Is Your Informal “Divorce Committee” of Friends and Family Actually Helping Your Case?

“Divorce Committee” is an informal phrase among those who work in family law (or in adjacent fields such as therapy) to describe those friends and family members in a recently separated person’s life who, for most likely the best intentions, give advice to that person – solicited or otherwise – on how they should go about finalizing their divorce to their own advantage. Common words of advice from a divorce committee might include:

  • “Just give all your property to your brother until after the divorce is finished so she can’t have it, then just get it back.”
  • “He’s got a marijuana card so he’ll never get custody.”
  • “You don’t have to pay child support if you have 50/50 custody.”
  • “Quit your job until after the divorce so you don’t have to pay spousal support.”
  • “He’s going to get half your business.”

All of these statements are mostly untrue, or completely untrue, in California. There may be some truth somewhere in some past event retold that inspires those statements, but trying to learn California divorce law as it applies to your specific situation from what your uncle told you happened to his buddy in Florida in 1991 is far from the best way to determine how best to proceed in your own California divorce now. (And to be clear, it is never appropriate to hide property by transferring it to someone else during a divorce proceeding and could result in very bad results for you.)

But incorrect legal advice is not the only thing to be cautious about when consulting with your Divorce Committee, although being wrong or ignorant on the law tends to be part of many unhelpful acts by said committee. Friends and family members can also have the unfortunate effect of riling vulnerable people up and getting them committed to unrealistic or just plain destructive goals during divorces. And, again, this may come from a place of concern or shared resentment against your soon-to-be ex, but the question is whether it’s helpful.

True, your friends and family probably know about all the bad stuff your partner did during the marriage, or how that person never tried to make things work the way you did, in a way that your attorney does not. And they want you to “win” in the divorce by encouraging you to get back at your partner for all the ways they’ve wasted your time, let you down, and hurt you.

The problem is, the legal process of divorce is not about “winning” per se, and it’s certainly not about extracting vengeance for past emotional wrongs. It’s about the fair and orderly process of making sure your rights are honored under the law with regard to issues such as division of property, child custody, child support, and spousal support so that you can both move on with your lives. And, make no mistake, you’re going to be the one moving on with living your own life, not your friends or family. Going for the jugular in a divorce proceeding – especially when the law is not on your side – can be a recipe for emotional and financial disaster, and which, instead of helping you move on with security and stability, can keep you mired in the same misery of the relationship for years, even after the judgment is final.

Does this mean you shouldn’t talk about the painful, often scary process of your divorce with your friends and family? Absolutely not. In fact, one of the silver linings of the divorce process for many people is that they grow closer to people in their life who were perhaps not as close during the marriage, and often build relationships that last a lifetime. And there is certainly wisdom that those people can provide you from their own experiences with divorce that can help you power through the difficult times and avoid mistakes.

In the end, though, it is important to have a family law professional who can guide you on the specifics of the law and the procedure for completing your divorce, and who will help you to achieve a positive outcome that honors your rights while also avoiding unnecessary drama and costs.

Guidance on Your California Family Law Questions From a Westlake Village Family Law Attorney

If you would like to learn more about how our office can provide guidance on any California family law issues you are facing in Ventura County or Los Angeles County, contact the Zonder Family Law Group office today at (805) 777-7740 or (818) 877-0001, or schedule your strategy session using easy-to-use online form here.