Understanding the difference between the emotional divorce and the legal divorce

Feb 17, 2014 | Divorce, Minnesota Family Law

In the divorce seminars I teach and in my initial consultations with clients, I often talk about the difference between the emotional divorce and the legal divorce.

I am an attorney, it is my job to help with the legal divorce; to help my clients get through the court process and settle issues related to property and debt division, spousal maintenance, and child custody and support. The legal divorce is the easy part.

The emotional divorce is the difficult part. This is the side of the divorce that is wrapped up in all of the emotions surrounding the relationship. The disappointment, the betrayal, the anger, the jealousy… All of the questions that start with “Why is he…/How can she…/Why doesn’t he…

It is hard for clients to separate the emotional divorce from the legal divorce. Many will want answers for the ‘why’s of the relationship before they can focus on the resolution of the legal divorce. If one spouse has not properly addressed the emotional divorce, the legal divorce will quickly become drawn out, contested, and expensive. It is tempting to want to “punish” bad behavior by demanding certain property or refusing to discuss reasonable settlement issues. It is easy to want to spend hours on the phone with your divorce attorney rehashing the history of the relationship. Your divorce attorney is the person who is guiding you through the process, who understands what you are going through, and knows what is going on.

However, your attorney is not the person to be helping you through the emotional divorce. Your attorney is trained in the law, not in psychology. Your attorney charges you based upon his or her knowledge and expertise in the area of law. I care about my clients, and I am a good listener, but I hate for my clients to spend all of their money using me as a therapist. I’m not a qualified therapist, and your insurance won’t cover my fees. If you are having a difficult time with the emotions of your divorce, consider finding a therapist or divorce support group to address these issues. If you handle the emotional divorce, you’ll save money on the legal divorce.