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By Irving H. Zaroff, JD LMFT and Dana Schutz, MA LMFT
Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't.
There is a distinction between advice intended to provide knowledge and advice intended to recommend action. In either case, the product of advice is an opinion. To better understand the value of advice, we might consider the needs of the seeker of advice. For some, they lack information and therefore cannot make the best decision. For others, they may not trust their own instincts even when they have adequate information. When it comes to divorce, the need for advice occurs in many areas, and involves both types of advice.
Divorce can be looked at as having three dimensions: the physical separation; the legal separation; and the emotional separation. Each dimension consists of various components.
The physical separation involves decisions as to where you will continue to live, with whom you will continue to live, and how you will be able to afford living apart.
The legal separation needs to address the division of property and debts, a parenting plan for children, support needs of both the children and each parent.
The emotional separation often produces the elements of grief (sadness, anger, depression) and fear (anxiety about the outcome of the divorce and the uncertainty of the future).
The type of advice needed will be different for each person and may change depending on which decision area is being raised. Having adequate information is helpful whether you trust your own decision making ability or would rather leave the decision to someone you trust. Information advice is available informally (friends, family, internet, newspapers, etc.) and professionally (attorneys, real estate brokers, financial counselors, etc.). The same persons can also make recommendations on how to decide (i.e., attorneys can provide information on the legal divorce as well as offer an opinion on what to do).
Although advice can be helpful, you will have to live with the decisions that are made. In divorce mediation, the mediators work to develop ideas, encourage the participation of advisors that add information, and urge each party to get an expert opinion on any final agreement. In the end, only you can definitively tell yourself what to do.