How to help a friend going through a divorce if you’re not a divorce lawyer

How to help a friend going through a divorce if you’re not a divorce lawyer

Have you ever had a conversation with a friend who is going through a divorce and found yourself at a loss for words? Well, we can’t relate to that because we often have plenty to say to our clients who consult us for their divorce in Washington State.

But we get it. Though you’d love to offer words of comfort to a friend going through a tough time, when it comes to divorce, you may not be the best person to offer counsel, especially if you don’t have a law degree or a gavel to bang. Fear not, because you don't need a law degree to offer a helping hand. All you need is a bit of empathy and a willingness to show up with ice cream and tissues in hand and ideally, the contact details of good divorce attorneys like us.

Here are some tips on how to support your friend during this challenging time, without needing to consult a legal dictionary.

Ask questions, but do not pry

Don't be afraid to ask your friend how they're doing, but don't assume that they're ready to spill all the juicy details. That's something they're likely to do with their divorce attorney. Leading with questions shows that you care, and it also leaves the door open for when they are ready to chat.

If you can't help them carry the emotional burden, help them carry their boxes

Breaking news: Divorce is tough. The last thing your friend may want to deal with is logistics. So roll up your sleeves and help your pal with tasks like packing boxes (if they're moving out of the house) or babysitting their kids. By lending a hand in practical matters like apartment moving or child caring, you'll not only ease their burden but also boost their confidence during this major life change.

Do not assume that they're miserable

Believe it or not, some folks find liberation and even a little joy after calling it quits. So, while you mean well, it's important not to overdo the condolences — you could end up doing more harm than good.

It also depends on whether your friend going through a divorce is male or female. Ladies tend to struggle leading up to the split, while fellas might find recovery afterward to be the hardest part. But assuming that your pal fits into either category could be a bigger blunder than them failing to sign a prenup.

Read also Saying I do (or I don't) to a prenuptial agreement: the basics

Avoid vilifying your friend's ex-spouse

In a messy divorce, your friend may be compelled to speak ill of their spouse all the time. While understandable, this is ill advised. Do not encourage it. If you do, it may seem like you're supporting them, but you're actually buying into their delusion that their ex is the devil incarnate. And it's not helping anyone. The reality is that their ex may be going through the exact same thing as your friend.

If the former couple have kids, even more so. Co-parenting is complex enough as it is without the added drama. What you could do is introduce your friend to people you know who have been there, done that.

Do not offer advice about prenups, postnups, or divorce settlements if you have no idea what any of these words mean

That’s our job.

Do not, under any circumstances, advise your friend to get over it and just "live, laugh, love." Perhaps your friend just needs someone to vent and grieve with, not a divorce coach. It's often best to skip the self-help pep talk and simply lend an ear.

And don't worry about giving good advice (or any advice at all). Just show up and be present. Whether it's lounging around in your sweatpants with some takeout or running errands together, your company is what matters most. Also, try to avoid offering vague invitations to hang out. Make concrete plans to spend time together. Your support will mean the world to them during this difficult time.

What you could do is become an advocate for your friend to speak to a family law attorney.

Introduce them to an attorney

No one dreams of hiring a divorce lawyer. But if your pal is, unfortunately, going through a separation, they might need some legal backup. Even if the split seems all rainbows and unicorns in the beginning, things can get messy real quick. A divorce attorney can play the role of the problem solver and ensure your friend keeps what's rightfully theirs. So, don't be afraid to suggest a legal mediator to smoothen the ride.

In Washington State, Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams is the legal team to call if you're consoling a friend who needs to talk divorce. Call us or leave us a message.