Just recently on a Sunday morning at the beach, I read an advice column in a national publication in which a married woman referred to her marriage as a “business relationship.” This business relationship began when she and her husband agreed that there would be no emotional or physical intimacy.  Said arrangement was going to work for this couple because, as the Wife reported, they were able to get along “well enough” to parent their twin 8-year-olds. This woman declared that she did not love her partner, but fear held her stuck in place. She shared her worries about her job prospects and her financial security. As I was reading, I kept thinking, there’s no way Sally Advice-Columnist is going to tell her to stick this out and rubber-stamp this type of arrangement. And yet, just a few sentences in, there it was,

“Maybe it’s time to see that as a solution for now, vs. a problem.”

I stopped reading, looked up at the beach waves, and thought back to my social work education.  The social worker in me thought, is a “business relationship” modeling a healthy relationship for these children?  Then, I thought about the experiences shared with me by my clients over a decade into litigating divorce matters.  I’ve helped countless clients develop plans to co-parent with their spouses while achieving financial independence and moving forward to model healthy relationships.  So, rather than reflecting on why Sally Advice-Columnist believes that marriage can be a “business relationship,” I thought I would share what I have observed my clients show their children through effectively co-parenting after divorce.

Lesson #1 – Marriage is Serious Business

Far too often, clients have shared that they got married because they felt pressure to do so either from family, society, or a ticking biological clock.  In fact, some clients have shared that they knew on their wedding day that they had made a critical mistake.  My experience has also taught me that most people spend more time planning the Viennese hour at their wedding than contemplating the day-to-day mechanics of marriage.  When a marriage begins with little preparation or contemplation, a divorce can be an opportunity for parents to bestow upon their children the lesson that they should prepare for marriage and enter it knowingly and for reasons that they understand.  The passing down of this knowledge from generation to generation slowly chips away at the societal structure that values marriage above all else.

Lesson #2 – Grit

As life in a pandemic has taught us all, life is hard.  We are not given a roadmap of the adversity’s life may hand us.  On top of that, divorce is stressful.  The litigation model for divorce can leave resentments high and unnecessarily cause harm to a family.  Regardless, when divorce comes to a family unit, most people learn a powerful lesson in resilience.  They begin to teach their children about the value of grit and they put words into action when they stand next to their ex-spouse at a graduation, awards ceremony and even, years later, at a wedding.  What a powerful example when both parents can walk their child down the aisle.  When big life events happen, such as a divorce, how a parent handles such a circumstance will teach the child about how to handle smaller and far less consequential life events.

Lesson #3 – Independence 

Far too often, divorce occurs when one party is a “spender” and another a “saver.”  Divorce can also occur when one party feels that they are contributing more to the marriage and carrying a higher financial burden.  Divorce, at its core, forces parties to declare their financial and emotional independence.  Children see parents capable of working and caring for them.  Children can learn about an economic partnership just as much as a romantic partnership when they see both parents’ model economic and emotional independence.

Many couples who consider divorce ultimately do not follow through with it because they want to remain married for the kids.  And maybe that is why Sally Advice-Columnist believed she was giving her reader the best advice for her circumstance.  If you find yourself confronting divorce, I hope you’ll consider the powerful life lessons that you can model for your children even in the aftermath of divorce.  They are, in my opinion, worthy of consideration.

Marissa Pullano focuses her practice on all aspects of matrimonial and family law, including contested proceedings regarding the equitable distribution of substantial real property and assets, child support and spousal maintenance, paternity, custody and access, and order modification and enforcement.  Marissa also has experience drafting prenuptial, postnuptial and separation agreements. Marissa believes that all clients deserve significant attention as they navigate the court system.  She strives to achieve resolutions that minimize conflict but acts as a zealous advocate on behalf of her clients in the courtroom when litigation cannot be avoided.

The material in this blog is meant only to provide general information and is not a substitute nor is it legal advice to you.  Readers of this article should seek specific legal advice from legal counsel of their choice.  In the event that you need legal assistance regarding matrimonial and/or family law matters, Marissa  can be reached at mpullano@jaspanllp.com or (516) 393-8297.