For most people confronting a divorce, it is pretty weighty stuff. Nobody enters into a marriage hoping it will fail. But if your happy marriage becomes more of a mirage, where does that leave you?
Many people feel hopeless when confronting a divorce. I know this because during my initial consults with prospective clients they will invariably tell me how hopeless they feel. On a good day, they may say at the end of our meeting: "thank you, this meeting gave me some hope."
At a meeting today with a marketing vendor I found myself making the following statement: "Most people in the divorce space are selling fear. We want to sell hope." But of course, one of our core tenets is integrity, so we do not wish to sell false hope. Nevertheless, hope is one of the most important aspects of life and of getting through a divorce relatively unscathed.
Divorce and Feeling Hopeless
For many of our clients, their divorce will be one of the one to five hardest things they will experience in their lives. Going through a divorce has been likened to mourning a death. It's natural to feel fear. It's entirely natural to ask questions such as: "what will happen to our children?" or "How much alimony will I have to pay?" or "will there be enough for us to live off of when we have two sets of roofs." It's also entirely normal to feel a sense of dread, anger, loneliness, or yes---hopelessness. Getting through a divorce successfully is often a complex and multi-step process. I often find myself telling clients "we have to take this thing one brick at a time." See also, how do you eat an elephant (one bite at a time...).
Another core tenet of our firm is transparency. I want to take our clients and yes--even the general public--under the hood of our operation and New Jersey divorce and family law in general. In this article I want to focus on the topic of hope and why we focus on hope versus fear for our clients.
Here's one admission: it's probably a smarter strategy to sell fear. Divorce is sort of like life insurance: it's not something people want to spend money on and it's not a fun way to spend money. People often hire divorce lawyers because they are fearful of walking through the system alone and they are worried they will "get a bad deal" or "lose their shirt." It's also not fun to purchase life insurance (I'll never get to enjoy it!) but I do so out of fear of leaving my family insufficiently covered in my untimely passing. But again, it would be a lot more fun to buy a new car, a back deck, a beach house, or even retirement funds (hoping for days on an island sometime in the future) than to purchase a divorce, a root canal, or insurance but we do so out of fear. Also, the more aggressive and intense a divorce is the more the attorneys generally get paid (as we bill by the hour). There is no riches in encouraging reasonable settlement.
Here's another thing to consider: places like dentist offices and even funeral homes are not pleasant regarding their purpose, but often attempt to be pleasant in the atmosphere. There will be soothing music in the background, for instance. But many law offices I have entered in my life are not entirely pleasant. When we designed our law firm I did the best I could with our space to make it tranquil, to add saltwater fish for clients (and their children, if they bring them) to watch, etc., and to make the place a bright and cheery environment. This is because we are 'selling' hope.
Many clients come in feeling hopeless and looking for anything they can to make themselves feel better (or lacking that, to make their soon to be spouse feel worse). They have been wronged, hurt, damaged, perhaps cheated on, and so on and vengeance and hopelessness are two things on their minds (usually).
So Why Hope?
So why do we focus on hope? Why is my book on New Jersey Divorce law titled: "Happily EVEN After." Why does our own website tout ourselves as "dolphins and not sharks." We're actually fairly sardonic and pessimistic people----why all this Kumbaya stuff?
Here's the simple, honest answer: because it's what most clients need.
If you're going through a divorce you'll face fears, both real and imagined. You don't need me to add to those fears. I will of course be honest and realistic in both my initial assessment of your case and your approach moving forward. But I will do my best to focus on hope rather than fear.
I've had plenty of clients who have taken bad deals, or who have wanted to take bad deals because their fear overcame them. It's better for most client's cases to have a quiet confidence that, brick-by-brick, the case will one day be in their rearview mirror. It's also better for clients (as my mental health professional colleagues and friends have assured me) if all the baggage and emotional turmoil of a divorce can be addressed so that a reasonable and amicable settlement can be reached. These are the clients who can maintain a cordial relationship with their ex post-divorce, can co-parent post-divorce, and who can move forward to a brighter future rather than grappling forever with the past.
After ten years of practicing law I know that divorce cases are usually driven just as much by emotion as they are logic. Many people lose their jobs during divorces because the emotional and personal impact is so great. There is an accelerated risk of domestic violence, depression, and self-harm.
Our firm will always place our client's first. We believe in our abilities and we believe in our clients. Maybe hope is a bit of a dated sentiment in 2019, but as Desmond Tutu once famously said: "Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness." And as Christopher Reeve (a/k/a Superman) once said: "Once you choose hope, anything's possible."
If you're feeling alone or hopeless in your marriage or in your divorce, just take it brick by brick. Eventually, this too will pass and there will be a Happily EVEN After.