The transition from marriage to getting a divorce is difficult for most couples. During this transition, in my experience, as a Bergen County, New Jersey divorce lawyer and family lawyer and Monmouth County, New Jersey divorce lawyer and family law attorney, I have found that clients often benefit by surrounding themselves with positive people. Deciding when to tell family members, friends, and co-workers about your divorce can be quite overwhelming. I suggest being mindful of your emotions and you may want to take your time breaking the news to others. In my experience, here are some ways that I have witnessed past clients approach this topic with family and friends, co-workers, and children.
Family & Friends
When you originally announced the news about your engagement to family and friends, they were probably excited for you. (Assuming your spouse was well-liked by them.) Telling them about your divorce will produce a different range of emotions. It may be best to practice what you will say to them, and how to answer questions you believe they will ask. Start with the person or group of people you are closest with, such as a sister, brother, or best friend. Breaking the news to them first can make it a lot easier when explaining to other people. Your family and friends may be shocked and upset in the beginning, but hopefully, eventually, they will come around and show their support.
In her book, ‘Life Lessons: 50 Things I Learned From My Divorce,’ Beth Joselow advises:
- Ask for support from your family, but don’t try to dictate their behavior toward your former mate.
- Be conscious of your family’s history with your former mate and of how they may be suffering the loss of your marriage along with you.
- If family members seem insensitive to you, it may be because they’re trying to work out their own feelings about you and your former mate. Let them know that you feel hurt, and give them a chance to rethink their attitudes.
Co-Workers and Your Boss
You may feel that your divorce is a personal issue, and co-workers do not need to know all of your business. This may be true, however, there may be some benefits to letting your boss and co-workers know about your divorce. For example, you may need more time off work to meet with a therapist, divorce attorney, or mediator. They may also be more understanding if your productivity decreases because of depression.
It may be important to inform your human resources department, since you may now be eligible for additional benefits, such as therapy and child care. The human resources department should have the information you need to get you through this difficult time. Another reason to inform them is so the payroll department can adjust your paycheck since your status will cause you to be in a different tax bracket.
Telling Your Children
Breaking the news about your divorce to your child(ren) should be handled depending on their age level. Be prepared to be more delicate when dealing with toddlers and children under the age of five. Seek professional family counseling. Your children may need to know that they will be taken good care of regardless of the status of your marriage.
Older children will likely require more details and an explanation of the outcomes that will occur after the divorce is finalized. This will likely be a more difficult conversation, but be sure to handle it with grace. Seek professional family counseling when you inform them of custody/visitations and if you can, try to assure them that you and your former spouse will make every effort to make this process as seamless as possible. Before you tell them, you also likely want to work out a temporary visitation plan and find a new place to live, if necessary. Also, having a room ready for your child(ren) in your new place can help to put them at ease about their future living arrangements. You can seek professional family counseling to assure your children that they are a priority and will still be loved unconditionally by both parties.
Lastly, in our experience, it is best to give yourself (and others) adequate time to process the news. You should only break the news to family and friends, co-workers, and children when you are 100% emotionally ready to do so. This is an extremely difficult time for you, and it is understandable if you are not prepared to share information with everyone all at once. You may want to seek mental health counseling. The process will not be easy–but patience, support, and trust can make the transition easier for everyone involved.
This article contains general information and opinions from Sheena Burke Williams and is not intended to be a source of legal advice for any purpose. No reader of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information included in this article without seeking legal advice of counsel. Sheena Burke Williams expressly disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any content in this article.