One of the most expensive things a person going through a divorce can do is be influenced by “free advice.” Free advice seems to come from everywhere during a divorce. Family, friends, coworkers, and random strangers are all happy to offer you advice on what you should be doing, and it’s sometimes hard to resist the counsel of trusted friends and family. Here is why you should avoid “free advice.”
First, you and your lawyer will develop a plan for your divorce carefully factoring in the facts and circumstances of your divorce including factors like the specific judge for your case, the style and tactics of the opposing lawyer, your financial ability, the risk of “losing” in your divorce, your overall goal for the divorces, and more. Your well-meaning friends and family are not part of that planning process so their input is of little consequence.
Second, who pays for your divorce? Most people pay their own share of the divorce. If you are paying for your divorce, why would you allow others to inject ideas that could easily drive up the cost of your case? For example, it costs nothing for a family member to advise you on how you should be angry about something your spouse said or did. But when that anger affects your ability to be rational it could mean you blow a perfectly acceptable settlement offer from your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Or you reject a reasonable offer from the other side because of pressure from friends and family to fight harder. The “free advice” you took could end up costing you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees that could have been avoided by settling early.
Third is a more philosophical reason to avoid “free advice.” Why is the advice free? It’s free because the person offering it does not value it. When you go to a doctor for advice on a medical issue, you expect to pay for what the doctor says. You trust the doctor to offer VALUABLE advice because of his or her education, skill, and experience. You understand that the advice you get from the doctor is based on what he or she thinks is best for you under all the facts. You also understand that you will pay money for the advice from the doctor, and the doctor will not give you the advice without payment. Contrast the doctor’s advice with that of your friends and family. They freely give advice because it does not cost them one cent to tell you what you should do. Nor will the friend owe you anything if the advice turns out to be terrible unlike the doctor who could be liable for selling you faulty advice that makes your problem worse. Who has a stake in giving you valuable advice? The doctor. But who can afford to give you advice? Your friends and family because they do not value the advice, and nor should you. How valuable can free advice really be? If it’s free, what can it possibly be worth?
Finally consider the source of the “free advice.” Your well-meaning friends and family likely have their own agenda. For example, they are hurt on your behalf that your relationship with your spouse is over. They may be hurt on their grandchildren’s behalf. They may feel personally betrayed that your spouse hurt you. Or your friend or family member may just be a spiteful, vindictive person, who likes to tinker with other people’s emotions. Or they may be into drama, and they are living vicariously through your divorce; they get a charge out of the soap opera of your life, and they want to prolong the drama.
“Free advice” can cost you thousands of dollars. It can also make you less happy. Stay on the plan you and your lawyer worked out, and listen to valuable advice your lawyer sells you. Do not be sucked in by “free advice” that has hidden costs financially and emotionally.
As always, this essay is educational in nature and is not intended to replace competent legal representation. If you are going through a divorce, I urge you to get an attorney. While legal fees can be substantial in a divorce, the cost of not having a lawyer can be much higher. When you hire a lawyer, know that you are represented by a professional who is educated and skilled at handling your matter. Your lawyer’s advice is VALUABLE. The “free advice” offered by your friends and family should be taken for what it is.