Divorce is a very personal event between two people, but it is rarely private. It’s more like a pebble in a pond. Many other people are in the water with you and will feel the waves that your divorce creates. It might not feel like it, but you have a lot of control over the waves; the number, the size and the duration. At the outset, it’s a good idea to take a moment to consider all of those who share your pond and determine whether they will be buoyed or drowned by the waves of your divorce.
Friends & Family. Obviously, your children will be involved in the changes to your family, as will your extended families and friends to the extent that you invite them. Choose your support network wisely. Carefully decide how much you want to disclose. Once it’s out there, you can’t get it back.
Also remember that the reactions of those closest to you are often based on their perception of how you are handling things. You’ve seen this happen. It’s no different than when a child stumbles, falls, and then looks to those nearby to gauge how they should react.
If you’re upset, they will be. If you make a funny face and laugh, they will too. If you’re angry, they will be. If you are thoughtfully seeking to understand your options, and getting the assistance you need to care for yourself, then they will help you with those things.
Don’t be afraid to speak up to those who do not take your cues. They can be a gale force wind, turning your small waves into big ones.
I recall one mother who was devastated by a divorce precipitated by her partner’s infidelity. She never cried in front of their young children and never allowed anyone to mention his behavior when the kids were in the same building. She told me that she barely held it together all day and cried herself to sleep every night. It was difficult, but she maintained control over the waves of her divorce, allowing her children to be buoyed through the storm.
I remember a father who, exacerbating the devastation and dysfunction initiated by his partner's drug addiction, put his toddlers in the car to show them that their mom was at her drug dealer's house on Christmas Eve instead of at home with them. And another mother who, at the insistence of her very angry and hurt partner, sat their tween-agers down and told them all about the affair that she had been having with another man – in explicit detail. You can just see these children being swept away by those tidal waves, searching frantically for something solid and safe to grab and hold.
The more people that you or your partner invite to splash around in the pond of your divorce, the bigger the waves and the longer it will take to re-establish calm.
Community. You, your family and friends come into daily contact with many other folks. Employers, co-workers, religious leaders, school teachers, sports coaches, child care providers, medical providers, even the local barber …. You have no control over how much information others will share. But you do have control over what you tell them.
Litigation. If your divorce is litigated in the legal system, then you have invited many more people into the pond. At a minimum, the judge and attorneys will be involved. Each time you enter the courtroom there will be other personnel such as the judge’s bailiff, court reporter, law clerk and calendar clerk who will hear the details of your life. Courtrooms are open to the public and media, and of course, any other litigants who have cases that day will be there along with their attorneys, witnesses and supporters.
If your case is contested, then other professionals can be involved, including guardians ad litem, custody evaluators, psychiatrists, appraisers, realtors, CPAs, business evaluators or law enforcement.
When you litigate, evidence and testimony can be sought from many sources, including your employers, co-workers, paramours, bankers and business partners. Other targets include anyone in your community, family and friends.
Events from your life, and those who know about them, can and will be unearthed. Sometimes litigants are faced with testimony or evidence from other lovers, supervisors who had fired them for embezzlement, or demoted or fired them for affairs with co-workers, employer’s drug/alcohol tests, DFACS reports, landlords, state patrol officers and DUI arrest dashcam videos, neighbors who heard and saw it all, credit card receipts of flowers sent to a lover while their partner was undergoing chemotherapy, videotape of the couple’s S&M sexual activities or one partner’s porn, or anything posted to social media (a divorce lawyer’s best witness!).
The more people that you or your partner invite to splash around in the pond of your divorce, the bigger the waves and the longer it will take to re-establish calm. Caution, even then you could be left dealing with a fair amount of pond scum.
Authored by Cynthia L. Patton, Esq. This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should consult your own attorney for specific legal advice.