How Church Divorce Recovery Groups and The Law May Differ

Yesterday, a friend going through divorce told me the Pastor at his church running the Divorce Recovery Program has been telling the current group they must “always be trying to reconcile.”

While there is certainly a time for reconciliation, once the parties have retained attorneys, a divorce has been filed and is proceeding through the court system you will actually be hurting your legal case by seeking reconciliation with your soon to be X-spouse.

I told my friend to “kindly” ask the Pastor “Are you giving me legal advice Pastor? Because if you are my attorney has told me in no uncertain terms this will actually hurt me legally!”

That being said, it is also important to think about the timing of things:

  1. You tried or didn’t to reconcile BEFORE filing for or your spouse filed for divorce
  2. If reconciliation FAILED then you either sit in separation anxiety sometimes in the same home or you proceed with a divorce
  3. Depending on whether you’re a member of a religious faith you will have certain views about finalizing a divorce and what that means for your life and your soul. If you’re not involved with a faith or denomination, then you should proceed with a divorce because you are legally married with all the consequences of debt, assets, etc. until you’re not married
  4. Even if you are involved in a faith / denomination there comes a point where there is no more hope for reconciliation. A dear friend of mine who is older actually saw his Rabbi on my behalf and the Rabbi advised correctly in my case to get divorced as quickly as possible. See the final paragraph here to understand why that was good advice
  5. Depending on what STAGE you’re in, your faith and your lawyer you will either proceed with the divorce or reconcile

Confused? Go to many different support groups, talk to people at all these different stages, talk to your lawyer if you have one and make a decision.

The only thing I would say you should NOT do is nothing. Like having a medical condition that is progressive your marriage either works and you stay together to make it work or you sit in dysfunction. See posts on this blog from Michelle Weiner-Davis the divorce buster in Boulder, Colorado who I very much admire. If your marriage doesn’t work you or your spouse might begin going out with others while you’re still married (never a good idea even with “no fault” divorce states of which are the majority. See posts to that effect on this blog. Or you lead lives of quiet separate desperation leading to anxiety disorders and depression (also not a great idea).

DO SOMETHING… Don’t just sit in it. If you can reconcile DO IT. In my case my lovely wife of 18 years was actively involved in an affair with a married man in another state and not only was there no chance of reconciliation (I tried and was laughed at), but my now x wife was un- repetent, arrogant and dismissive and actually told me, her family and our daughters there was nothing wrong with her affair because “she filed for divorce.” Really?! And if that wasn’t crazy enough she also told me “we can always get re-married.”

NO THANK YOU!!!

My Affair “Just Happened” I Wasn’t Looking for it…

Another excellent email from Michelle Weiner-Davis I just received and am reposting. As I’ve said before I found her resources and coaching very helpful when I went through my divorce in 2009 following my x-wife’s affair.

My Affair “Just Happened”

I’ve been a therapist for a very long time. I’ve encountered people from all walks of life with varied viewpoints, personalities, strengths and idiosyncratic quirks.

I’m never bored, rarely shocked and almost never irritated. But the operative word here is “almost.”

I have lost count of the number of times when a spouse who’s been unfaithful says, “I wasn’t looking for an affair, it just happened.”

It’s as if these people were simply going about their days, minding their own businesses and alas, they suddenly found themselves stark naked in hotel rooms having breathless, passionate sex.

It just happens?

Uh, I don’t think so.

Affairs aren’t spontaneous; they require planning and decision-making.

Frequently, the choices people make that pave the way for an affair- dinner with a co-worker, meeting an old boyfriend or girlfriend for a drink after work just to catch up, having lunch with an attractive, single neighbor on a regular basis or sending a lengthy Christmas update to a long lost heart throb- can seem relatively innocent.

But one dinner date or late night conversation often leads to another and another and another.

The talk becomes more personal.

Confessions of marital dissatisfaction begin to surface; the listener becomes empathetic and supportive.

But the riskiness of this behavior is minimized.  People tell themselves, “I just needed someone to talk to. I wanted an opinion from someone of the opposite sex.”

If you’re complaining about your marriage to a sympathetic ear, you don’t need a degree in psychology to know that the implicit message in these conversations is, “I’m unhappily married. Want to fool around?”

You can tell yourself that you’re not doing anything wrong, but the truth is, this sort of interaction is a sheer, slippery slope.

Then there is alcohol, the inhibition-buster that “made me do it.”

And while it’s true that many a bad decision have been made while under the influence, having a drink is a decision. Having two drinks is two decisions. You can do the math on the rest of the story.

What about bad marriages? Don’t they justify being unfaithful? After all, life is short. We only have one go around, right?

Look, life is short and feeling lonely in marriage is no way to live.

But dulling one’s pain through the instant gratification of hot sex or emotional closeness with someone who doesn’t argue with you about bills, children or the in-laws isn’t an effective or lasting way to fix what’s wrong.

There are infinitely better ways to combat loneliness, a sexual void or marital unhappiness. 

Help is out there.

Furthermore, what’s always amazed me is how differently people react to similar circumstances. I’ve met people whose marriages were sexless for years, and although that made them miserable, they simply could not cheat.

