Your Flight is Now Boarding: Handling Panic in Family Law and Divorce

Fear, anxiety, and even panic are natural parts of a divorce or family law matter. But these negative emotions don’t have to be insurmountable obstacles that keep you from reaching your destination. If you are clear on your destination, the right family law attorney can assist you to get on the right flight.

She had a huge smile. I had a huge panic sign plastered on my forehead. The woman behind the Southwest ticket counter says, “Where are you headed today?” I looked at her like she was my executioner and responded, “Probably nowhere because I can’t find my driver’s license.”

That was not the way I wanted to wind up an incredible retreat with two very savvy and wise business women who are also dear friends. Granted, a part of me wasn’t ready to leave Florida and head back to Michigan where it was 10° and snowing. But I wish I had felt better about the possibility that this might be my chance to extend my stay in Florida. I didn’t. I had work awaiting me, a new employee starting tomorrow and bright, shiny fresh ideas to enhance our client outcomes. Yet the not quite frantic—let’s call it eager—searching through my bags hadn’t resulted in the little card that said I was who I said I was.

The friendly face at the Southwest counter flashes an even wider smile and says, “Well, you can relax because you’re getting to your destination. We know how to deal with this. Things happen. We’ve got this. You good with that?”

“Of course,” I said on the exhale of a huge sigh of relief.

“But you gotta lose 3 pounds out of that bag” she intones. Well, then there’s that.

As I walked through the terminal to my gate after a more thorough search and pat down than normal—at “no extra charge” (TSA humor)—I thought about the number of times I’ve walked out to my reception area to meet a new client. We shake hands. While they may not have an obvious sign on their forehead, I oftentimes quickly sense that they are only barely holding panic at bay.

Know Your Destination Before Stepping Onto Your Family Law Flight

After practicing family law for 25 years, I know things happen in a marriage or family. And I know we (my client and me) have got this. But it’s critical to first fully understand the destination you’re trying to get to.

  • Do you want a divorce, or only a separation right now?
  • Do you now live in your dream home and want to stay there?
  • Have you always been involved in the kids’ lives and want that to continue, no matter what else might end?
  • Are you panicking thinking about paying or receiving an unreasonable amount of support?
  • Are you interested in restructuring but yet continuing the family?

Whatever the objective, like my Southwest agent, I want to assure you that “we know how to deal with this.” There are numerous paths to consider and we know their upsides and downsides, and how to carve new paths if necessary to meet your unique needs and concerns. We are committed to only choosing a path together—once we’ve talked with you enough to clearly understand and define the destination.

I knew my desired destination that afternoon. I wanted to return home to Michigan.  I didn’t know how to get there since a tool I once had to facilitate travel was gone. Similarly, you may feel you once had tools to make your marriage and family function and even thrive. Perhaps your destination will change from being contentedly married to one day being contentedly separated or divorced. Please know there is a way there. This afternoon, I worked with a smiling agent who said, “I know how to deal with this. Things happen. It’s okay,” and then helped guide me along the way to my destination. I now write this from Southwest Flight #5593 headed home.

How To Move Past Your Family Law Panic to Reach Your Destination

Here are some things to remember as you embark on any journey:

How To Move Past Your Family Law Panic to Reach Your Destination

Define or redefine your destination.

Not for this afternoon, but in 3 years or 5 years. What does that place—your life—look like once this journey is behind you? Get a clear vision of what you want.

Find your Southwest agent.

It may be a great book (I have some suggestions. Just email us at [email protected] to request). It may be a simple consultation with an attorney who can act as your “guide on the side” as you fly your own plane. It may be a mediator to work with you and your spouse or partner together as you chart the course forward. Or it may be that you need someone in the pilot’s seat and want a collaborative or litigation attorney to represent you throughout the flight ahead. Find who or what will work for you in the way that you and your family need.

“Lose the 3 pounds.”

Prepare for the part where you have to give. It’s the only way to get. I had to pull a packing cube out of my suitcase and stuff it into my carry-on. But it got my bag on the conveyor belt. The truth is, it’s often challenging to support two homes on what used to support one. It’s hard to be without your kids while they spend time with your co-parent. So know your essentials and your partner’s, adjust and stay focused on getting your bag on the conveyor belt.

Get grounded.

I adjusted this afternoon from the ground up before I ultimately got on the plane. I’ve been at this mindfulness work long enough that as I rifled through my tote and carry-on for my driver’s license, I paused for a moment and recognized that it wasn’t likely that I was now going to become a Florida resident from today forward. I knew that it would work out one way or another and that I would once again be in the cold tundra of the Michigan winter. Before I approached the agent, I paused and said to my friend, happily holding her boarding pass, “well, I guess I get to learn something new today. I’ve always wondered what happens if you lose your license while traveling.”

Before you meet with an attorney, or talk settlement with your spouse/partner, or enter a mediation session, pause. Get grounded. Breathe. Be open to learning something new today. Picture that destination you’ve defined where peace has been achieved: your children are okay, you and your former spouse/partner can meet for coffee to consider co-parenting issues, you are in your dream home—the one you reside in now or the one you have created, support has been set at a fair and reasonable level, and you have the confidence of knowing you processed your divorce with integrity and commitment to your own well-being and your spouse/partner’s. Tell yourself, aloud even, “Things happen. But I’m going to get to my destination. There’s a path forward and I will find it and it will be okay.” Then walk into that meeting, that conversation, that session from that grounded place. And fly.

I have to close my laptop now as we approach my destination. You will get to yours too. How can we help?

Wishing you wisdom,

Deborah Bennett Berecz


Deborah Bennett Berecz is a collaborative divorce lawyer at Berecz & Associates, PLC, a firm focused on helping clients reach their family law destination using the process best for them. Berecz & Associates, PLC, has offices in St. Joseph and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Contact us to learn more or to schedule a consultation today.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


©2024 All Rights Reserved | Berecz & Associates PLC | Powered by

Berecz and Associates PLC | Attorneys, Mediators, Collaborative Lawyers | Grand Rapids, MI | Saint Joseph, MI

Disclaimer: The purpose of this site is to give you information about our practice and about areas of the law that may interest you. Everyone's situation is different, and nothing here should be treated as legal advice for your case. For your own legal advice, contact us.

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?