By Karen Silver
Next to death, divorce is one of the most difficult and painful things a person can experience. It is not only the parties to the divorce who experience anguish, but certainly their children and often family members as well.
Divorcing parties often turn to family members for support. But how do family members provide the necessary support and guidance without relinquishing their own lives, finances and sanity in the process? Here are some useful tips and guidelines for when your family member says “I’m getting a divorce.”
1. Listen to your family member if he or she talks to you about the breakup of their marriage; be loving and supportive. Avoid giving unsolicited advice or unabashedly denigrating the soon-to-be ex-spouse. You never know– parties occasionally reconcile. Don’t become personally involved in a family member’s divorce.
2. Don’t let your family member’s divorce affect your relationship with your other family members. Other family members can often feel alienated as a divorce takes center stage.
3. Assist your family member in becoming informed about the divorce process, and aid in locating competent professionals who can help such as lawyers, mediators, therapists and accountants.
4. Don’t attend meetings between your family member and his or her lawyer, as you will become a witness to the conversations which break the attorney client privilege.
5. Don’t say bad or negative things about the divorcing spouse (or his or her family) in front of minor children. This only serves to hurt the children.
6. Realize that divorce and the breakup of any relationship, is a painful and emotional event which often leads to violent situations. Take measures to protect your family’s safety such as having third parties on hand if necessary.
7. Refrain from helping a family member engage in conduct that violates the law such as concealing money, assets or children or tampering with evidence. You could become a witness or jeopardize your own rights and property.
8. Do not publicize or discuss news or details of your family member’s divorce unless your family member authorizes you to do so. This is not your information to disseminate. Remember that social media can be used against a party during a divorce proceeding.
9. Help plan new family traditions for your family member and his or her children to replace those that will no longer occur as a result of the changing family dynamic.
10. If possible, attend events, graduations, recitals, sports games, and other activities to provide support. This is especially important if the other party is now dating or quickly remarried.
11. In the event a family member asks you for funds to pay for living expenses, divorce lawyers or other costs of litigation, consider what you can reasonably contribute. If you provide funds, do so in the form of a loan, with interest and an expectation of repayment. Understand that it may be quite some time before you are repaid.
12. Tell your family member and any children involved you love them and are there for them.
Karen Silver is a family law attorney with the boutique firm of Ribet & Silver in Century City. Her practice is devoted exclusively to family law issues. Karen may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.