I’ve met other people who, when their relationships hit predictable bumps in the road, rather than work things out, they sought comfort in the arms of strangers.

Unhappy marriages don’t cause infidelity. 

Being unfaithful causes infidelity.

In fact, infidelity complicates life enormously for everyone involved, a fact that should not be minimized when planning the next “just friends” Starbucks break.

People who say their affairs just happened aren’t necessarily intentionally trying to justify their behavior; they often truly believe what they’re saying.

They simply lack insight or awareness of the ways in which their actions, however subtle, have led them down destructive paths.  

But in the same way that affairs don’t just happen, neither does healing from betrayal.

Unless those who have strayed look inward and take personal responsibility for their choices, they will not be able to get their relationships back on track when they’ve gotten derailed.  

Instead they’ll see themselves as victims or reeds in the wind.  And in my view, sorry, but that’s just a lot of hot air.

Warmly,

Michele

p.s.  I’m always interested in your comments. Write me: michele@divorcebusting.com 

For more advice and help, read my latest book: Healing from Infidelity, The Divorce Busting® Guide to Rebuilding Your Marriage After an Affair.

New from Dr. Henry Cloud

This just came into my inbox from Dr. Henry Cloud. I am not a subscriber and so I don’t have any first hand experience with it, but Dr. Cloud’s reputation is outstanding and if you’re struggling with boundary issues it certainly might be worth a try!

A new way to a happier life
Boundaries.me is a monthly subscription offering brand new videos, workbooks, audio and other content designed to make setting boundaries in every area of your life easier. Every month, brand new content. Really, the idea is to actually make your life easier, so that you experience less pain, less heartache and less confusion in the relationships that matter most.

Oh, also, sign up today, and we’ll send you a free book, while supplies last*.

Simple. Easy. $9 per month.

In creating Boundaries.me, our priorities were:

As simple as possible
At the lowest price we could offer
To provide clear, structured, actionable content and tools to bring Boundaries to life, every month.
This is about as close as we could get to making it possible for me to be your personal Boundaries mentor. On the first Friday of every month, we’ll release a new learning path consisting of videos, workbooks and audio to guide you through Boundaries in that month’s topic.

We’ll also be offering tons of bonus content that will go live on the site every Friday. You’ll get access to mini-courses created in partnership with our friends and people we admire. For instance, on Friday this week we’ll be posting a mini-course created with Shauna Niequist, which focuses on how to identify the most important people and goals that you have, and to structure your life towards protecting those things.

Over time, you’ll also get access to just about all of the digital products we’ve ever created. You’ll also get audio stories sharing the Boundaries journeys of dozens of people like you that we’ve spoken with. We recorded long interviews with individuals about their lives with the goal of uncovering the universal causes for boundaries issues… you’ll hear about a huge range of experiences, from all walks of life, with one thing in common… Boundaries helped them. And we’ll be continuing these conversations by creating online events and digital workshops for you to be part of the discussion.

*So what’s this about a free book?
As you may know, I wrote Boundaries with my friend John Townsend 25 years ago. We’ve released an updated edition with new content, much of it to do with technology and social media. Early subscribers to Boundaries.me will get a free copy of the updated book, signed by me. Many of you already have a well worn copy of the book, so maybe take a look at the new content and feel free to give it as a gift to someone who may need it. This is something we wanted to offer to early subscribers as an added value. It basically makes your first month of Boundaries.me free.

The best Boundaries content we could possibly offer, for about 30 cents per day.

A few months ago, we asked you to share your thoughts with us — we asked — where do you want further instruction in Boundaries? We heard from vast numbers of you that you want instruction in some specific topics, and you want it to be affordable, clear, and easy to use. Boundaries.me is what we came up with in response to your suggestions, and I couldn’t be more proud of it. Sign up today, and you’re free to cancel at any time. Cancel in the first 30 days, and we’ll refund your money no questions asked.

Cheers,
Henry

boundaries.me
instagram.com/thedailydrcloud
facebook.com/drhenrycloud

Separating Your Emotions from Your Legal Case

I found it helpful to have at least 3 meetings per week as follows:

  1. Church. I go to an Evangelical Christian Church, but whether you’re Jewish, Christian, Islamic or any other faith I believe it is important to work the spiritual components of your struggle within the principles of your faith. If you don’t believe in God, then I encourage you to seek because you may find something very beneficial. Remember, not all churches are the same and you may have to visit several and more than once in order to find a church home.
  2. Counseling from a professional therapist to work on your relationship skills. One of the jokes in divorce circles is “if you had taken the steps you’re taking now to get physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy BEFORE the divorce, you might never have gotten divorced!” Of course there are abusive relationships you must leave, but you will benefit from watching this classic 22 min. video by Dr. Henry Cloud a PhD Psychologist and PhD Theologian on “Foolish, Wise, and Evil People.” https://youtu.be/ruoPQuePhV8
  3. Group Divorce Support meetings. I found it helpful to go to such meetings in a church setting.
  4. 12-Step Groups. I am also a recovering co-dependent and so as you can see in a previous post codependents anonymous was helpful to me. If you have other addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. you can and should find a 12 step group. Learn more at these links:
  5. Physical Fitness is so important to reducing stress and keeping a clear head! Excerpt: “Stress is an inevitable part of life. Seven out of ten adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily, and most say it interferes at least moderately with their lives, according to the most recent ADAA survey on stress and anxiety disorders. When the American Psychological Association surveyed people in 2008, more people reported physical and emotional symptoms due to stress than they did in 2007, and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year….While all of these are well-known coping techniques, exercise may be the one most recommended by health care professionals.” Source: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st

Why is My Divorce Legal Bill so High?!

