Be Smart, Not Sorry: Who Are You Listening To?

JoAnne Donner, MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC
Mediator, Mediation Coach, Divorce Coach
Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC

If you are going through a divorce, you may have noticed that everyone you talk with has an opinion about your situation. It can be comforting to listen to the well-meaning comments of friends, family, and neighbors and easy to take their advice to heart. Unfortunately, making decisions based on the casual comments of friends and family can lead to missteps and poor judgment as you navigate through the complexities of the divorce process.

As you gather divorce information, here are some points to keep in mind:

Selective Sharing. When people talk about their own divorce experiences or relate what they know about the experiences of others, it’s common for them to have selective memory. They typically recall only parts of a story, sharing details that support their own point of view. These lapses distort what might have been helpful information had the account been more objective and factual. When people talk, listen for kernels that resonate for you, but beware that you may not be getting the full story.

Your Case is Unique. While most divorcing couples can expect to face similar issues such as the equitable division of assets and liabilities and co-parenting responsibilities, each divorce has elements that are unique to the couple’s specific situation. What worked for your co-worker or your neighbor may sound good, but it may be inappropriate and counterproductive for you. It can be difficult for a divorcing individual to make this distinction. Many spouses, in fact, approach a negotiation armed with steadfast ideas that are based on how much alimony their best friend got or how much child support their golf buddy paid. These rigid ideas, usually based on skewed and incomplete “facts” about the other person’s case, serve only to sabotage the negotiation between the couple, distorting perceptions and expectations about what is fair and reasonable in their particular situation.

Accepting Advice. Not only are divorcing individuals offered a steady stream of advice from well-meaning friends, they are also presented with extensive and frequently complex information from divorce professionals. It should be obvious that opinions from non-professionals should be weighed carefully so that misinformation doesn’t cloud your thinking and distort your decision-making. But it is also necessary to give some thought to the advice given to you by lawyers and financial experts. Are there things you have been told that you don’t understand or that instinctively don’t make sense to you? Protect yourself by speaking up: ask the professional for an explanation in layman’s terms so that you understand the rationale behind the advice, how it will be beneficial to you, and/or how it will affect your case.

Internet Information. Google is a wonder and an endless source of information. The caveat emptor, however, is to never assume that web content is totally accurate or appropriate for the specifics of your case. The Internet is a great starting place for fundamental information and terminology, but always check with a divorce professional about how your research applies to your particular set of circumstances.

As you move through the divorce process, one of your primary goals should be to protect yourself. With that in mind, it is smart to proceed with caution when talking about divorce with friends and family. It is also wise to ensure that you clearly understand the advice being given to you by divorce professionals. A successful divorce outcome depends on clarity and factual information, not confusion and hearsay.

This article is the second in the “Be Smart, Not Sorry” series about successfully dealing with divorce. “Be Smart, Not Sorry” articles are available at Please feel free to direct comments and/or questions to JoAnne Donner at 770-842-9400 or at

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