Some Advice on Divorce, or

When You’ve Given the Same Advice Three Times, It’s Time to Write It Down

I’ve been practicing family law in Chicago for thirty years now.  I find myself telling my new clients pretty much the same thing every time, and it occurs to me that it’s probably worth putting out in the public realm.  So:

1. You’re Going to Be Crazy for Two Years More or Less:  So will the rest of your family—your soon-to-be-ex, your kids, your in-laws, your close friends, and even your pets.  I had one client whose goldfish started acting like a piranha.  You will find yourself doing and saying things you could never have imagined before.  You will start checking out the Yellow Pages for convenient padded cells to book into.

But in fact, there is nothing permanently wrong with you.  In a couple of years, you and those around you will once again be normal people.  Not the same people you were before, probably, but normal.  In the meantime, you might want to get some kind of counseling or join a support group or talk to your pastor for help just getting through. If either you or your spouse has problems with alcohol or drugs, you might want to get everybody into various Twelve-Step programs.  Ala-Teen has gotten great reviews from kids I know.  Talk to your kids’ teachers and counselors in school, so they’ll know to watch out for problems.  There is help out there, and most of it is inexpensive or free: use it.

2. A Divorce Will Not Make Your Spouse Disappear: Not if you have kids under 21, anyway.  This process does not end by giving you a magic button that you can press and quietly, nonviolently make your ex vanish from the world, or even from your world.  It will not abolish your relationship with your ex.  It will just change that relationship.  Aside from all the legal and financial work you will be doing over the next couple of years, you will have to work on making that relationship with your kids’ other parent workable.  Above all, don’t ever force your kids to choose between you and their other parent.  Just keep your own door open to them.  There are therapists and mediators out there who may be able to help, although they’re usually expensive.

3. Cook County Illinois is the Largest Divorce Court Jurisdiction in the Country: It may even be the largest in the world—we don’t really have much data from China.  So everything takes longer.  Sometimes time is on your side; sometimes it works against you.  Either way, there will be a lot of it involved in this case.  Generally speaking, you can get the case over fast, or you can get what you want—not both. Try to be patient.  Sometimes your best advantage is the ability to outwait your spouse.


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