Last week I received a call from the journalist Flic Everett, who was hard at work on an article for The Times on that hardy perennial amongst family law topics: the pain of divorce.
The feature is centred around Flic’s personal experiences of separation. Under the headline ‘Never underestimate the pain of divorce. I’ve done it twice’, she explains how her two marriages ended: the first at the age of 24 and the second 21 years later.
Her first marriage apparently fell apart after just a couple of years. She had been encouraged to marry so young by her parents’ example, she explains, but when the rows became too much she and her husband went their separate ways and the future Times journalist began a new life as a single mother, promising herself that if she ever married again, it would be “for life”.
Marriage number two came along at 29 and that lasted much longer, but this too eventually crumbled, she explains, thanks to a combination of business, financial and personal pressures. And this time she was determined to try and do things differently, to see if it was possible to divorce without ending up “bitter and furious”.
Flic devised a few principles which she hoped would “minimise the pain” for both her and her soon-to-be-ex-husband. These included ‘don’t be a victim’, ‘don’t have it out in front of the children’, and ‘embrace the future’.
Sensible, straightforward, and not dissimilar to the advice I myself offer in my book Divorce & Splitting Up.
I contributed my thoughts to a few of the principles set out by the journalist. I suggested, for example, that divorcing parents try to draw up a ‘parenting plan’, setting out which days the children will spend with which parent, who will handle what school pickup, how the school holidays will be spent, and so on.
Emotions are best kept out of the courtroom, I declared, suggesting for example, that divorcing couples keep any actual litigation to a minimum, not just because of the financial consequences but the emotional ones too.
Meanwhile, counselling can be very helpful for some, I noted.
“You can’t handle the stress of a divorce case if you’re still full of bitterness and anger.”
Divorce is a multi-layered process. As lawyers, it is our job to guide our clients through one-layer, the practicalities and technicalities of the law, and to try to try to leave them in as good a place as we can. But at the end of the day, the clients must make their own way through other layers, dealing with the emotional fallout as best they can. We can help them to some degree, offering them our best advice and keeping stress to a minimum. It’s a difficult, often forgotten but ultimately necessary journey for most.
As the journalist writes,:
“Pain is pain, for both parties, generally speaking, and you can’t avoid it.”
Read the article here. (Subscription required)