Monday, January 17, 2011

Dissolving a Marriage - At Mid-Life and Beyond

In looking for new topics to post I have been reviewing some of my previous postings and I am finding some relevant ones worth reposting. This is from September 2009 and I have added some updates.

When I meet people and tell them that I am a divorce lawyer, I often get comments something like: “We have been married for over 20 years; I guess we will never need your services.” Or, “ We've been married so long, there’d be no point breaking up. Divorce is something the younger folks do.” Contrary to popular belief, mature couples divorce every day. Many of my clients have been married 20 to 30 years and even more. A significant amount are over 50 and I have even had clients over 70. The mid life and beyond divorce is not as unusual as one may think. As people live longer they may find that they have outgrown their marriage. One person may be ready for change and the other wants to remain the same.

Privacy and Respect are important values to mature couples.

Most couples seeking to end their marriage do want to with a minimum of rancor maintaining some dignity and respect for each other. But for the mature couple, who has witnessed friends and family turn their lives upside down both emotionally and financially through expensive litigated divorces, this is even more important. They have worked hard to build an estate and are not interested in wasting their assets on a financially draining process. A recent issue of Consumer Reports points out that one of the most expensive money mistakes a person can make is “Launching a Divorce War”. This ranks as number three in the publications list of 12 biggest money mistakes.

To avoid the divorce war, mature couples are looking for solutions preserving their privacy, dividing their assets according to their individual needs and minimization of the emotional trauma that comes from closing the door on a relationship and lifestyle that has weathered many years.

There are alternatives to litigating a divorce

The legal community has recognized the need for non-adversarial divorce, especially for couples who have been married for a longer period of time, and have accumulated a variety of assets including real estate and retirement plans. Today, a group of attorneys are now active in collaborative law, divorce mediation, cooperative divorce and some are even available to help a couple in a so-called “kitchen table” divorce where the couple does most of the negotiations themselves. An on-line search on , collaborative law sight provides many resources and several resources are also available on my web site
I often work with a couple's financial planner or a specialist who is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) These specialists can help divide financial assets so that there is an equitable division as to tax consequences and the nature of the asset.

Divorce is a normal life transition

Although divorce is sad at any juncture in life, it is especially important for long term couples ending their marriage to put it in perspective. One of my therapist friends points out “The success or failure of a marriage should not be judged upon whether it ends or continues 'until death do us part' It might be better judged on how much growth it has afforded us as conscious human beings striving to connect intimately. There is nothing abnormal or blameworthy about divorce. It is to be expected. If we can help people to use this normal life transition to launch into new and richer living then we will be doing a far better service than trying to maintain relationships that don’t serve or brutally severing relationships that must end through litigation.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Expert Advice Regarding Parenting and Divorce

Every now and then I like to invite guest opinions. I have been following Rosdalind Sedacca for several years and find she has very sensible advice for divorcing parents.

postheadericon Parental Discord – Not Divorce – Most Damages Children!

Is it divorce or parental discord that most damages children? Answers are finally coming in!

A recent article by marriage and family therapist Ruth Bettelheim has much to say on this topic that is both relevant and, quite surprising for many. That’s because she refutes common misconceptions about divorce and addresses the real issues of concern.

According to Bettelheim, “Studies conducted in the past 20 years have shown that on all meaningful measures of success — social, economic, intellectual and psychological — most adult children from divorced families are no worse off than their peers whose parents remained married.”

Researchers have found two explanations for this, notes Bettelheim. “Children who have to cope with their parents’ separation and post-divorce lives often grow resilient, self-reliant, adaptable and independent. And children benefit from escaping the high-conflict environment of a rocky marriage. After their parents’ separation, as conflicts fade, children recover.”

There is much to consider in those last two sentences. Children actually benefit from being out of high-conflict homes! In fact, studies show that it is “sustained family conflict that actually causes children to experience the kinds of problems that are usually attributed to divorce: low self-esteem, depression, high anxiety, difficulty forming relationships, delinquency and withdrawal from the world.”

Bettelheim goes on to say, “Given that reducing family conflict is good for children, the best way to protect them during divorce would be to minimize the acrimony of the proceedings.”

That is the foundation of a child-centered divorce. My supporters and I have long contended that it is not divorce per se but the way parents handle divorce that harms their children. From time to time I am contacted by emotionally charged parents who are vehemently “anti-divorce.” While they acknowledge I am well-meaning in my efforts, they point their finger at divorced parents and blame them unequivocally for destroying their children’s lives.
In reality, life is not black and white, nor are the consequences of divorce. While I certainly do not advocate divorce as a solution to marital discord, in many cases it’s a saner solution than living together in a toxic marriage.

I speak from experience when I say this because I am a child of parents who should have divorced – and didn’t. The emotional scarring I experienced is basically the same as felt by children of parents who make damaging divorce mistakes. The insecurity, lack of self-esteem, anxiety, depression, sadness, guilt and shame I carried through my childhood were the consequences of parents so caught up in their emotional drama they had little awareness of what their turmoil was creating for their children.

Divorced or not, when we make decisions that that don’t take children’s fragile psyches into account, the outcome is painful for those children!

Bettelheim makes a strong case for divorce mediation as a resource to keep parents from making destructive, vindictive decisions about custody and child support. She’s totally right. She ends her piece saying, “In an adversarial custody battle, no one wins, but children are the biggest losers of all. Intelligent legislation could promote the one thing that children of divorce need most: peace between their parents.”

The truth is, all children need and deserve peace between their parents. Let’s focus less on judgmental, self-righteous finger-pointing and more on educating all parents about harmonious, effective parenting – and we’ll all be better off!

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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is the author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! Acclaimed by divorce professionals, the book provides fill-in-the-blank templates that guide parents in creating a family storybook with personal photographs as an ideal way to break the news. For more details, a free ezine, articles, coaching and other resources visit