Friends and family are your support system. They have been with you through the best and the worst moments of your life. Whether you needed them to hold your hand, have your back, take your side or provide a distraction, they were there.
Your divorce will be no different. They will be there to help in any way they can, including giving you their best advice. Should you listen?
Good intentions don’t equal good advice
Your friends and family love you. They care deeply about your well-being and have your best interests at heart. Many are probably smart and successful professionals whom you look up to in life. You know they would never steer you in the wrong direction.
Don’t mistake their good intentions for good advice.
Divorce is unique in that almost everything you do can impact the outcome. From replying to your spouse’s text messages to selling stock, there is a potential reaction to every action – some with negative and/or long-term consequences.
Following the advice from friends and family is dangerous, because:
- They don’t have the full picture: You may share many details with your closest friends and family members, but they haven’t opened the books. They don’t have access to every financial statement, loan agreement, insurance document, credit card balance, utility bill, home appraisal, investment portfolio, pension account… and the list goes on. It is impossible for them to give you the individualized, informed advice you will need.
- They don’t stand where you stand now: Much of the advice will begin with “When I __.” While their decision may have been highly beneficial at the time, it may have been five, 10 or 20 years ago. It was a different time, place and circumstances.
- Their advice may not be in the right context: If they are a CPA, they may be able to understand your current financial situation but not project future financial positions. Someone in business finance may be able to navigate the most complex merger but unable to advise you on whether you should keep the house or understand a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) for retirement accounts.
- They don’t know family law: They may be experts in their respective financial or even legal fields, but unless they are a divorce attorney, they haven’t studied family law. More importantly, they haven’t practiced it. They have not stood in court, observed how judges apply the law or seen the various nuances that can impact any given situation.
When your friends and family offer up their advice, listen politely. Thank them for their concern and support. Tell them that you will run the idea past your attorney – and then do so. Their advice may not be bad advice. Following it without the counsel of your divorce attorney is where the danger lies.