Divorces are different from most other areas of the law as they often involve a great deal of emotion. In order to successfully finalize a divorce, difficult emotions generally must be resolved. In this Podcast New Jersey Divorce Lawyer Carl Taylor addresses the issue of emotion in a divorce and provides tips for how the parties can resolve the emotional issues so that they can focus on the legal ones.
Podcast Transcript: Emotions in Divorce
[0:00:08.5] CT: How did it come to this and what can you do about it? How did a relationship that started out with fancy dinners and romance turn into a “we need to have a talk” or a “maybe we need to separate” or a discovery on a cellphone that there is an affair, or a now someone is packing up and leaving?
How do you get beyond that point when you’ve tried marriage therapy or couple’s counseling, when you’ve gone to individual therapy, perhaps? What do you do when you’ve sort of lost that control, where a marriage is broken irreparably and irretrievably, what do you do to move it forward when you have to get divorced?
This is Carl Taylor and this is the Happily Even After Podcast. I’m a local attorney in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Our firm serves Central New Jersey and we have a great deal of information on our website, www.mynjdivorcelawyer.com. The purpose of this podcast is to sort of delve deeper into some of these issues. Now, very few divorce lawyers are trained in any professional setting to deal with psychology or the emotion of a divorce and yet it inescapably becomes a part of our practice. It’s very, very difficult–probably impossible to separate emotion from a divorce and it’s sort of the opposite of most cases.
In most cases, in most areas of the law, it’s 70-80% “the Law” and 20-30% emotion. It’s sort of flipped on its head in divorce law. What you’re dealing with is an area where it’s almost 20-30% actual legal issues and 70-80% emotional issues and of course, that varies by case.
There are some cases that are relatively amicable and they end fairly quickly. They’ve reached a point where the parties perhaps no longer can work out the relationship but they’re comfortable with each other, they’ve processed it, they’re in a good spot and those cases, kind of come and go through a divorce practice relatively quickly. They’re not the cases a divorce lawyer generally remembers 10, 15, 20 years later. It’s usually the high conflict cases or the cases with a lot of emotion.
I think to some extent that’s because it’s hard for, at least it’s hard for me as a divorce lawyer, to know how to address the emotion and I’ve given a lot of thought to it and of course, I can relate to it because we all have family dynamics, we all deal with emotion. None of us are robots so even though I understand the law, I think one of the things that I need to do or I try to do and probably most divorce lawyers feel the same way is read up on the emotional piece and talk to experts in marriage counseling or therapists or read books about how do you help somebody grieve, because that’s part of it, it’s not what we’re getting paid to do but it’s part of it.
But we really can’t separate the emotion from the divorce and we can’t be robotic either. So what I want to touch on in this podcast and in future podcasts, I’d like to have some of these experts on to talk about emotion with them in a more clinical manner than I can. But I guess I just want to talk about some ground rules or ideas for anyone contemplating a divorce, anyone who is fearful that their children are being alienated by a spouse or an ex or if you’re separated or even after a divorce. Just because the divorce is finalized, doesn’t mean all the emotions go into a tidy little box and don’t come out ever again.
A lot of divorces are more like a Pandora’s box, if anything, because at any moment those emotions can be triggered or released and I definitely don’t want to ever do a disservice to my clients by letting people think it’s going to be easy, because it’s not. On our website, one of the things we’ve done is we’ve added a section on various parts of the law where we have all of our articles and links to articles where we’ve been published offsite and links to relevant podcasts. But we also have the section, one of the eight, it’s only addresses the issue of emotion in a divorce. We’ll have interviews with someone like Glenn Murphy who is a licensed counselor and marriage therapist in Somerset County, about how do you address the emotion of divorce with your children? How do you help your children through a divorce?
I mean, that’s a very real concern. We care about our children and obviously a divorce will impact your children, one way or the other. Even in the best-case scenario, there’s going to be some impact and how do you protect them through that? So, I think today it’s more of a base line in this podcast, talking about emotion. Sometimes we don’t want to talk about it, we want to keep it in. But there’s going to be emotion as part of your divorce, that’s only natural and your divorce lawyer’s not going to be trained. Someone like me is not – I’m not trained, necessarily, in any clinical manner.
So what I can do is, in certain cases, recommend that somebody go to a therapist, but not everybody’s comfortable doing that. Some people probably take it personally. It’s not–it’s just something I think is a good idea because a divorce as they say is worse than a death, it doesn’t mean you have to go to therapy forever, it doesn’t mean you need to be medicated. But talking to someone, clergy, therapist, reading books, reading some of the materials we have access to on our website, whatever it is that you do to help yourself through the lows in life that inevitably will strike.
Some people take up running as a healthy way to get through it. I know for me, I really enjoy going for long hikes to clear my head. When I’m really going through a tough problem that I want to solve, I might go out and hike 10, 15 miles on a Saturday and take those four, five, six hours to myself, away from everybody in nature and think. It’s going to be different for everybody. Go wail on your guitar, go talk to a family member, talk to your parents, whatever it might be but make sure you have a support network and understand that even an attorney like me who is talking about emotion in a divorce, I’m not going to be trained.
