Thursday, November 15, 2012

Acknowledgements: Spouse of a Professional, Facing Divorce

How about the spouses of professionals?

I recently wrote about how married professionals often feel under-appreciated.  What's true for such professionals as physicians, lawyers, dentists, veterinarians, CPAs, professional athletes, financial planners, pilots, architects, engineers and many others, is also true for their spouses.  Just like the professionals to whom they are married, spouses of professionals often have a difficult time facing divorce. 

Spouses of high-earning professionals of all types experience some common problems that need to be addressed during the marriage (to save the marriage, if it's not too late!), or during a divorce.  There's always an easy way and a hard way, or a nice way and a not-so-nice way, to do divorces.  People who choose to use Collaborative Law are opting for the nicer way, but that doesn't necessarily make the process easy.

In representing spouses of professionals, I have heard some complaints over and over.  Although I don't doubt the validity of the issues, what really matters is the strong feelings associated with how the spouses feel valued or not.

Many times, busy professionals tend to overlook or minimize the sacrifices of their spouses in keeping a family together, running a household and raising children.  Sometimes, the professionals feel sorry for themselves and don't think much about their spouse.  They often take for granted the daily things the spouse does without getting much credit for it.

For professionals facing divorce, even if they haven't shown much appreciation and understanding of their spouse in the past, and even if they aren't feeling too charitable as they work through a divorce, it is certainly in their best interest to express understanding and appreciation of their spouse.  That can really help establish an atmosphere of cooperation and shared interests.

In case professionals have forgotten what their spouses have done, here are some suggestions of topics to focus on:
  • The spouse may have really carried the load for years with the kids.  That includes such time consuming actions as taking them to school and picking them up, taking them to the doctor or dentist or orthodontist, getting school supplies, buying appropriately stylist clothes for the kids, managing play dates for young kids, keeping track of dating for older kids, helping them with homework, taking the kids to sports practices and games, and many other things.  That's not to mention being a doctor and therapist for the children.  There's a lot of work that's easy to overlook if you're not in the trenches.
  • Your spouse may have carried the load with the house.  Someone has to maintain the house and get help as needed.  Some spouses decorate and clean, others hire workers.  A spouse often takes responsibility for setting up the house to entertain friends, family, business associates and others.
  • Your spouse may have worked to support the family while you were in school or in training.  The spouse may not have earned nearly what you earn now, but she or he worked hard and made it possible for you to get to your current position.
  • Many times, a spouse must deal with the fact that a professional is away from home for long periods.  Traveling may become tedious to you, but it is lonely for your spouse.
  • Believe it or not,  sometimes you are very difficult to deal with when you come home from work.  Your spouse doesn't have anywhere to go or hide.  Instead, she or he tries to comfort you and reassure you that you will get over whatever difficulty you are having at work.
  • Your spouse may have needed to take charge of the personal finances.  Because you have been so busy, your spouse often sees that the bills are paid and that the necessities are purchased.  Your spouse has had to live within a tight budge at times, even if you make a high income now.  You probably don't have time to deal with all that. 
 While you have a busy and demanding life, and the family has been rewarded by your income, that doesn't mean that your spouse has had an easy life.  If you will do a little soul searching, you will probably realize that your spouse has done a lot for you that you hadn't recognized before.

It will greatly benefit you if you will make some honest and sincere acknowledgements to your spouse and thank her or him for their contributions.  Just like you may feel under-appreciated, I'll guarantee your spouse feels the same way.  Both of you can do better by understanding more about what the other has contributed to the good aspects of your marriage.  Help yourself  and your family by recognizing your spouse's efforts.

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.