Friday, October 19, 2012

Can a Divorce REALLY be "Healthy?"

I was recently received a comment by a reader who suggested that the sheer title of my blog, "The Healthy Divorce" makes it apparent that I have NO IDEA what I'm talking about, that I clearly wasn't a child of a divorce, and that I'm likely a woman who benefited from a divorce. (I will won’t share the really mean and judgmental things this reader had to say.) ;)

First, I have been a divorce lawyer for a very long time. As is the case with most of my colleagues, I have pretty thick skin....we have to! So, this person who named a special place in hell for me didn't upset me personally...but I started to wonder...does anyone else think this way? Is this blog at all helpful for people? Do people think I am condoning divorce in some way? Does this blog suggest that I am suggesting divorce as a good option for people?

To the extent anything about this blog suggests what this angry reader alleges, I wanted to clarify a few things:

1) I was a child of divorce. My parents separated when I was 5 years old, and the long, emotionally (and financially) draining custody battle went on for over two years before my parents were finally divorced. I was 7 at that time, and had seen more hate, more poison, more disrespect than any person---much less any child---should ever have to endure. By the time I was 12, I had been back to court three more times with my parents--twice for more custody/visitation battles, and once for grandparent visitation rights. Each and every time I went through the process, I was broken. I felt so incredibly torn between the two people I loved most in life. I felt like everything I was going through actually had nothing to do with me...or anyone having more time with me...but rather about WINNING and hurting the other parent. I couldn’t make anyone happy...and it seemed to me that no one REALLY cared about how I felt. My parents are both good people…but it seemed that there was no real focus on what was best for me, but rather, their actions were out of hurt feelings, jealousy and anger towards each other. Those years were some of the most difficult years of my life...and I've been through a LOT of tough years!

My point in sharing all of these personal facts about myself is to let readers know my background. Going through the "legal divorce system" as a child is what made me want to become a divorce attorney. At the time, I believed that I could be the kind of attorney that would make everything less hurtful for kids...that I would represent the children's best interests and be a source of comfort to them when they were experiencing feelings similar to those I had experienced.

In hindsight, it was a bit unrealistic of me to think that I could somehow "represent" children...and make lives better for all of the heartbroken kids in the world. Ultimately, I have to represent my client. THAT SAID, I feel that a very important part of my job is to make sure that my clients are behaving well...being good parents...and putting their children's best interests as the top priority, above all else. Often times, I do believe that my experience has been beneficial for my clients, and has helped them to keep things in perspective and make better choices when it comes to their children. However, when I cannot seem to get through to clients, or believe that they are not being mindful of the best interests of their kids, I fire myself! I SURE DO! I have done it many times and have never regretted it. No case, no fee is worth me facilitating a client to use their children as pawns to hurt the other parent.

I believe that my personal experience has been useful to my clients...and for that reason, I thought it might be beneficial to others going through the same process; and, that is the reason I decided to create this blog.

2) I have been divorced myself. In the last year, I went through my own divorce. It was, without question, the lowest point in my life. I was married to a wonderful man for almost 9 years. He was my best friend, and we are still good friends to this day. That said, we decided that we were better friends than we were "a married couple" and we decided to end our marriage. I can say with 100% honesty that going through a divorce is AWFUL!!! It is emotionally draining, financially destructive, and spiritually defeating. No matter how "cordial" the parties are to one another, it is still very difficult. The feelings of failure, fear, loneliness, guilt, sadness, anger, confusion....etc etc etc can seem at times to be unbearable....and I'm talking about a very CORDIAL DIVORCE.

I do not IN ANY WAY condone divorce, support it, or suggest it as a “best option” for people. Further, in NO WAY did I benefit financially from it. My husband and I divided our assets equally. I decided to keep our home, but the expenses are the same. I am paying those same expenses now with ONE income vs. two...and it has been quite a challenge. Many people face these and other similar challenges, as most of us live at or beyond our financial means. Then suddenly, the total funds being brought into the household are drastically reduced, or in some cases, one income is stretched to support two households. This is a tough financially reality for many people.

Having gone through a divorce personally, I believe that my own experience, one again, is a benefit to my clients. I relate to them in a way I was, frankly, unable to, before I went through the divorce process myself. I have always considered myself to be sympathetic to my clients' needs and feelings, but I find that I am even more so now.

So, just to be clear, I didn't marry a multi-millionaire, and then spend the next decade spending all of his money only to leave him and take HALF of his assets. I always contributed to my marriage--both financially and non-financially, and I lost half of what the two of us acquired together, just as he did. We have both agreed that since our divorce was finalized, we feel as if we have almost completely started over (financially). It sure seems that way. But I PROMISE YOU, losing half of my assets was FAR from the worst thing that happened as a result of my divorce.

I am fortunate that I have my own career and can support myself. While my lifestyle may have substantially changed, I can pay my own bills and have not been in fear of how I'm going to be able to LIVE! Many of my clients and friends face that issue in addition to all the others...and that is a very scary notion for them. I don’t believe that ANYONE is financially "better off" after a divorce.

3) I am not a promoter of divorce in any way. As for the allegation that I am in some way "promoting" divorce or suggesting that it is a "healthy decision," I want to be very clear. I am, in no way, suggesting that divorce is a good thing, a healthy thing, or the best option. I have no way of knowing the special circumstances of those who may come into contact with this blog. Every single relationship is different. I do not encourage my clients to file for divorce...they come to me! Many times, I tell my clients that they aren't ready to file, or suggest that they at least TRY marriage counseling before they throw in the proverbial towel.

Regardless of what I do or do not do, however, statistics say over half of all marriages will end in divorce. I don’t cause this. I don’t even like it. Divorce happens to people. It is an unfortunate reality of our society. I do not condone it, nor support it in any way. I never--in a million years---would have thought it would happen to me...but it did. My goal with this blog is to help people minimize the emotion turmoil, the spiritual destruction and the financial crisis that divorce can often cause. People are going to go through it---whether I write about it or not. I just want to try to reach those who may gain even one tidbit of information or assistance in getting through it a little easier.

Hopefully, with this, I have cleared up any ideas that I am some kind of “flag flying supporter” of divorce. I hope that my personal and professional experiences can help others when they go through this difficult life transition. At the end of the day, the unfortunate truth is: divorce is going to happen for some people (whether they want it to or not), but those folks can choose to make a bad situation more difficult, or much easier on themselves, their spouses, and their children. My goal is to assist people in making a bad situation tolerable, and then moving onto the next best phase of their lives.

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