Divorces are challenging. Those regularly engaged in them become numb to the emotions involved because they have to focus on their job. But discounting or ignoring the emotional aspects of the dispute can be an impediment to resolution.
There are a host of emotions involved in a divorce – anger, resentment, bitterness, guilt, frustration, helplessness, sadness, and remorse, just to name a few. And everyone handles emotions, even the same emotions, differently. Some wear them on their sleeves. Others maintain a stone-faced indifference which belies the torment deep inside. And sometimes the emotion that one portrays is merely masking another. Of course, these emotions can be ignored, but they will not go away on their own. They can have a substantial impact on the decision-making process and thus on any hopes of settlement.
The emotional implications of issues involved in a divorce go beyond the obvious ones, such as those involved with the failure of the marriage, any infidelity, the loss of family, and the wide range of those involved with children and child-rearing. But, there are also emotional implications involving many of the other elements of a divorce including:
Division of personal property
Real estate (including homes)
Investments, cash, savings, and retirement accounts
Allocation of responsibilities for long-term and short-term debt
Credit cards, loans, and contingent liabilities
Issues surrounding a small or family business
While the financial effects of these issues can generate a wide range of emotions, for some the emotional impact goes beyond the economics.
Emotions cloud clear thinking. They can impact settlement negotiations and impair an ultimate agreement in a number of ways. Emotions can obviously impact the ability to even make offers and counteroffers. Someone who acts out or shuts down when overcome with emotion makes negotiations difficult if not impossible. How do you avoid that or work through it? A party may try to address an emotional need through a settlement item. Those experienced with divorce know that isn’t effective, but how do you deal with it? Emotions can also affect the outcome in court, whether at a hearing on an intermediate issue or in a final hearing. It’s important to respect emotions without letting them rule the day.
While an attorney experienced in the technical aspects of divorce (applicable law, accounting and finance, and local custom and practice) is certainly important, one cannot underestimate the significance of one who can identify and deal with the various emotions involved. While emotions must be taken into account in the process, they cannot control it. A divorce attorney must manage the process so that it can be effective. That doesn’t mean that she must ignore the emotions.