Sara Jessica Parker on Divorce on DBO sitting in a chair

#DivorceHBO: It’s Not “Basically All Law”

As I get caught up on #DivorceonHBO, I’m debating whether I like it because I work with women going through divorce or because I went through my own divorce… or if I’d like it even if neither of those were true. I’d be curious to know what you think. Do you like the show? I know it’s a little bleak at times, but doesn’t that make it ring true?  Isn’t life a little raw and bleak sometimes?

I think I like the show because it’s grappling with things that my clients grapple with… and those things are not easy nor sexy nor simple. Here’s what’s happened in the last three episodes that mirrors what I see in my practice …

How #DivorceonHBO rings true

Episode 5: “Basically, It’s All Law”

Though Frances and Robert started off in mediation, Robert is (poorly) advised by a friend that he’ll get taken to the cleaners if he goes that route, so he thinks he’d better get his own lawyer. The first one he goes to see reassures him that while he mostly does trusts and estates, “Basically, it’s all law.”  Nope! Abort! Abort, Robert!  It’s most definitely NOT just all law.

Matrimonial law is very specific, complicated, and nuanced. You absolutely want to hire an attorney who ONLY does family law and has a good amount of experience.  Never hire an attorney simply because he is the cheapest or because someone gave you her name.  Do interview several attorneys, ask questions, and select the one that you feel the most comfortable with.  Find out how well he/she knows the judges they will be dealing with in your case…it’s important that they are familiar with the rules and proclivities of each judge.

Episode 6: The Elephant in the Room

Robert is surprised to learn that Frances has yet to tell her parents. She has lots of excuses (she hasn’t had time…she wants to tell them in person) so in an effort to save face, the family plans to show up for Christmas as if nothing has happened. Yeah, probably no one will notice that elephant you have in tow…

Clients often ask me, when do I have to tell people? How do I tell people? Is it by going to everyone, one by one?  Is it sending a mass email? Changing my Facebook status? They dread the reactions, the questions…the pity.  It is a difficult thing to navigate and there really is no one right answer. It helps to tell one person first (a trusted friend who can keep your confidence or a divorce coach, for example) and ask them to brainstorm with you… what can you do to let loved ones know, in a way you are comfortable with?  Brainstorm a statement you can use to let them know you really don’t welcome a million questions. Try something like, “I appreciate your concern.  I’m working through everything.  I’ll reach out when I’m ready to talk.”

Episode 7: We’re Broke?

In this episode, Frances is very unpleasantly surprised (ummm, understatement) to find out from her attorney that they are deep, deep in debt.  Turns out Robert has been making poor business decisions, taking out loans, and remortgaging their home without her knowledge, while she is the sole breadwinner.  Ouch.

One of the most excruciating and yet absolutely necessary parts of divorce is examining your finances. It can also be scary if you haven’t been the one keeping an eye on things. (And yeah, sometimes you uncover awful surprises. When I went through my divorce, I found out my ex had racked up $40,000 in credit card debt with a card in my name.) Often your impulse is to ignore, delay, stall. Don’t. The longer you do that, the bigger the problem will seem and your imagination will fill in the blanks about what you don’t know or understand. Get informed. Gather up as many statements and documents as you can and take them to a professional to help you make sense of it all.  Divorce coaches and/or CDFA’s (Certified Divorce Financial Advisors) are trained to help you get organized if you are considering or preparing for divorce.  Even if the news is less than ideal, understanding your financial realities and forming a plan to address them will still feel better than living in the dark.

I’ll keep tuning into #DivorceonHBO because I’m pretty sure there are more lessons to learn here. It’s likely to get worse for Frances before it gets better.  But if Frances were here, I would impress upon her that it WILL get better.  This WILL end and there IS life after divorce, I promise.

If you’d like to talk with me (or my partner Liza) about your own situation, we’d be happy to connect with you. Or if you aren’t ready, that’s ok too. We invite you to keep reading.

Until next time.

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