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Divorce Advice: What Not To Do When Your Friend Is Getting Divorced

07/04/2013 12:46 pm ET
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Friends are supposed to be there through thick and thin, but how helpful are you to your friend who is going through a divorce? Here are five not-so-friendly mistakes to avoid:

1. Don't take sides. Whether you met your friend during the marriage or you are old friends from back in the day, don't pick sides. You may think siding with your pal is what you're supposed to do, but in reality, it decreases the chances of reconciliation and it may hinder your friend from taking accountability for his/her role in the divorce. Avoid making judgments. Let's face it: No one knows what really goes on in a marriage aside from the two people in it. Communicate to your friend early in the divorce process that you plan to remain neutral during the divorce.

2. Don't trash talk. Even if you think it's what your pal wants to hear, don't bash the ex. Casting blame can have the adverse effect of cementing your friend's perspective that he or she is right and can potentially prolong divorce proceedings. Plus, if they reconcile, guess who gets the ax? You! Remember, you can't fairly judge something that you weren't involved in, so reserve making judgments and just be there to listen.

3. Don't play counselor. Of course you should be there for your friend, but set limits. Don't try to win the "Friend Of The Year Award" by answering calls at 3 a.m. Chances are you aren't a licensed therapist, so don't act like one. Encourage your pal to get real help by consulting with an independent, licensed professional who can provide guidance during this difficult time.

4. Don't encourage war. If there is no chance for reconciliation and the divorce proceedings are under way, don't egg on your friend to get the most he/she can. What may seem important to you may not be in your friend's best interest, so with all due respect — butt out. If your friend decides to forego things, he/she is legally entitled to in the interest of ending the divorce in a peaceful manner; don't be discouraging. If you really feel your concern is legitimate, ask your friend if they have consulted with their attorney about his/her decision.

5. Don’t play attorney. While it can be tempting to advise your friend through the legal aspects of divorce, avoid playing attorney. Providing legal advice based on snippets of stories you've heard from other friends is not helpful. Remember, this isn't an episode of Ally McBeal — this is real life. Decisions made during divorce can impact your friend financially for years to come, so avoid playing attorney and encourage your friend to consult with a professional if you have a legitimate concern.

Avoiding these mistakes will garner you major respect over the long term. Keep in mind that the goal is to make sure your friend is able to move forward and do what is best for him or her, and also, to avoid placing yourself in unfriendly waters. It can be extremely difficult to be a true friend during divorce, so kudos to you for putting in the time and effort during one of the most challenging times in your pal's life.

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