Thursday, November 1, 2012

Acknowledgements: Professional Facing Divorce

Physicians are people, too.  So are lawyers, dentists, vets, CPAs, professional athletes, financial planners, pilots,  and other professionals.  They have feelings.  Sometimes they are successful at marriage and sometimes they aren't.  It's not unusual for professionals to become very successful in their business lives and neglect their personal and family lives.  Unfortunately, they may end up divorcing.  If their spouse has felt neglected as the professional's career advanced, the spouse often becomes angry.  That may lead to an unpleasant divorce.  But, it doesn't have to.

While success in certain professions seems to depend upon the person being objective and unemotional, there are still emotions that exist deep within everyone.  One that I hear about, when representing a high wage-earning professional is a lack of appreciation from the family.  I have heard many professionals complain that they are treated just as a meal ticket or bank account.  There may be many reasons for the lack of respect and appreciation, but the situation is real. 

In Collaborative cases, we sometimes work with the parties to have more empathy and understanding for their spouses.  Working on that can make it easier to come to a settlement and to find an appropriate settlement.  If you are the spouse of a professional who works hard and makes a lot of money, but you are now facing a divorce, it is in your best interest to try to understand your spouse's perspective, even if you don't agree with it and even if you strongly dislike your spouse now.  When you are facing a divorce, it is inevitable that you will be divorced. 

The question is whether you can reach a favorable settlement or whether you want to turn over the control and decision-making to a stranger (the judge) who may not see things the way you do.  If you want to reach an amicable agreement, it helps if you have some understanding of the feelings that your spouse probably hasn't shared with you about his or her sacrifices in reaching this point of his or her and your lives.

Here are some things I have heard over and over.  That means they are common feelings and ones that your spouse may have experienced.
  • The spouse went through long years of training to reach this point.  While you may have been there and even sacrificed to make it possible, your spouse did put in a lot of sweat and dealt with a lot of stress to get here.
  • The professional puts in long hours of work.  This may be one of your complaints, but you shouldn't ignore the fact that your spouse is working hard and gets tired.
  • Although your spouse may be making a lot of money now, the pay was low and hours long in the beginning.  That's tough to put up with and probably wasn't easy for you either, but you should give credit to your spouse.
  • Your spouse works hard to earn the high income he/she is bringing home now.  No matter what career your spouse chose, hard work precedes the pay-off.
  • The work is often stressful.  Many professionals deal with life and death decisions, health issues or large financial issues.  There's a lot hanging in the balance and there's huge responsibility.
  • Many professionals sacrifice time at home with the family in order to advance in the career or maintain a high income.  Their spouses may not view it as a good thing, but many professionals believe they don't have a choice and yet they miss their family.
  • The professional is a good breadwinner.  He/she is successful.  Many would really appreciate hearing thanks from their family.
If you are married to a high-wage-earning professional and you are now facing a divorce, it would really benefit you to consider the points above and try to come up with some statements acknowledging how hard your spouse has worked, the sacrifices made and the successes they have had.  Showing some appreciation may help defrost relations and lead to a better settlement for both sides.  Talk it over with your lawyer and the mental health professional, if you are in a Collaborative divorce.

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