The answer often depends… Here are a few reasons:

  • Like hiring a realtor to sell your house your lawyer must be:
  • You must have real trust in your attorney after carefully reviewing the above and then actually “listen and do” what he/she says or you will be fool that gets yourself in trouble by:
    • Continuing to reveal too much to your X once the divorce has been filed
    • Threatening your X in any way
    • Not protecting your confidential discussions, documents, financial records, email, texts, computer access, files and other important information your X can and will use against you even if there is no wrong doing!
    • Be prepared to not create a blizzard of non-essential documents, emails, and phone calls to your attorney!
    • Work your counseling and other resources to “vent emotionally.” Venting emotionally to your attorney at $250 or $350/hour is not smart on ANY level. He/she is your attorney and while they may understand this is a very emotionally taxing time for you, they are your legal advisor and certainly NOT your Psychotherapist!

A few true stories:

A northern Chicago based attorney charging $450/hr meets his client at night at the Barnes & Noble bookstore to listen to her “vent.” At $450/hr you just go ahead and talk…

A woman given all bank account information and records from her X husband’s business just can’t believe there isn’t more money in the business because BEFORE the recession her X was very successful. Paranoia setting in this woman fired her attorney who she believed would get her everything she wanted in 3 months. Now the second attorney tells her “Oh don’t you worry…we’ll simply subpoena all the banks he does business with and get the TRUTH!” So another $5,000 for the subpoenas to several financial institutions along with all the charges for thousands of copies of statements, courier services and duplicate copies for her client and for the X husband’s attorney reveals the EXACT SAME DOCUMENTS the X husband had already given her in discovery! Shortly thereafter this attorney tried to use unethical pre-court tactics by asking for the parties and their attorneys to meet for 15 or 20 minutes BEFORE court, then when in front of the Judge this attorney lied by telling the Judge “your honor the parties have come to an agreement on….” when nothing of the sort had happened!

A man hired a high powered aggressive attorney that told him “no problem! We’ll take care of this! I know how to handle this and get you where you want to go! I just need a $5,000 retainer to start.” The aggressive attorney wound up insulting the Judge and lost his client’s case. Of course, there was no money left for hours billed in the initial retainer.

A man took the Honda Ridgeline new truck for himself when he left the marital home. He was not a contractor and did not need the truck, but it was new and left his X wife during the divorce with an old broken down mini-van which he refused to pay for repairs including brakes even though his X was a housewife with no career and little money. The X wife successfully had her attorney argue in court along the following lines. “Your honor my client has no way to pay for the repairs on her minivan which she uses to take the kids to and from school and their activities and has repeatedly asked her X to fix the van. He refuses.” X husband’s attorney argues “Your honor there is NOTHING wrong with the minivan, it’s a fine vehicle and my client is being asked for repairs that are not needed!” Judge “Well since there is nothing wrong with van, I’m ruling that you are to switch vehicles with your X wife pending final asset settlement.”

Finally, consider this. The attorneys on BOTH sides yours and his/hers has access in discovery to ALL THE FINANCIAL RECORDS of both your and your X. The attorneys on both sides can and do talk to each other on the phone without you being present! After many years of practice both attorneys have often “encountered each other with many other previous cases.” Think about it. Both attorneys MAKE THEIR LIVING off fees and they know what you and your X are able to pay because they have all the financial records. Will they recommend motions in court, tactics and strategies that lead to the least expense for you?

Source: https://family-law.lawyers.com/divorce/divorce-lawyers.html  Average attorney fees for divorce were $10,000, typically ranging from $9,000 to $14,000.  Nationwide, the typical fee that people paid their divorce attorneys was $250 per hour, but in metro areas, fees ran closer to $400 or $500 per hour.

The lowest hourly rate reported in our survey was $50 per hour, reported in Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The highest rates were $500 per hour in California and D.C. and a whopping $650 hourly fee in New York.

Children in Divorce Have and Need Both Parents

This is an extreme example from this evening’s ABC National News, but it is illustrative of what the judge in the video states “Both parents get a say.” In my case the Joint Parenting Agreement (JPA) is very important in avoiding disputes and my attorney did a masterful job of developing it over decades of family law practice, but when disputes happen and are serious you can wind up right back in court.

In order to avoid post decree litigation it was very important for me to participate in healthy divorce recovery groups from church, 12 step groups such as Codependents Anonymous See: http://coda.org/ , seeing a good therapist and it was very important to forgive my x and myself. That took years of work and it’s still far from perfect, but then again when you’re married you don’t agree on everything either!