• Vanessa

Starting Where You Are - Part II

I agree with the prior post, we do not arrive at a place in life as a blank slate. Our genetics and our aggregated experiences color our outlook on life and how we reflexively react to a situation. Some of the lessons from those experiences fade over time. Some leave an indelible mark on our soul, as much a badge of responsibility as an albatross across the neck. Such is the life of a child of divorce.

Like my former husband, I am a family and divorce lawyer by trade, but I am also a mother by choice, and I am also an unwilling child of divorce. I summoned all of the lessons I learned from each of these experiences when I became a divorced parent myself.

For me, it was my experience as a child of divorce that made me want to do things differently. I wanted my child to live a life free of navigating alliances or worrying about anything other than just being a kid. As a mom, all I knew is that I wanted to shield my child from any hurt or discomfort resulting from decisions made by the adults in his life. My main goal is now, and has always been, to protect him – and that doesn’t stop upon the filing of divorce. As a divorce professional, I have lived by the old medical school adage “first do no harm” (NB: debate exists as to whether that is really part of the Hippocratic oath so don’t necessarily quote me). I have as much responsibility to my own family as I do to the families I come across professionally. I see the best and worst of families at the worst times of their lives. My knowledge of the law can help or hurt. I choose to help - whether it’s your family or my own.

No matter how you or I arrive at the decision to divorce, we all inevitably arrive at that place with a lifetime full of baggage and experience (direct or indirect) that informs how we think we should proceed with one of the most life-changing decisions of our lives. You go to a divorce lawyer who hopefully has some answers for you on how to move forward. Ultimately, the choice on how to proceed lies only and always with you.

The bottom line is there is no perfect formula, no perfect recipe for how to get yourself and your child(ren) through the divorce process completely unscathed. We all…as a family…emerge forever changed. While there is no perfect formula, there are some very important ingredients: two parents who are fully committed to ensuring that their child(ren) feel loved at all times, a mindset that your child(ren) are a common goal, commitment to the notion that there is no keeping score, and two parents that take responsibility for their own “stuff.”

The first step is taking ownership of that “stuff” – those brushstrokes that have colored our lives through the years; the dark and the light. Recognizing that you are not perfect, that you do not have all of the answers, and that sometimes we get through the toughest parts of our lives by just winging it. Be open to new experiences, free yourself from idea that divorce has to be a zero sum game of “I win and you lose”, listen to the needs of your children, and recognize that each of you has something valuable to bring to the table even if your former spouse/co-parent’s ideals/values are different from your own.

I look forward to sharing our journey with you through this project. We don’t have all (or most or many) of the answers, but we hope that by sharing our journey with you, you will see that there is more than one way to emerge from a divorce and to have a fulfilling life as a new kind of family. A family of many different colors, but a family nonetheless.

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