It’s almost inevitable that at some point in life you’ll have a friend going through a divorce. As a friend, you’ll naturally want to help, but helping a friend through divorce is not an experience most people have learned to do. And, even if you’ve gone through divorce yourself, someone else’s situation may be different from your own.
So what should you do?
Avoid being part of the “Greek chorus”
The most important advice to follow, paradoxically, is to use extreme caution when giving advice. Even with the best of intentions, telling someone going through a divorce what you think they should do is a recipe for hurt feelings and a rocky friendship.
There are simply so many factors that go into each decision around divorce, even for those seemingly minor, insignificant ones. As Heather Locus, BDF’s Divorce Practice Group leader says, divorce essentially forces a couple to make a decade or more worth of decisions in only a few months or years.
These decisions also need to be made at a very emotionally charged time. A time when your friend’s social circle is changing, emotions are at an all-time high, and legal, financial, and family decisions must be made that can all have long-term ramifications. Saying there is a lot going on is an understatement.
Sensitive to the entire picture
Because there is so much going on in so many different areas of life, only one person knows the whole situation and is equipped to make decisions incorporating everything: your friend going through divorce. While your advice is well intentioned, without knowing all of what’s going on, it’s easy for you to unintentionally give inappropriate advice. As a friend, you’re trusted, and oftentimes advice you give will be heeded, but it may be counterproductive.
The best help you can offer
Ultimately the best way to help a friend going through a divorce is to slow down their decision making during the shock/anger/resentment phases. Times when emotions are running high are not the best ones in which to make decisions with long-term ramifications.
Although you may not feel like you’re helping, lending an ear to listen when your friend needs to vent or bounce ideas off someone is often the absolute best help you can provide. By doing this, you can help your friend make decisions from a better state of mind and navigate the process with the least cost, complexity, and collateral damage.
If anyone you know is contemplating or going through divorce, feel free to forward our webinar: 5 Strategies for a Financially Responsible Divorce or have them contact our Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFA®), Matt Mikula or Heather Locus. Our Divorce Practice Group understands the far reaching effects of a divorce and is happy to help anyone you care about.
Mark Durrenberger, CFP®, ChFC®, EA is a Senior Advisor at BDF. Mark has been in the financial industry since 2010 and received both his Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from Northwestern University.
Heather L. Locus, CPA, CFP®, CDFA® is a BDF Owner, founder of our Women’s Service Team and leads our Divorce Practice Group. She loves solving complex problems by balancing the financial and emotional components with tax and legal issues. Heather frequently presents “The Financially Responsible Woman: Five Strategies for a Full Life” and “When I do Becomes I Don’t: Five Strategies for a Financially Responsible Divorce”. She educates parents on instilling their values and work ethic through her presentation, “Raising Financially Intelligent Children”. Heather has contributed to various publications including The Wall Street Journal, Crain’s Chicago Business, the AARP Bulletin and Divorce Magazine.