It is well known that under stress your brain is not thinking clearly, in fact psychologists refer to this as a fused brain. The connections simply are not working properly– literally, which definitely helps explain A LOT of what I’ve witnessed over the past decade in my divorce cases. Thanks to my friends and colleagues in the medical field, I’ve come a long way in understanding my clients, so now whenever I find myself saying, “what were you thinking?” I stop and remind myself, they really are not in the right state of mind.
If you are in the process of separating and feel like you are losing control of yourself, don’t worry, there are some things you can do to calm yourself down quickly, including taking deep breaths, going for a short walk, and coming up with 3 short safety phrases that will help soothe you. The more you practice doing this, the easier it will be for you to exert self-control. Over time, you may even learn to laugh at the absurdities that will undoubtedly continue to occur, but the key is you need to give it all some time.
Because your brain is not operating at 100% you may want to rely on to-do lists, this way you won’t forget important tasks and you can make sure you stay focused on top priorities. These lists will continue to evolve, but there are 3 key points that lots of people brush aside when they shouldn’t– so here they are:
1. Contact Your Financial Institutions. If you are on joint bank accounts, technically you have equal access to those funds, and so you may look into freezing assets or discuss with your lawyer the option of withdrawing certain amounts so that you alone control your own money. Same goes with joint credit cards- do you really want that other person racking up debt that you will be liable for?
2. Update your will and medical directive. Do you really want your estranged spouse to inherit anything or be in the position of pulling the plug for you if you are incapacitated? Find someone you trust to be an emergency contact and update your information with your medical providers asap.
3. Get New Beneficiary Forms– Insurance companies and retirement plans all have named beneficiary forms that need to be reviewed and kept current. Again, do you really want your soon to be ex to benefit from your death? I think not, although some plans may require joint signatures to change the forms prior to a divorce.
I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff in my line of work, and one thing I can say for sure about being a matrimonial lawyer in DC all these years is this: it is never a dull moment. Sometimes, when I’m off the clock and don’t necessarily want to reveal what I do, I say I am in the business of crisis management or damage control. Of course, it is very easy for me to do this– because I’m not the one impacted by the events.
So, here is final Tip #4 for those of you in the middle of a bad split: find someone with impeccable judgment to help you through the crazy times until you get to a better place where you regain full control of your faculties. I get paid to help people make the best of a bad situation– it is my job to see the blind spots, come up with a good strategy for either settling the case or taking it to trial. When my clients cannot see things clearly, they rely on me to be their eyes and ears, not just a hired mouth piece. Your best ally is not just someone who will fight the good fight for you while you are down– it is someone who can tell you which battles are worth letting go.
Hope these tips come in handy, and here’s wishing you happier days ahead!
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.