Family Law Partner at Weinberg & Cooper, LLC in Hackensack, NJ
It happens. And if it hasn’t happened yet to you, it will. One of your friends is going to get divorced. If you need advice on how to help your friend going through a divorce, read on. I strongly recommend you open your home and your heart to your friends if they are going through a difficult time. Because unfortunately, as life happens, you don’t know whether you will be the next one that will need to rely upon friends.
1) Listen To Them: A friend who is going through a contested divorce is sometimes overwhelmed emotionally. The simple act of listening to a friend can do wonders for them. Avoid offering advice that you read on the internet, especially legal advice. Just listen to them. They do not need to hear horror stories or success stories of other people’s divorces. Sometimes, they want a friend to listen to them and hug them while they cry. Let them vent about what is upsetting them, scaring them, and reassure them you are there for them. Confiding in our trustworthy friends over a cup of coffee is sometimes all we need.
2) Be There For Them: A person finds out quickly who their true friends are when they are going through a hard time such as a divorce. If you say to your friend that you are going to be available for your friend, then do as you say. It is shocking and upsetting how many clients relay to me about how they felt abandoned during the divorce process, and how many of their so-called friends turn their backs on someone going through a difficult time. While you may not know the right words to say, a simple phone call, letter, or e-mail in this day and age, letting your friend know you are there for them can mean the world to someone who feels alone.
3) Include Them: It never ceases to amaze me when clients tell me that since they are going through a divorce, or their divorce has since been finalized, how often their other “friends” stop including them or inviting them to group events. Being single should not preclude you from being a good friend to someone who was considered your friend when they were married. Don’t stop inviting them to get togethers, happy hour, or even weekend couple events. Someone going through a divorce needs their friends more than ever at this stage in their lives. Also, make the effort to make plans where your recently divorced friends do not feel uncomfortable being surrounded by only married couples. Expand your horizons and create environments welcoming to your friends, in all various stages of their lives.
4) Don’t Slam Their Ex On Social Media: I have written before about the pitfalls of social media and divorce. Please see that article here: Social Media and Divorce: Why You Should Put Down the Keyboard and Log Out. My advice there remains true today. Don’t allow your friends going through a divorce to badmouth their former spouses on any form of social media, and don’t join them in doing so. Not only is not classy, it is surely going to backfire. While you may want to demonstrate your unwavering support for your friend, disparaging their former spouse on social media is not the appropriate way to show that support.
5) Tell Them to Get Professional Help if They Need It: Sometimes friends feel like they can represent themselves in their divorce. This is never a good idea. Be there for your friend, emotionally, or sometimes financially if necessary, to help a true friend escape from a dangerous situation. But more than encouraging them to seek legal representation, a friend may become so distraught during their divorce that they need professional help and support to learn coping skills to help them navigate a contested divorce. Don’t be afraid to encourage them to get help if they appear to be struggling. A good friend is there for a friend through thick and thin, but sometimes the pressures surrounding an ugly divorce require the assistance of trained therapists and the like. It is not abandoning your friend if you tell them they need help. Certainly, you are most likely not equipped or trained to handle such delicate situations.