Divorce, physical assault, mental abuse, custody battles, claims of defamation. These are all types of legal battles that involve two parties almost always in opposition of one another. They are so often ugly, angry and emotional. We don’t wish any of the above on anyone, yet we know they occur.
We also know that it can be difficult standing on the sideline, watching someone you love go through something so heart-wrenching and painful as they seek justice or fight to keep others from being harmed. How can you even begin to support someone going through something so difficult?
Apples and Oranges
Many of us have family members or friends that have been through divorces, ugly custody hearings, or similar legal proceedings. That doesn’t, however, make us all experts on divorce, ugly custody hearings, or similar legal proceedings. It’s easy to draw comparisons between two cases and try to offer comfort because ‘your cousin went through a divorce and won full custody,’ however no two cases play out the same. Judges are different, individuals involved are different and often state laws are different.
Support through ‘comparisons’ is rarely helpful. Remember: each case is made up of individuals making no two cases alike.
Support Their Decisions
Difficult decisions are often made amidst legal battles, usually under the careful guidance of a legal professional. You might not always agree with those decisions, however, your friend/relative needs you to support those decisions. Legal battles are often settled by coming to a mutual agreement between two parties. It might feel like your loved one has ‘lost,’ and you might even feel frustrated with the outcome, but that is when they need you in their corner the most. Trust in them and back them all the way.
This, above all else, feels impossible. You want to side with your loved one, cheering them on to victory! ‘Victory,’ however, is often not the end goal. It’s justice or reparation, possibly a favorable parenting agreement that works well for both parents. It’s alright to take sides, but try to keep neutral and level-headed when discussing the legal battle. They are hurting, angry, frustrated, sad – any number of emotions and don’t need any fuel added to the fire. They need a friend and calming influence.
Don’t Be An Expert
The internet is a wonderful, vast and dangerous landscape, filled with misinformation and opinion. Don’t take it upon yourself to solve their case for them by delving into the deep web. Each state, county, even city handles all manner of cases differently and someone from California offering legal tips on a message board for abused mothers won’t be much help to someone going through a divorce in North Carolina.
Just like you should avoid cancer diagnoses on WebMD, you shouldn’t try to become an attorney in an attempt to help your loved one.
What your loved one needs more than anything else, more than an expert, more than a protector, is someone to hear them. Just listen. Don’t judge, don’t offer unsolicited advice. Just love them and listen as they go through this hard time.