It’s Your Divorce and No One Else’s

Dec 10, 2021

I just received an email with an offer to read an ebook written by a gentleman who has been through a divorce. From what I can tell, he wants to make sure that every husband/father understands that the legal system is stacked against fathers. He promises the answers about how fathers can pick themselves up from being beaten down in a divorce, get their lives back and be successful.

This reminds me of an attorney who advertises on Chicago television about fathers’ rights and offers to be their “aggressive” champion in court.

In my experience, gender wars are not limited to advocates for fathers’ rights. I have worked with women who are divorce professionals and/or financial planners who have themselves been through terrible divorces. Their experiences have defined a purpose and calling for themselves—to protect wives facing divorce from what they see as an inherent power imbalance between divorcing partners.

I am sure that some of what drives these messages is true—especially as it relates to power inequities. Advocacy has an important role to protect those who are otherwise unable to protect themselves. What concerns me is that some advocacy can transform a productive conversation (in a setting like mediation) into an adversarial exchange (in litigation) that doesn’t necessarily benefit anyone.

Mediation as a process can be structured to address power imbalances. In my mediation sessions I always make sure that both partners are heard. When one partner isn’t speaking, because of fear, I take steps to bring out that person’s voice.

Mediation as a process can be structured to address these power imbalances. In my mediation sessions I always make sure that both partners are heard. When one partner isn’t speaking, because of fear, I take steps to bring out that person’s voice, or in an extreme case, terminate the mediation. While some think the judicial system is biased against fathers (I will leave it to others to challenge that premise), I am clear that the mediation process is a neutral setting where parents can talk about their children and the dissolution of their marriage on an even playing field.

What I find disturbing about gender-based opinions on divorce—especially those that are based on the experiences of others—is that it doesn’t seem appropriate to paint every divorce with the same brush. In my practice, most mothers want their soon-to-be ex-spouse involved in the lives of their children, and most husbands understand that there needs to be a reasonable compromise to arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome for their divorce. So I would ask you to remember that anyone telling you what happened to them or what happened to others in their divorce is simply that—someone else’s narrative, which may not apply to you at all.