Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Advice for divorcing friends paper

Guide for writing divorce paper

In order to keep this paper from becoming too complicated here is what I want you to write about:


About 10% of divorces take up about 90% of the court's time and resources because of the amount of conflict and legal paperwork flying back and forth.  A heavily contested divorce can literally bankrupt a family.  It is not unheard of in extreme cases for each parent to spend from $50,000.00 to over $100,000.00 in legal fees and other costs (expert witnesses, psych evals, custody investigations).

Sam and Samantha your best friends from high school have been married now for ten years.  They have two children aged 6 and 8.  Sam and Samantha have not been dealing well with stress and issues in their marriage.  They tried marriage counseling but it was too late.  The damage to their relationship was greater than counseling could fix.  Sam and Samantha want a divorce.  They have already filed for divorce and there is no turning back for them.  They are already bitter and angry with each other.  You like them both equally.  What advice can you give them?  You cannot tell them to stay married or try to fix the relationship it is too late for that.  What can you tell them to try and help them get through their divorce with the least amount of cost, conflict, hostility etc.  Your advice needs to take the children into account so that you help them keep from hurting their children with their mutual hostility.  You want to help them keep their divorce from becoming one of those in the 10% that costs so much time, money and pain.


Use the Shared Parental Responsibilities document and the Best Interest Document I posted in Blackboard.  Look for other resources on line that you could suggest to Sam and Samantha such as Isolini Ricci's book "Mom's House Dad's House".

I want you to write a paper of about 2-6 pages double spaced detailing the advice you would give them, the resources you would suggest they use so that they have a "good divorce".



1)  The residential parent shall have the primary and day-to-day responsibility for the guidance and upbringing of the children and shall provide, among other matters, the moral training and discipline of the children.


2)  Delegation of care:  the parties agree that although a designation of residential care of the children is made here, each of them, after consulting with the other, may freely delegate or entrust to the other the care of the children.


3)  Accident or illness of the children:  Each party shall promptly notify the other if the children have a serious accident or serious illness.


4)  Visitation during illness:  In the event of the children's acute and major illnesses, the non-residential parent shall have the right of visitation with the children wherever the children are confined.


5)  Waiting:  As a matter of courtesy, the parent picking up or delivering the children shall do so promptly.  The children and the waiting parent have no duty to wait longer than thirty (30) minutes, unless notified that the other parent will be late.  A parent who is late forfeits contact and access to the children for the visitation period.  Both parents are encouraged to use good judgment and act in good faith.


6)  Non-exercise of Visitation:  The non-residential parent shall give 48 hours advance notice of intent not to exercise the right of visitation.


7)  Open Telephonic Communication:  The non-residential parent shall have open but reasonable rights to telephonic communication with the children.


8)  Emergency care:  Both parties have the right to have bona fide emergency decisions affecting the children including the right to authorize major medical, dental, or other emergency care.


9)  Inspection of records:  Each party has the right to inspect and receive school records.  The Parties shall be entitled, at their own expense, to obtain detailed information from any pediatrician, general physician, dentist, orthodontist, consultant or other specialist attending the children for any reason, and to be furnished with copies of any reports given to the other party.


10)  Free access:  Each parent shall use every effort to maintain unhampered contact between the children and other parent and to foster a feeling of affection between them.  Neither parent shall do anything that would estrange the children from the other, that would injure the children's opinion of the other, or that would impair the natural development of the children's love and respect for each parent.  At all times, the parents should strive for a working relationship in the best interests of the children.  In addition to these general duties, each parent shall NOT:

1.  Have the children deliver money or messages from one parent to the other and thus placing the children in the middle.


2.  Ask the children to keep a secret from the other parent and, in effect, teach the children to lie.


3.  Quiz the children about what's going on at the other parent's home and thus turning the children into spies or tattletales.


4.  Say unkind things about the other parent to the children or in the presence of the children.


5.  Try to conduct parental business when exchanging the children for visitation.  Such exchange times are extremely stressful for the children.


6.  Put on a long, sad face when the children go from one parent to the other, thus teaching the children disloyalty to the other parent.


7.  Tell the child who wants a new toy or wants to do something that costs money to "Ask your (other parent) because he/she doesn't pay me enough support" or "Ask your (other parent) because I give him/her lost so child support and he/she just wastes it."


8.  Ask the children directly or subtly,  "Which of us do you really want to live with," and thus placing a burden on the children.


9.  Allow the children to take control fo visitation whenever they want to do so.


10. Have the children refer to a future stepparent as "mother" or "father".


11.  Eavesdrop on or interrupt the children's telephone conversations with the other parent.


12.  Use as the children's last name one that is different from their legal name.


In addition each parent SHALL comply with the following:


1.  Each parent has an obligation to always refrain from making unflattering or derogatory remarks to, or regarding, the other parent in the presence of the children.


