Understanding the Head and the Heart: The Legal and Emotional Entanglement of Divorce

The Intersection of the Legal and the Emotional 

Divorce rattles even the most confident person’s sense of herself. It’s nobody’s plan. And yet, the divorce rate in America remains at near half of all marriages.

The emotional toll of divorce can leave you feeling guilty, anxious and depressed. But, by definition, divorce is really a legal transaction. It usually involves lawyers with judges making decisions based on evidence and finally meting out a legal decision.

How do we reconcile the legal side with the emotional side?

This week I spoke with the authors of The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Divorce, Dr. Jill Murray and Adam Dodge. Dr. Murray is one of the nation’s leading experts on unhealthy relationships. She has published a number of books on unhealthy relationships and mental health. Her therapy practice is based in Laguna Niguel, California. Dodge is a former divorce attorney who now devotes his career to empowering women to represent themselves in family law proceedings as the legal director of Laura’s House where he advocates for the legal rights of domestic violence survivors and their children.

The Decision to Divorce

Before you decide whether you want to divorce or not, Murray and Dodge advise, you need to think about how you are going to approach it legally and emotionally not just right now, but in the future. That’s because many of the legal entanglements, from investments to co-owned business to your children will continue to be impacted long after the divorce. You must also give yourself room to change your feelings as you go through the process. There will be new opportunities after a divorce that may change your needs and interests. You may not even be able to imagine those opportunities yet.


In writing their book, Murray and Dodge leaned on their professional expertise—their own unique perspective—to answer questions about the process. They wrote the book not just for people going through or deciding to divorce, but also for therapists and lawyers, to fill in gaps in their knowledge about the other’s field. What the authors found in their own work was that many lawyers didn’t have first-hand knowledge or expertise about the emotional state of their clients. And the psychologists didn’t always know the in’s and out’s of the legal labyrinth that is divorce.

Not Just for Women 

Despite the book’s title, The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Divorce, the authors wrote this book with men in mind, too. They understand that men experience the same feelings of loss and regret that their female readers do. They may worry about not having as much contact with their children or financial worries like where and how they’re going to live. Men, they find, lean on their wives to be the “emotional anchors” of the relationship. And when that anchor is gone, they are set adrift.

As we continue our series with Murray and Dodge we’ll explore the legal pitfalls and traps to avoid as you move through the divorce process, and how to emotionally support yourself.

If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.

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