Today I pack up my computer and leave for an undisclosed location to make the final edits on my book:
Divorce by Design: How to Split Without Losing Your Mind, Your Money, or Your Kids.
My final deadline is early next week and I have an enormous amount of work in front of me. The blog will be sparse as a result until I have delivered the final pages to the powers that be.
Today I am going to share with you my Author’s Note: my explanation of why I wrote this book. I would be deeply grateful if you read this. If it resonates with you, please share and leave a comment.
Have a beautiful week.
Why I Wrote this Book
Divorce is a sad and unfortunate reality for roughly 50 percent of Americans. You’d think with that many people going through the process, by now most everyone involved would know the right and wrong way to do it.
I wrote this book so readers can see the two general choices (or, as far as I’m concerned, the right and wrong choices) most of them will face when confronting divorce:
- Cooperate with each other and make every effort to keep things relatively amicable and above-board; or
- Burn it all to the ground.
I’ve seen both kinds of divorce up close. Without fail, those who choose Option 2 are worse off for it. They lose their money, their homes, their self-respect, and their optimism for a new life.
Children who live through these bitter divorces suffer for years in ways parents probably cannot imagine and most certainly did not intend. When parents remain mired in the thick haze of their anger and disappointment, they cannot or will not acknowledge how deeply, negatively, and lastingly their decisions wound their children.
Whether young or grown, those kids are the ultimate victims of the war between the parents, along with the parents themselves.
It does not have to be this way.
My goal is for you, the reader, to come away from this book with the understanding that it can be different. You can “reorganize” your family rather than chop it up to bloody bits with a meat cleaver. You can create a new paradigm of divorce that is as positive an experience as a divorce can be. You can emerge from your divorce with your children, your dignity, and your savings intact.
My Expertise Has Been Forged in Fires Both Personal and Professional
As the writer of an advice blog (www.robindescamp.com), I answer questions posed by readers on a wide variety of topics. Divorce and marital problems make up a huge percentage of the questions I receive. Since beginning the blog in 2013 I’ve communicated with hundreds of people on their divorce and family issues and worked with them to adjust their attitudes and solve their problems.
My work has been challenging, rewarding, and given me a terrific background and foundation for writing this book. I’ve had the unique experience of gathering first-hand information on divorce from a wide variety of sources, some of whom are included in these pages.
I’m a Child of Divorce
I was about two years old when my parents divorced.
Both of these divorces were terrible in their own way. I won’t rehash them here because they aren’t my stories to tell, plus I don’t want to be written out of my parents’ wills. What I will say is that the unintended damage my parents did to their finances, themselves, each other, and their children was profound.
Each divorce left the children in our family heartbroken, confused and angry. We were too young to truly understand what was happening and why, but old enough to know it was really bad.
I don’t blame my parents for having toxic splits. Most people just didn’t do it any other way back then. The concept of an amicable divorce was not even in its infancy. It was more like a hopeful egg still awaiting penetration by a tenacious sperm.
Most lawyers at that time discouraged (and many still do) a positive approach to divorce for purely financial reasons I will explain in this book.
I’m a Divorce Survivor
Not to be outdone by my parents and step-parents, my first marriage ended in divorce when I was 35. But mine was not the typical divorce, and that was very much by design.
My first husband, Patrick (nickname: The Canary in a Coal Mine), is a wonderful man and an exceptional father. Unfortunately, the marriage just didn’t work, mainly because I used to be a very difficult and mercurial asshole. I’ve changed; I promise! We finally accepted the unhappy fact of our marital demise and decided to go our separate ways.
We had every opportunity to create a messy and contentious divorce. The finances could have gotten tricky due to his position within a closely-held business, our real estate investments, my income as a lawyer, and our rare and valuable collection of 1970 – 1979 porn.
If either of us had wanted to, we could have hired counsel and fought for months or even years over The Big Divorce Question:
Who gets what?
Custody, parenting time, money, the house, the investments, child support, inheritances. You name it, we could have argued over it. We certainly would have been encouraged to argue over everything if we had chosen not only to hire lawyers, but to hire nasty, aggressive, Pit bull-type litigators (more on those lovely people in the following chapters).
Instead, we had a series of difficult and sad yet hopeful and realistic conversations at our kitchen table. We talked about what was best for our young son and for each of us as well. We drew up a simple document establishing our decisions. A collaborative lawyer wrote it up and filed it for us.
It was all done for 1,000 bucks, or what your typical divorce lawyers charge for “legal research” while they marathon-watch “Divorce Court.”
Don’t get me wrong. Our divorce was tough.
We agreed to equal parenting time. The anguish I felt during those days and nights when my son was with his dad was matched only by what Patrick felt when our son was with me.
Our respective financial situations took a dramatic dive. We now had two houses to support instead of one and all the attendant costs that go along with multiplying residences but not income.
We missed each other.
We missed our friends. So many of them were so spooked by our divorce and terrified it was contagious or envious they didn’t have the guts to pull the plug on their own long-dead relationships. These folks shut us out and drifted away.
We agonized over the effect our split would have on Jake, only four years old and yet so deeply aware that “this” wasn’t normal. You can try to sell a divorce to a little kid with a lie about how fun it will be when Mommy and Daddy have two houses, but kids aren’t stupid.
They are confounding little assholes sometimes, but they know what’s up, even when they’re not told.
