Saturday, January 19, 2008

Divorce Coping Basics

What is the number one issue between divorcing couples?

As I wrote in my book, I believe that control is the number one issue in any relationship and clearly when that relationship is falling apart, i.e. a divorce.

How do control issues affect the divorce process?

How one acts in the divorce process can ultimately determine what the outcome is. If you give yourself to the judge to make the decision, you've given the judge ultimate control. If you take control of yourself and try to do the best job you can as a parent, as a human being. If you give yourself over to your lawyer who is a fully for example a control freak he or she, if you let your ex control your future that may have done during the marriage, that will determine where you are as the process unwinds.

How can I limit the negative effect that control issues can have on my divorce?

The best ways to limit how the negative aspects of divorce can affect a person is to pick the right type of lawyer for you. Work closely with that lawyer so that you are jointly managing the process. Have a good therapist, whether it is a psychologist, a rabbi, a minister or a priest. Stay healthy. Work out. Take care of yourself. Don't over-indulge, don't under-indulge. Don't be sleep-deprived. Don't be a maniac working all the time. Try to be as emotionally and psychologically healthy as you can to limit the negative effect that control issues can have on your divorce.

Can control shift during the course of a divorce?

Control can and absolutely does shift during the process of a divorce, and frankly it should. If you go to court, you have given control to the judge. If you pick a lawyer who is a control freak or does not know how to assert control where appropriate, control can shift during a divorce. If you let yourself be manipulated by your lawyer, or your children, or your ex, or your new boyfriend, control can shift. Those are just examples of control shifting in a divorce. If you over indulge in alcohol or eating, you have given yourself over to another form of control. If you don't sleep and work like a maniac during a divorce, you've given up control.

What is meant by the terms "controller" or "shot-caller" in a divorce?

The controller or shot-caller is the person who dominates the proceedings, the one who calls the shots, who controls the process. The shot caller could be the judge, the lawyer, the shrink, or even the 4 year old little girl who is a terror. The controller, or shotcaller, could be the new boyfriend, or it could be the new trixie girlfriend - that happens all the time - or the ex-mother in-law or father in-law. It could be one of the litigants and often, it's a multitude. Control can shift. So the shot caller can be the client one day, the judge the next day.

What is meant by the term "controllee" in a divorce?

The person who is the controllee is the one who is being controlled during a divorce. For example, the controllee could be one of the spouses, or one of the divorce lawyers who is completely out-maneuvered by the opposing lawyer.

How do I know if I'm the controller or the controllee in my divorce?

The controller is the one who is dominating the process. If you're looking at the two parties, it is generally one of the parties, although that control can shift. It is my job as a lawyer, I believe, to help somebody assert control. And you don't have to do it in mean or litigious way. But take control of themself and take control of the process by understanding the process. The controllee is the one who is being controlled, or the more submissive one. In my book, I give worksheets to help you determine that. But if you don't want to take the time to go through those worksheets, just step back and think about it. Talk to your therapist, talk to your lawyer, reflect on the process and who is working with you and do some soul searching and figure out, "Is this how you want to act?" Maybe you're just fine being controlled. Maybe you prefer that. A lot of litigants go to a lawyer so they don't have to make decisions, and they pick a lawyer who will control them and tell them what to do. Do I think that's the best way to handle the divorce process and picking a lawyer? No. That's my value judgment. But for certain people, that's what they want and need.

Are there disadvantages to being the controller in a divorce?

Yes, there are disadvantages to being the controller in a divorce if you don't know how to manage it; and if you become the bully, if you become the crazy person, if you've lost perspective, if you are overly in control and do not know how to manage yourself or the process.

Are there advantages to being the controllee in a divorce?

There are certain advantages to being the controllee if you understand why you are doing that and why it is necessary to acheive a certain goal, in which case you're really the one in control.

What is meant by the term "attacker" in a divorce?

The term attacker means the adversary of the aggressive spouse during a divorce. There's a difference between aggressive and assertive. What I hope for within myself and within my clients is that they are assertive, they are in control. When you attack, and you do it in a vicious way, you're not in control. When you attack, in a way a surgeon does, where you take a knife and you surgically remove something, to me that's appropriate in what you want to do during a divorce.

How do I deal with a spouse who's an attacker in my divorce?

To deal with someone who is attacking you during a divorce, you either don't engage - you feign. They move to you, you move. Move away or figure out how to manage that attack. However, if you always don't engage during a divorce, you're going to get run right over. One of the things I talk about in my book is, if you're engaged in the legal wars of divorce, there are certain times you have to deal with it. You have to respond and frankly, to deal with a bully, often you have to attack bigger. Put him or her in her place, to end the attack.

What is meant by the term "defender" in a divorce?

The word "defender", as the word suggests, is someone who is on the defense during a divorce. Sometimes, being on the defense is pretty awful. Sometimes it's not so bad if the person who is attacking you comes across as a complete idiot and out of line. You can sort of feign off their attack, and you win.

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