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A Guide to Supporting Someone Going Through a Divorce

Posted on 30th April 2020 by Goodwins Family Law Solicitors

Helping someone through their divorce can bring hope and optimism at a time of sorrow. If you’re a friend, relative or even an employer, you may wish to lend your support. 

Sometimes this can be easier said than done. Divorce cases are complex and it’s not always easy to predict how someone will react to a helping hand. You might feel apprehensive in case you do or say the wrong thing.

There is always something you can do to help. This guide will offer advice and tips on how to support someone through a divorce, from before the start of the process to after the divorce is finalised. It will teach you how to let them know you’re there for them, and how to respond to sudden emotional changes.

Small group of people with a mixed age range sitting at a table, discussing and reading books together

How to support someone before the divorce

Don’t be alarmed if someone has mentioned to you that they are unhappy in their relationship or are considering a divorce. In most cases, sharing this information is a sign that they trust you. You have the opportunity to support this person and help them talk through their concerns and feelings.

  • Let them know that you are there for them and that they can speak to you at any time they need. Never force them to open up, though. Just be available.

  • Let them know that you’re sorry to hear about their problems. This expresses sympathy without pressuring them to open up further.

  • If you’ve been through something similar, let them know. Offer advice on what helped you through your situation and perhaps even recommend a counsellor.

How to support someone during the divorce

Those going through a divorce will experience a number of changes to their daily lives. They might struggle to adapt to a new routine, especially with their mind clouded by the divorce proceedings. Supporting someone through a divorce is not only about offering emotional support, but also assisting them with small tasks. We recommend these general tips:

  • Help with their kids. Offering to pack their child’s lunch or pick their child up from school can remove an extra task from their mind. We recommend focusing on tasks that were usually done by the spouse. That way, the person you are supporting won’t have to alter their normal routine as much.

  • Keep them social. Keep their mind off the divorce by inviting them to social events. Hanging out with friends, even just a small amount, can have a significant positive effect on their mental wellbeing.

  • Most importantly, listen to them. Divorce can provoke all sorts of emotions. Lend them an ear and allow them to vent their feelings to you. This will help them get things off of their chest and establish a centre of support that they know they can turn to.

What to say and not to say

Always be careful of what you say when supporting someone through a divorce. Some things may be taken the wrong way, even if you say them with good intentions.

Don’t say:

  • “You can always get remarried”

This might come across as undermining their marriage and subsequent feelings. It may also generate thoughts about their spouse getting remarried, which could make them feel even worse.

  • For those that haven’t gone through divorce themselves, refrain from saying “I know what you’re going through” 

Comparing their divorce to a break-up is another way you might undermine their feelings. Divorce is a very personal experience and cannot be easily understood by anyone who hasn’t experienced it themselves. 

Do say:

  • “Focus on you”

Express that their emotional needs are a priority right now. Telling them to focus on themselves will alleviate any guilt they might be feeling for not concerning themselves with you (as much as they usually might). It gives them permission to work on improving their mental health.

Do say:

  • “You can do this”

These four simple words offer encouragement, understanding and empowerment. It will reassure them of their strength to get through the tough times.

Advice specifically for employers/managers

Each person’s response to a divorce is different; you should not adopt a one-rule policy or approach. Some employees will seek to take their mind off the divorce by immersing themselves in their work. These employees may benefit from greater control over the types of projects they work on. They may gravitate towards team projects or wish to work alone. Others might feel lethargic and could benefit from a reduced workload. 

Instead of making assumptions about how an employee is feeling, try to make compassionate enquiries. In any case, communication is key, and it’s important to find solutions that work for both of you.

How to support someone after the divorce

Just because a divorce is finished, doesn’t mean the person close to you no longer needs support. It is at this point where many people are hit with the realities of being single and require help adjusting to their new life.

  • Check in on them. This can be as simple as a text or short phone call. Don’t just stop communicating as soon as the divorce is over.

  • Don’t badmouth their ex. Avoid phrases like “you could do better than them anyway” or “they didn’t deserve you”. Just because the divorce is over doesn’t mean that there aren’t still lingering feelings. Badmouthing their ex partner may offend them and make them less likely to confide in you.

  • Ask them what they want to do. Many people find that being newly single gives them the freedom (and free time) to pursue hobbies or interests that weren’t previously shared by their spouse. Encourage them to do something new and offer your participation, too. 

How to support someone whose parents are going through a divorce

A parent going through a divorce can, in many ways, be equally as devastating for the child as it is for the parents. A child at any age can be affected by the break up of their family, and younger children especially may be left with many questions about the future.

If someone mentions that their parents are going through a divorce, it’s important to offer your support. 

  • Be there for them. Lending an ear to someone is sometimes all they need, especially at a time when they don’t have their parents to turn to. Don’t judge what they say and don’t gossip to others.

  • Keep communicating. Send texts every now and again just to let them know you’re thinking of them and you’re always there if they want to talk.

  • Reassure them. Show them the positives of the situation, such as their parents no longer arguing.

For further advice on supporting young people through parental divorce, see the following resources:

Teenagers

Children aged 7 – 11

Children aged 3 – 6

Goodwins Family Law Solicitors provide a range of family law services, including divorce, international divorce and financial settlements. We have over 25 years’ experience in the industry and are committed to providing services with compassion and understanding. We understand that divorce is a stressful and emotional time, and our lawyers will support you throughout the process. We offer a number of resources, as well as confidential advice from industry experts. 

To discover more about our services, get in touch today.

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Goodwins Family Law Solicitors is a leading London based law firm specialising in divorce and family law for clients in London, the UK and internationally. View more information about our services:

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