When divorce hits home it’s like someone pressed the panic button and all hell has broken loose. Might I suggest an alternative? Hit snooze. Trust me, you’ll be glad you took those extra ten minutes.
Rare is the client that walks into my office cool, calm and collected. Even rarer is the client who tells me that she has had time to mourn the end of her marriage, learn from her mistakes, healed her broken heart, considered all the financial implications of her past and future, and is ready to lay out a plan for herself and the future. Nope, not even close.
Instead, more often than not, my client is frazzled, distressed, confused, and barely able to get through the first ten minutes of our meeting without a tissue. She has usually “just found out” that her husband has lied, stolen, cheated or whatever the bomb is- and by “just” I mean a few weeks, days or even hours ago.
While it is true that it is important to know your rights and what to do, it is equally important to be able to understand those rights and process what you are being told. I know that often times I am speaking about income, assets, liabilities, ramifications and consequences when my poor client is barely coming out of a state of shock.
Absent a life threatening situation, sometimes inaction is the best action. There are many times when simply taking a step back, breathing, and taking care of yourself are much more important than rushing to see an attorney. In many cases in those first few days and weeks following the “announcement” there is nothing that NEEDS to be done.
There are of course many exceptions and I am not talking about things like a spouse disappearing from the house with the kids, bank accounts being closed, locks being changed, cars being towed…those things require urgent, immediate attention and action.
I am talking about a situation where your seemingly happy and normal ordinary married life is going to change. A situation where your spouse tells you that he’s not happy anymore and wants a divorce. Beyond that, he has not done anything else, and other than being emotionally devastated, the household continues to function relatively the same. If this is the case, then you need to wait a while and see where this is all going. In some cases there is very good reason to do nothing, and at the very least, a brief snooze is in order.
There are times when I counsel my client that she should not be the one to initiate proceedings or hurry things along just to accommodate her anxious husband who can’t wait to move out and eat his bowl of cherries on the other side where the grass seems greener. I tell the husbands the very same thing. There is no need for him to hurry out the door so that his cheating wife can enjoy all the comforts of home with the pool guy while he pays all the expenses. His or her rush or strategy is not necessarily yours, and this major decision is one that you should make when and how you are ready.
Divorce is complicated and strategies are best formulated after careful thought and planning. Think of it as when you know you have a big day and set the alarm a little bit early just to give you that extra time and peace of mind…or that little bit extra snooze. The nice thing about the snooze button is you can hit it as many times as you like or need.