2.  Each parent has the absolute and unequivocal obligation to keep the other parent advised at all times as to the current address and telephone number of the children.


3.  Each parent has the duty to promptly return telephone calls placed by the other and to see that the children do the same.


4.  Policies regarding the children:  Concerning all matters of policy involving the children's health and education, the parties shall confer with a harmonious attitude best calculated to promote the welfare of the children.


5.  Visitation away from primary residence:  Except as otherwise provided, all rights of visitation shall take place away from the primary residence.


6.  No waiver:  This agreement is not intended to obligate the non-residential parent to exercise visitation rights with the children.  These rights are entirely optional and if they elect on occasion not to avail themselves of these rights, they do not waive the right to insist on compliance with this agreement thereafter.


7.  Surname:  If the wife remarries, the children shall continue to be known by the surname recorded on their birth certificates and the children will not use of for any reason assume the name of the subsequent spouse of the wife.           



I have never had a friend or friends in the situation presented here.  If I did, I would hope they would be able to see through their own emotional turmoil to the welfare of their children.  I would urge them to make plans to create a new life for a separated family that would provide for their needs and those of the children.  I would implore them to make their children understand that they were not at fault nor were they in any way responsible for the divorce.  I would also encourage them to understand that their family would not cease to exist, but rather change into a different kind of family that would take shape based on these plans and continue to evolve over time.

            As suggested, these two may have a lot of bitterness and resentment built up over time that will make the separation and divorce both difficult and painful. But I would stress to them the need not to let those feelings adversely affect their children.  Both parents need to be able to speak calmly and plainly to their children about situations as they develop, their plans for the future and so on without resorting to hurtful and destructive rants about each other.  "Parents are, or should be, the co-pilots, and their job is to make sure their passengers (their children) have a good flight.  The passengers need to know who the co-pilots are, but they shouldn't be up in the cockpit, and they certainly shouldn't be giving flying instructions.  Their job is to simply sit back and enjoy the ride" (Rubin, 2009).  Likewise, the parents should be able to tell the children that the parents' problems are not their problems.  Mom will still be Mom and Dad will still be Dad (Navarra, 1989).  I would counsel them also not to let their guilt over the divorce to allow the children to create a contest for the affection of the parents through excessive gift giving or overindulgence.   Most children are more aware than we realize and know when there is discord between the parents long before the parents themselves may be ready to admit it to them or even to each other.  They may even be comforted by having it out in the open and the discussion of what to expect next.  Most children need security and a sense of belonging. I would encourage the parents to try to maintain as little disruption as possible to the children's routine while separating the household.  Try to keep them in the same school, clubs, extracurricular activities, and places of worship.  I would also encourage them to mention any other families that have successfully survived a divorce as an example that things can and often do get better.  According to Navarra (1989),

            "Even though arguing makes everyone feel uncomfortable, it means two people are still talking to each other and trying to work out their problems.  It is not good when people stop talking to each other and just stay mad.  Even people who love each other very much argue.  That's because no two people are exactly the same.  They have to work to make sure they don't bottle up their feelings.  It is never good to hold on to anger."

Likewise,  while the children may feel better with controversy being openly discussed, they may ask for more than they need to know.  Be prepared to explain fully but avoid arming them with weapons that could hurt them or others.  Loyalty to an ex-spouse can be tough to feel and hard to maintain (Kidder, 2010).    I would also remind them that they did once love each other enough to marry and start a family, and to remember that mutual respect was once important to their relationship.  In order to create a new -albeit separate- family, it will be important for them to find a new balance and respect as separate parents and encourage the children to find their own as well.  Reinforce for the children the fact that their family is not ending, but rather changing shape and evolving into a new form, and that not all change is bad.  The parents will have to understand that children can easily spot a phony, and trying to sell them on change that the parents aren't ready to embrace won't work.  Be truthful also: don't tell them that everything is going to be fine, be willing to admit that this will  be challenging and painful at times.  Encourage them to seek therapy for the children if needed to help them through this transition rather than assuming the children can figure it all out for themselves.  They might benefit tremendously from having an unbiased listener.  I would encourage my friends to employ all of their support networks at their disposal: friends, family, and so on.  Most importantly I would tell them not to feel guilty about making difficult and painful decisions in the best interests of their family.



Rubin, M. and Sampson, S. (2009) What Your Divorce Lawyer May Not Tell You. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster


Navarra, T. (1989) Playing It Smart: What to Do When You're On Your Own.  Hauppage, NY: Barron's.


Kidder, R. (2010) Good Kids, Tough Choices: How Parents Can Help Their  Children Do the Right Thing. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

No comments: