It happens too often. Friends, co-workers, neighbors or family members are suddenly separated and beginning the process of a divorce. What should you do?
1. Don’t disappear. People need to see some part of their life stay
intact. Helping someone who goes through a divorce maintain some of his
or her former lifestyle helps. So keep meeting for lunch, or tennis or
whatever is unrelated to the divorce.
2. Listen. People in pain need to talk through it, and often they run through all of their support quickly.
3. Don’t take sides in the beginning. The person you are talking to will share his or her pain. He or she can’t often see the other side of the story. So it is best not to add fuel to the fire.
4. Do not tell war stories or compare outcomes of your own case or those of a friend or a family member. Each case is unique. The way cases are handled from county to county or State to State can differ. Ultimately, misinformation can cause confusion.
5. Help with meals and errands. Working through the legal process is a part time job. When someone is sick, people help with meals and transportation. Offer to help. Take the trashcans to the curb, cut grass, or drop off a casserole. Anything will help and is appreciated.
6. If children are involved, remember that the children will need to maintain a relationship with both parents. Don’t discuss the situation in front of your children. They might repeat what they hear.
7. Be a safe place for the children. Sometimes, good parents lose sight of their children during a divorce. Parents who are fighting about the future of their relationships with the children will sometimes start overlooking things important to their children at the same time. So, mind the gaps.
8. Don’t gossip. Keep their confidences. Even telling someone how upset their estranged spouse is can feel like a betrayal. Often, people don’t want their estranged spouses to know anything about their lives when they have moved on.
9. Offer professional references. Often it is bests for separated adults to start using different banks, accountants, financial planners, investment counselors and other professionals. Make a personal referral. It will help them move on and feel independent.
10. Don’t second guess the person’s judgment. If he or she is at peace with a decision, then let it be. The person may not be explaining the entire reason for his or her choice. Respect that different people have to do what is right for them.
11. Pay attention to signs of depression. People go through separation and divorce differently. If you see signs that cause you concern, do something. Therapy may be needed.
12. Involve yourself if they need your help at trial. If a case is going to trial, you may be asked to take sides. No one likes to go to Court. But if someone needs you to be a witness, then speak to his or her attorney and see how you can help. They wouldn’t ask if they didn’t need you. And often, they don’t need you to say anything bad about the other party. Sometimes they need you to say something good about them. Find out what is needed. If you can’t help, then you can say no.
It is hard to know what to do when someone is going through a divorce. But, it helps to be there.
By Leigh Ballenger Sellers