Last week, Rachel and I were talking in the kitchen about a new acquaintance, and Rachel commented, “I think she and her first husband went through a bad divorce.” This morning while driving to work, a caller to a radio station expressed how she had recently gone through a “bad divorce”, but things were looking up for her. Over lunch, a pastor friend of mine brought up how someone he is counseling recently completed a “bad divorce” after a two or three year struggle. You hear the phrase too from time to time. It shows up in our everyday vernacular as citizens of the world. It makes you wonder if there is any such thing as a “good divorce.” I have unique perspective on the subject, having worked in family law for fifteen years and after being involved in hundreds of matrimonial surrenders.
If a couple does not have children, a divorce is rarely bad. I am certainly excluding from this observation circumstances of domestic violence, stalking and other sleeping-with-the-enemy-type behaviors. Infertility can also create a very sad set of circumstances, even if the parties are open-minded to assisted reproductive technology, fostering or adoption. But a situation where a couple has been married for a year or two (or five), they have no money and no children, is simply an embarrassing, expensive mistake, not the life trajectory altering or paradigm shifting tectonic plate shift the parties, their parents and their inner circle of friends may think. In this scenario, there can be a clean break. After the accounts are divided and the furniture is in the U-Haul, there is no reason for them to have any interaction with their former spouse. They can grieve the lost opportunity for the life they expected, and step into their future much wiser and more in touch with who they really are.
People who should have a “bad divorce” often do not. Let me be clear. All divorces are bad on some level. Most people do not set out to be divorced. While I have had more than one person talk about their wedding day being one of the saddest of their lives, this is pretty rare. Most people who end up divorced tried really hard to make it work, had big plans for a bright future with their spouse, and they did not give up for a long time. Believe it or not, many people in divorce act civilly with a deep sense of fairness, respect, and gratitude for shared experiences. While saddened, these folks share a sense of collaboration to work out a fair resolution, creating a foundation for future co-parenting. Having the right type of lawyer can help in this endeavor.
Finally, some divorces are just bad. They have crazymakers. They have psychos, sociopaths and narcissists. They have bad lawyers. They have judges who are out to prove a point and/or who do not value your resources. They have parties who have a hate running as deep as the Grand Canyon and who have colossal and frequent lapses in judgment. They have unfounded allegations of abuse. They have untreated addiction or mental health problems. They have lots of resources and parties (or parents) who are willing to spend them. They have alienation of affection and parental alienation syndrome. They have selfish people doing selfish things. When a divorce is really bad, it is an energy zap for everyone. It is like one of those big magnets you see in cartoons that pulls, not metal objects, but the life energy of all those who encounter them. A bad divorce is just that –bad.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Love your kids. View every decision through the lens of their best interest. Find common ground with your ex or soon to be ex. Employ an experienced, practical minded attorney, and live in the future, not the past.
Craig Robertson is a divorce attorney practicing throughout Mississippi.