Some attorneys probably are trained or dual trained, but most attorneys, even in family law, we’re not trained in how to necessarily address the emotion and we’re used to people being very emotional. I think a lot of times, I can only speak for myself, it can be frustrating when you see a case take a turn for the worse because of emotion, one way or the other and it’s tough if you think someone’s playing games because, you know, divorce is not a game. It’s serious business and at the same time, I think sometimes you have to let it out. Sometimes I’ve been through mediations where it didn’t seem helpful but, you know, a few days later or a couple of weeks later. The case settles unexpectedly and it’s almost like a blood-letting, you let the negative emotion out.
You know, the reason why most people are getting divorced ultimately is because of a lack of communication, a lack of boundaries, and a lack of trust. So now you are going through a really difficult situation with somebody that you’ve had a hard time communicating with, with somebody that you don’t necessarily trust. So how do you get through this difficult process and you have the stranger, most times the stranger that is your lawyer and a lot of clients are skeptical of their lawyers. I have clients who wonder if I am in it to run up a bill, for instance, and I think in almost any high conflict divorce, there’s going to be a moment where as an attorney, you look at your client and the client is thinking, “Do I really trust this person?” I think that is natural.
So learning how to communicate effectively with your lawyer or having your lawyer hopefully teach you how to communicate with them and how to take the wheel of your divorce to some extent because there is no single factor in your divorce that is going to have a bigger impact on it than you and yeah, you are paying me as your lawyer a lot of money per hour for my knowledge and expertise in this area of the law. But to get to the point where you have a settlement and you are clear on your goals and you’re clear in what you need to get out of this divorce to move forward, a lot of that is up to you.
It is not entirely up to you because there is another party, your spouse, and then there’s the court and they’re going to have the court that’s going to have another agenda and its own views. The biggest agenda of all generally being moving an overstuffed docket as quickly as possible efficiently through. But there is no way to come out of this with everything that you want unless you’re well informed about what your rights and responsibilities are and most people don’t want to think about the second half of that equation, but it is true. In a divorce you may have certain rights but you’re also going to have responsibilities and if you come in for a consult with me I am going to tell you about your rights and also your responsibilities.
You may have to pay alimony, you may have to pay child support and you may not like it. You may not have a great custody case or maybe you do. But you need to understand the law and you need to understand what is attainable and the cost and time and money to pursue every avenue of your divorce to its conclusion. When I was growing up, I know I saw my parents who have been married for a very long time and have a very good marriage. But I saw them go through an out of nowhere civil type litigation where a township error led to their being damage to their house and then the township didn’t want to pay for it and I saw my parents who were very down to earth, blue collar kind of people go through this and I was a young kid and, you know, finances were tight already and they got even tighter.
It didn’t seem like they were getting the proper communication from their attorney, who knows? But it seemed like they were in the dark about the process and what was going to happen and I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a lawyer to do the opposite of that. I wanted to go out and really inform people about the process and divorce law is a great area for that because I work with real people. I have the ability to really take people through a difficult process and be their guide and hopefully point them to materials and sort of almost teach them the process and the procedure and the law and those rights and responsibilities, and it is not always smooth and it is not always perfect and every case is different and has different personalities.
But what I come to over and over again is that if you have that knowledge that’s great. That is one part of the puzzle, but you also have to have knowledge of yourself, knowledge of your soon to be ex, knowledge of the style of your attorney and to their attorney and really just an overarching knowledge of the emotion of divorce. So I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but in the coming weeks on our website, on social media, in our podcast here I really want to delve in more and more into what is the emotional mix that has to be addressed in a divorce and it might be in your case, you feel a lot of guilt because you had an affair and you got caught. Maybe you just want to give up all of your alimony rights and give up your kid’s child support rights and take less custody and parenting time because you feel guilty.
Or maybe that was your spouse who did all of that stuff and you just want to punish them and they’re a great mom but they went out and had an affair. So now you want to make sure that you punish them by taking away her time with her kids, with your kids. There’s going to be all kinds of — I can’t get into the specifics because I am talking to a wide audience but there’s going to be feelings of abandonment, doubt. People who are not sure if they wanted to get divorced because they are afraid that they’re never going to find anybody else, so they stick through a bad marriage.
There’s going to be people who feel anger, frustration. There is going to be people who have legitimate psychological issues, borderline personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder and on and on that impact the divorce. There’s going to be feelings of apathy, right? The opposite of love as they say isn’t hate it’s apathy. There’s going to be people who are depressed because their marriage is ending and they don’t want to fill out the forms.
How do you get to the point where you need to do to answer discovery and pick your head up to address this issues and there’s going to be people who don’t want to put the money into the divorce that it needs to get it resolved in the sort of catch 22. These are all largely emotional issues and until you can, like I said earlier, blood let some of these issues you really can’t get to meat of the case what I call the 20-30% that is the actual law. You know the law that addresses each component of your divorce case.
So today was just to give a general overview of emotion in divorce and you can look for more information on mynjdivorcelawyer.com. If you’d like to schedule a consult, my number is 908-237-3096 and I hope everyone’s enjoying a good January thus far in 2019 and I look forward to addressing, in coming weeks, the issue of emotion in divorce and to have some experts who can help us delve into this topic and understand it better.
So thanks again for listening and have a great day. Bye.