Life is unpredictable, and for some that is a beautiful thing, but for others it’s a very scary reality. Those in the former category take it as an adventure and find the challenging twists and turns exciting or intriguing, whereas those in the latter category prefer to retreat into a safe corner and try to cocoon. Between these two extreme positions, there’s obviously a lot of room for varying degrees of tolerance for chaos– the real question is where do you fit in this spectrum?

As a divorce lawyer, I am surrounded by chaos everyday, so my job is essentially all about crisis management.  How does anyone “manage” a crisis?  By prioritizing, fast.  The focus is on finding a solution, not pointing blame.  You have to distinguish between needs and wants, as well as what’s realistic vs. pie in the sky.   Also, timing is everything– being impulsive and reactive rarely plays out well.  Meanwhile, indecision is never good– it just means choices will be made with or without your input because that’s just how life rolls.

In an ideal world, if a couple had the honesty and integrity to admit to each other that their relationship was in need of help, they would immediately seek counseling.  When they come to see me, it’s not that counseling has “failed” but rather that the outcome of their sessions was the realization that they are better off parting ways.  Accepting that fact, should then help everyone get on the same page with focusing on some key immediate questions:

  1. When should we separate?
  2. Who should leave the home?
  3. What expenses do we each pay going forward?
  4. How will we share the kids/pets?

Still thinking in terms of an ideal situation, many couples can either work this out quickly or soon realize they need professional help, and either they go see a mediator together or get independent advice from their lawyers, who can take over the negotiations.  Even here, odds are in their favor that we can minimize the downside to a separation or divorce by containing the situation as best we can.

Then there is the opposite of this ideal timeline, where there is either no attempt at counseling or somehow despite that effort, one or both individuals are not able to admit that cutting ties is what is best for them.  So instead, there is a lot of insecurity, escalating tension, anger, resentment and inevitably, a deep sense of despair.  Eventually, the horrible situation at home gets to the point where one party may decide to stop the madness by leaving impulsively without any notice or sadly in reaction to a violent blow up that may or may not involve a call to 911.

Here, I’ve given you a glimpse into both the best and the worst case break-up scenarios.  I think we can all agree the ideal scenario is hard– it calls for a lot of maturity, insight and self control, but dealing with the opposite scenario is far scarier and more difficult to manage (which ultimately makes it far more expensive).  So, the way I see, whenever a dilemma like this arises,  we have to think about what our ideal way of handling it would be and then try our best to achieve that while avoiding (as best we can) our worst nightmares.

Chaos is all around us, but if you stay calm, think logically, and choose the high road  each time, you should be able to rise above it all with dignity and grace.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.