also important for your children’s well being because without proper sleep, eating, and happiness, you will be a less effective parent.
More Help in a Utah Divorce
Hopefully the brief summary of tips above give you some helpful insights when moving forward through the divorce process. There are many good resources for divorce in Utah available on our site, blog, and other third party resources we are happy to share. For more help with your divorce in Utah, call and speak with a member of our team anytime. We provide free consultations over the phone and are happy to help even just answer questions. We know this is a difficult time and are interested in helping.