Although many people may be going through, or have gone through, a divorce themselves, family members and friends of divorcing people should also try to learn about the process. The current movement toward mediated and collaborative divorce has changed the legal landscape for the better, but combative divorces still occur.
Experts in a recent article have provided some helpful tips to readers on the do's and don'ts of what to say to someone who is going through a high-conflict divorce.
First, do not tell the person that their spouse will "get over" their hostility after they remarry or find a significant other. It is likely that the ex-spouse will retain animosity even after finding a new love, and they may even recruit their new partner onto the negative bandwagon.
Family members and friends are also urged to refrain from telling divorcees that they just need to get a better parenting coordinator or judge to solicit child support. In many states, judges are not able to mandate the use of a parenting coordinator, and so the combative spouse can refuse to meet with that person. Even if you can find an effective parenting coordinator, it's likely that a combative spouse will not be receptive to the idea.
Other people have been known to tell female divorcees that they are certain to get custody of the kids because they are the mother. This is entirely untrue in the modern age of divorce. Most judges are committed to maintaining joint custody agreements, sometimes despite evidence that one parent is unfit.
Finally, do not tell your friend or relative to just stop paying attention to their ex-spouse's behavior. That person must frequently interact with their ex-spouse to sort out child-rearing decisions. Continued verbal and emotional abuse from the other person can take a toll on anyone.
It is important to continue to be loving and supportive during a divorce, instead of providing misguided advice for those who are going through divorce. Sometimes just being a good listener is the best comfort a person can lend a friend or family member facing the end of their marriage.
Source: Huffington Post, "7 things never to say to someone going through a high-conflict divorce," Pauline Gaines, July 16, 2012