Recommended Books on Divorce

June 7, 2011

I have always been an avid reader, and when life throws a new experience my way, I try to read what I can on it.  These books all helped me through my own divorce eleven years ago.  (I guess they’re considered classics now!)   I would encourage you to pick them up, no matter what stage of the process you are in – as Constance Ahrons says, “It’s never too late to have a good divorce.”

1.  The Good Divorce, by Constance Ahrons. In this 1995 work, Ahrons lays out a startling premise – that it is possible to have a “good” divorce.  I know the idea shocked me when I first saw the title, but I grabbed onto it as a lifeline of hope.  Was it possible for me to end my marriage and not ruin my life, or permanently damage my children?  Here’s a quote from her first chapter:

The good divorce is not an oxymoron. A good divorce is one in which both the adults and children emerge at least as emotionally well as they were before the divorce. Because we have been so inundated with negative stories, divorce immediately carries with it a negative association. Even though we have difficulty conjuring up positive images of divorce, the reality is that most people feel their lives improved after their divorces.

I meet many people who say, “Oh, it’s too late for that.  my spouse is crazy.”  And then they tell me their divorce tale of woe.  But I’m here to tell you, it can get better.  The most important message I took away from this book was that, even if your divorce was 20 years ago, your family will benefit now from you improving your relationship with your ex-spouse.  I kept that goal in mind, and by the time our youngest was in kindergarten, three years after our much-less-than-perfect divorce was final, her teacher commented, “I wish my ex and I could get along as well as you two.” I almost fell out of my chair, but when I recovered from the shock, I realized she was right.  We had finally achieved the good divorce.

Author’s Website:  http://constanceahrons.com/the%20good%20divorce.htm

2.  Mom’s House, Dad’s House:  Making Two Homes for Your Child, by Isolina Ricci.  Originally published in 1980 (and revised in 1997), this book was groundbreaking in rejecting traditional ideas of custody and visitation.  Children don’t have to live with one parent or the other;  they can live with both parents, in two separate households.  Thirty-plus years later, and I still find parents, judges and attorneys who haven’t embraced this idea.  But do a little research on the effect of divorce on children, and you’ll find a consensus that what harms children is not the divorce itself, it’s other factors, including conflict between parents, and the loss of contact with the “non-custodial” parent.  Read this book;  follow the suggestions in this book, and you’ll be doing as much as you can for your children.

Author’s Website:  http://www.momshousedadshouse.com/index.html

3.  Getting Divorced Without Ruining Your Life: A Reasoned, Practical Guide to the Legal, Emotional and Financial Ins and Outs of Negotiating a Divorce Settlement, by Sam Margulies.  If you have made the painful decision to divorce, this book helps you do it in the “best” way possible.  It is my opinion that litigation is a poor solution litigation is to family problems. Margulies, an attorney and mediator, makes the very valid point that the legal process is liable to lead you to take actions that are contrary to your long-term interests: an effective parenting plan, the maximum financial benefit, and emotional health and well-being. Legal battles drive you apart, escalate conflict, and cost a lot of money.  He suggests mediation as an alternative, and provides a blueprint for the process.

One caveat: some of the information in this edition is slightly out of date, since it is from 1992. Also, if you are in a community property state (such as Texas), much of the advice on dividing up the marital estate is going to be inapplicable.

Author’s Website:  http://www.sammargulies.com/

4.  Joint Custody With a Jerk: Raising a Child with an Uncooperative Ex, A hands-on, practical guide to coping with custody issues that arise with an uncooperative ex-spouse, by Julie A. Ross and Judy Corcoran.  I love this book because the title is so great.  Everyone thinks their ex-spouse is a jerk, so it draws them in.  However, the contents are much more balanced than the title.  The point of the book is, you can’t do anything about his or her jerk-like behavior.  You can only change your own responses to it.  I will never forget the first time I used a technique from this book with my ex.  I was driving my car in rush hour traffic, and he was pestering me for an answer on something.  I said, “If you need an answer right now, the answer is no.  If you give me some time to consider it, that answer may change.”  Worked like magic.  Now, I no longer think my ex is a jerk – I think he, like all of us going through a divorce, was acting out of fear.  But learning to look at my own behavior really helped our relationship, and this book helped me start to do that.

Author’s Website:  http://www.parentinghorizons.com/

5.  The Collaborative Way to Divorce:  The Revolutionary Method That Results in Less Stress, Lower Costs, and Happier Kids – Without Going to Court, by Stuart G. Webb and Ronald D. Ousky.  This was the first book on Collaborative Divorce in the U.S., and it’s one I routinely give out to clients.  The authors are based in Minnesota, so some of the points on property division and child custody won’t be the same as in Texas.  But the basic outline of the Collaborative model is here, and it’s a great place for divorcing couples to start. I firmly believe that the traditional, litigated divorce process makes most divorces worse, not better, and that a collaborative divorce can set the foundation for a healthy, financially stable post-divorce life.

Author’s website:  http://www.ousky.com/ousky/book.shtml

These books encapsulate my whole ethos of divorce:  that it’s possible to have a good divorce; that children are better off with regular, healthy contact with both parents; that it’s possible to work cooperatively to reach a divorce settlement that doesn’t ruin your life; that you can parent effectively even when other parent is trying not to; and that the collaborative model is the best, safest way to reach a healthy end point of the process.

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