Patrick purchased a home about a half-mile away–close, but not so close that I would let Jake walk there on his own. I didn’t even let Jake walk to the next-door neighbor’s on his own. So imagine my terror when one day he slipped out of the house while I was on a brief phone call and when I hung up, was nowhere to be found.
After ten minutes of frantically searching and calling for him in my house, it was clear he had left. I drove in a blind panic through our neighborhood tearfully and hysterically asking everyone if they had seen my little boy.
I fought to breathe through a crushing fear that dwarfed anything I’d ever experienced. If you’ve ever lost your child, even for just a few minutes, you know the feeling I am describing.
After what felt like an eternity but was actually only a few minutes, I saw the mailman. He told me he’d seen a small blonde boy on Patrick’s street a few moments before.
Amazing that I hadn’t thought of that.
He was going to Daddy’s house.
Jake was hiding in the bushes when he heard me screaming his name and begging him to come to me. I couldn’t get mad. It was my fault. Everything was my fault. Was this how it was going to be?
“I missed Daddy,” he said. “I just wanted to see my Daddy.”
Having found him, you might think I was able to stop crying, but the tears came down harder than before. Grief and fear mixed with relief in a torrent of emotion and my little boy joined me as I clung to him and wept.
Like I said, it was tough.
But Patrick and I never looked back. We never regretted making our decision to divorce. Most especially, we never regretted how we handled it. We never forgot the love we had once held for each other and the importance of raising a well-adjusted and confident child.
Years later, we have a very happy teenage son who loves his mom and dad, his step-mom, step-dad, and step-siblings, and who never has to worry about tension or anger between his parents and their spouses.
One more bonus?
The friendship Patrick and I shared before and during our marriage did not end. Instead, it was paused and then reset for a new and better one. We now have a friendship in which we can love, laugh, and co-parent without the pressures of an unsatisfying marriage looming over us.
So, I’m a child of divorce and a survivor of one, too. What else have I got?
I’m a Recovering Divorce Lawyer
After ten years of in-house corporate law and the excruciating boredom that came with it, I wanted to see if I could jump into a field I found fascinating, with which I had ample personal experience, and that was in dire need of a fresh voice and a new approach.
Yep, I was stupid enough to briefly become a divorce lawyer. My hope was to foster a collaborative and cooperative approach to divorce similar to the one Patrick and I crafted. I wanted future divorcing couples and their children to be spared the misery that comes with high-conflict dissolutions. I went in with enthusiasm and vigor but practiced family law for only eight months.
It felt like eight years.
In those eight months, I was taught how the divorce sausage is made. It isn’t pretty. I was admonished for not billing more time than I actually worked. I witnessed lawyers on both sides working in an unspoken secret unison to prolong cases and generate unreasonable fees.
I consoled clients whose spouses were trying their best to destroy them personally and financially with napalm litigation tactics encouraged and implemented by the lawyers. I observed the wildly inconsistent and absurd rulings handed down by judges with bulging workloads and seemingly little concern for the lives of the families affected by their decisions.
I watched people become alienated from their children, emotionally exhausted, and flat-ass broke from never-ending and vicious court battles with an opponent they once loved enough to marry and have kids with but whom they now sought to utterly and completely eviscerate. These people wanted to destroy the other parent of their own children.
It was damn depressing.
Eight months was more than enough to convince me that the majority of divorce lawyers were not just uninterested in but were actually actively opposed to my approach to divorce that mandated cooperation and conciliation, calm and compromise.
In other words, I advised clients to get it done as fast, fair, and inexpensively as possible. This method is good for the clients; not so good for the lawyers. Small wonder they objected.
One Last Thing: What This Book IS and What it IS NOT
This book is a collection of anecdotal observations, information, and advice I have gathered from decades of experience as a child of divorce, divorced mother, second wife to a man whose divorce was lengthy, expensive, and emotionally degrading, step-mother, step-daughter, co-parent, lawyer, friend, mediator, writer, and family court activist.
This book is your chance to learn from both the mistakes and the good decisions of others, myself included. The advice contained here is the compilation of all I have witnessed, done, and learned. It is good old-fashioned common sense based upon real experiences and a strong belief in personal responsibility.
This book is not a technical legal treatise on divorce. There is no case law. It is not buttressed by litigation studies or articles written by legal scholars. It is also not based upon surveys written by shrinks on carefully monitored and studied focus groups. Those books are already out there and I’m not interested in reinventing the wheel.
This book is not based upon the assumption that 100% of divorces can end up like mine.
I understand there are cases that may not lend themselves to every bit of the optimistic guidance contained here. But even if you’re divorcing from a bitter, angry person who refuses to negotiate, you can still learn about the basic divorce timeline, hiring your attorney and managing their fees, and the importance of thoughtful reflection and action, rather than blind reaction.
I have faith you will come to realize something that might seem untrue right now and that the majority of lawyers won’t tell you:
Most divorces–and this probably includes yours–are sadly boring and ordinary. They are unworthy of the weighty load a greedy divorce lawyer will try to convince you to strap onto your already-burdened back.
That’s the sad truth of it. But it’s also a happy one because it means you can do this. You can do it well, you can do it right, and you, your spouse, and your kids can survive and thrive when it’s all over.
Trust me. Let’s take this walk together. Turn the page and I’ll fill you in on the boring but need-to-know stuff: the sausage-making process of divorce.
Copyright Robin DesCamp, 2016.
So what do you think, Readers? Does this sound like a book you’d enjoy or share with others?