"What are you going to do with your wedding gifts?"
While this might seem like a rude question for someone to ask, it's a pretty common one. Guests care about you, and those who consider themselves 'on your side' invested time and money into coming to your wedding and picking out a gift. If your divorce happens within years of your wedding, they want to make sure that you get to keep the gift.
When I left my ex-husband, I kept all of the gifts that my family gave me, in addition to the gifts that friends gave me if they were my coworkers, much closer to me, or friends with me long before I met my ex. Similarly, he kept the items given to him by his family and long-time friends. I made sure to mention this and I told my close friends and relatives about it so they could help field this question.
"Who gets custody of the children and pets?"
Most people are immediately concerned about the well-being of your children and pets - as they should be. If a friend is concerned about you, he or she also wants to ensure that you have the right to see your children or pets as frequently as possible, making this a common question.
I did not have any children or pets with my ex, so I didn't have to worry about this when I got divorced. However, this is something I would have discussed with him prior to formally announcing our divorce. It's best for the kids to know what's going on before you start answering questions for other people, and if the matter is up for legal debate, you need to be honest about that.
"Where are you going to live?"
When divorce happens, most couples no longer wish to share a residence with one another. Friends want to stay in touch and they're also worried about you, which leads to this question. If you're not sure about where you'll be staying, it can also help to let a friend or family member know, as he or she may offer you a place to stay temporarily.
When I announced my divorce, I had already looked at my options. I chose to live with my mother and stepfather for a while and was able to easily answer this question.
"Why are you getting a divorce?"
This is one of the more complicated questions you can receive in many instances. Regardless of what happened, you're still sorting through a lot of feelings when you announce the divorce. It's natural to feel guilt, shame, and confusion - not to mention a healthy amount of vulnerability.
If possible, have a discussion with your ex about why the relationship is ending and how you would like to explain it for others. My first marriage ended for several reasons, but most of them were connected to money and my ex's lack of interest in finding or maintaining employment. For that reason, I generally told people that it did not work out for financial reasons.
"Don't you think it's time to admit I was right about your relationship?"
Your naysayers will come back to haunt you. Anyone who was jealous of your relationship or had a reason to doubt you might take this opportunity to come back and point out the fact that they were right.
If you're anything like me, this will only make you feel worse. I just told these people that I really needed support rather than 'I told you so,' and then proceeded to distance myself from these individuals. Coming out of a bad marriage, I didn't need more emotional turmoil and I'm glad I cleared those people out of my life.
"Is there anything I can do to help you?"
This is the best question to get when you're going through any sort of rough time, but it's still hard to know how to answer. Your answer will of course depend on your needs.
When I was going through a divorce, I really needed company. I just wanted to be around friends and move on with my life. When my friend Joann asked me this question, I told her I just wanted to spend some time with her. A few days later she was traveling through two states to visit me and I'll never forget this sincere act of friendship.
Some of the questions are tasteful - some are downright tacky. Many people also wonder about these things but don't ask. After I figured out what people wanted to know, I made sure my close friends and family knew the answers to these questions so they could diplomatically spread the information.
Overall, talking about a recent or impending divorce feels inevitably awkward, but being prepared with answers to common questions can certainly minimize the strangeness.