#3. Don't Take Legal Advice from Friends
I don't care if they've been through more divorces than Elizabeth Taylor, your friends don't know jack dick compared to a lawyer. I've heard people claim everything from knowing the exact amount of money a person will get in the settlement to "Even if he doesn't have custody, if he leaves the state for any reason, you can throw his ass in jail!" Their thundering idiocy could be measured on a seismograph.
They're basing their advice on their experiences, which is fine if we're talking about emotions or how to get new people to shout insults at your genitals without thinking it's weird. But from a legal standpoint, they're not understanding that the court takes tons of factors into consideration when deciding who gets what, including the kids. Income, type of work and the hours spent there, religious beliefs, special needs of the parents and kids -- hell, if they're old enough, some courts will flat out ask the kids in private if they have a preference on which parent they'd like to live with. And if they answer correctly, that's where they get their wizard powers.
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And now you're all gonna pay.
The solid laws pertaining to divorce are mainly there to prevent anyone from being screwed, and that's about where it stops. No, you can't just grab the kids and run off to another state without the other parent's consent. There's a set-in-stone law for that. But because each family is different, divorce proceedings require quite a bit of flexibility and liberal discretion of the judge. You have a job that requires you to move to another state? OK, let's work this out and come to an agreement on custody and visitation.
But no, what happened to your friend during his or her divorce has little to no bearing on you, even if every facet of your lives match up perfectly. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't take what they're saying into consideration. If they've gone through it, they can give you lots of valuable information so you're not going into it blind. Just make sure you're filing that advice in the "It's Possible" folder and not the "And God Has Spoken" one.
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"Ah, here we go. 'Talking Out of Ass'."
#2. You Are No Longer Emotionally Responsible for This Person
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As harsh and cold as this sounds, a divorce proceeding is a business deal. The emotional value of a house means nothing to a judge who's trying to figure out a way to split that asset evenly and fairly among two disputing people. If you pay close attention, every time someone cries, the judge makes a jerkoff hand gesture under the bench.
I've witnessed a ridiculous number of divorces over the years, and some of the most common things I've heard have been "She's just doing what's best for her!" and "He's not even considering my feelings on the matter!" That's a perfectly natural reaction to have, because you've grown accustomed to that level of relationship with that person. You expect her to act and react a certain way because it's how she's always been with you. But here's another stinging truth: She doesn't have to anymore.
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All he feels is the forever beckoning breath of mortal release.
This is no longer an emotion-based relationship. When that marriage was severed, so was the responsibility for each of you to protect and care for the other. Your job right now is to put up an offer that best benefits you and work your way down to a compromise. That's not being selfish -- it's a normal, everyday business tactic, and both sides should be doing it. It is an unfeeling, robotic process, and if you don't treat it as such, it's going to be very easy for you to get screwed. That's not to say that there aren't couples who separate and pleasantly work everything out with generosity and fairness and sparkles and impromptu musical numbers. I'm saying it's exceedingly rare.
But you can't let yourself be shocked if the other person stuffs your feelings into their asshole and farts them out the window when making these decisions. And you sure as hell can't blame them if they don't want to sit down and discuss the emotional side of the divorce with you. I've known plenty of divorced couples who, in a gesture to remain friends, offered to openly and honestly talk about the issues. Most of the time, that ended with one person thinking they could change and get back together, or another giving them the finger and saying, "Go fuck yourself. I'm not talking about shit with you."
"Here's one for you. And another for the sperm that eventually became you."
Where that's concerned, you owe each other nothing. If you expect them to consider your feelings on pretty much any issue after a divorce, you're setting yourself up to depend on their approval and support. That's a safety net with human-size holes.
But above all, even if you don't agree with a single point in this article, or if you remember nothing I've said up until now, please, I'm begging you, remember this one thing ...
#1. You Cannot Make Mutual Friends Choose Sides
You're going to have to face something right off the bat, and it's so hard to do, it feels damn near impossible. You have to remind yourself that even though it feels like you and your spouse are the only ones being hurt by this process, the reality is not even close.
Every family member who has gotten close to you is now preparing to rarely or never see you again. Every mutual friend is now going over what's appropriate and inappropriate to bring up in conversation around you. Anyone who hung out with you as a couple is coping with the fact that they're losing that company. If a mutual friend hangs out with your ex and has a crazy, awesome time, they can't tell you the story because they know it'll upset you. If there's an event they'd like to invite you both to, now they have to pick one, effectively playing favorites. Which means no more furry orgies for one of you.
"This is BULLSHIT!"
All of that is hard enough to deal with. You can't add to that by unloading all of your bitterness and anguish onto them in an attempt to make your ex look bad. "Remember the time she said she didn't have $20 to loan you? She actually had over $4 million from her human trafficking ring."
Talk to your friends all you want about the divorce. It's fine to unload the emotion if you need to -- that's what friends are for. Just ask Dionne Warwick. But you cannot put them in a situation where they have to choose one of you to remain friends with. If so, you're probably the one they should consider ditching.
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Although honestly, that hat puts you securely in "fuck off" territory anyway.
The best advice I have here is if you absolutely have to vent and talk shit about your ex, do it with a friend who's exclusive to you. Let's face it: If that person isn't friends with both of you, it means they probably hate your ex anyway. They'll relish the opportunity to give you an "I told you so" and agree with every offensive name you drunkenly slur through your bitter, bitter tears.