You may be contemplating a divorce or find yourself in the midst of divorce—a divorce you chose or a divorce that you did not choose. Your once clear vision of the future is upside down and you have no idea what the future holds. I have learned a lot from my clients over the last 26 years about what it takes to face the future with confidence. Facing your future with confidence requires you to take action, to envision the future that you want, and then create it.
HIRE THE RIGHT LAWYER FOR YOU
Consider the qualities that matter most to you in an attorney-client relationship. Is gender, age, hourly rate, reputation, board certification, specialty, or personality important? Employing the right lawyer for you will make a difference in how you view your divorce, how you handle the divorce, and how you view your future. You will know you have the right lawyer if you feel comfortable, appropriately supported, and trusting.
The right lawyer will help you identify any other resources or professionals that may be helpful to you. For example, I have clients who, during their marriage, deferred to their spouse to make all financial decisions. These same clients face complex financial decisions in their divorce that will affect their future. In an instance like this, I might suggest a financial planner/consultant/advocate to educate my client about the pros/cons of specific decisions or to help my client understand his or her cash-flow needs.
LEARN EVERYTHING YOU CAN
A confused mind always says “no.” In a divorce, there are times to say “no” but there are as many times to say “yes” or “here is another idea.” Clients find it difficult to say “yes” or to suggest ideas when uncertainty exists. The antidote to uncertainty is understanding. To feel more certain, ask questions, take notes, and read materials provided. Do the best that you can to understand the law and the issues in your case. Refuse to make a decision until you feel fully informed. You will not always like what you learn, but you will feel more confident, more informed, when presented with decisions. Knowledge is power, and knowledge allows you to make good, informed decisions and to plan your future.
Studies show that individuals are much more satisfied with an outcome if they participate in the creation of the outcome. Exercising the freedom to make and affect decisions, especially decisions that affect our lives, is a core human need. I have seen clients unhappy, frustrated, and resentful about an outcome that objectively (per legal norms) is good because they viewed themselves as powerless, subjected to the decisions of their spouse or “the law”. You always have a choice. Resist the temptation to adapt a passive role in your divorce and allowing your lawyer or your spouse make all of the recommendations and decisions. Find your voice and participate. You will feel more powerful, more in control of your life, and more confident about your future.
I have a client who wants to be right—all the time, at all costs. He views the divorce as a competition, like a tennis match, and he wants to win. The direct result of this is his spouse is defensive and will not listen even when my client is offering a reasonable, beneficial solution. Someone focused on “winning” loses the ability to persuade and loses sight of what is most important. Quit competing, and instead, imagine that you and your spouse are working toward the same finish line–you probably share similar goals and concerns, and probably a variety of ways exist to address those goals and concerns. When the competition stops, defensiveness stops. When defensiveness stops, communication and problem-solving begin. Problem-solving builds confidence and allows the future to be reimagined.
My clients have taught me that almost everyone has the capacity to move forward with confidence if they choose to do so. Not everyone moved forward beautifully—sometimes forward progress was slow, or ungraceful, or bumpy. But they moved forward because they chose to focus on the future rather than the past. They talked about where they wanted to go instead of talking about the past. They stopped arguing about past grievances and talked about what they wanted to have happen in the future. You too can face your future with confidence if you choose and are willing to do the needed work.