1. I came across this piece on Mothership on 4 November 2021. Am actually amused at the inspiration for the article, but the views espoused by the writer as well as those interviewed are very sound. This is a valid question for those going through divorce, and I have been asked so by both male and female clients alike.
2. This brings to memory a matter I handled back in 2016. I represented the wife (“W”). Both parties were in their 30s. Main reason for divorce (of course there were others) was that W wanted children but ex-husband (“X”) did not. This caused parties to drift apart for many years, during which time they went through a rollercoaster ride of separating, trying, reconciling, and talking about divorce several times. During this time, W met her current husband (“NH”).
3. Other issues were straightforward. A few weeks before mediation, W tells me that she is pregnant and wants to keep the child as she is not young anymore. My first reaction was of course to congratulate W. After some discussion, W was certain that her baby bump would not show by the date of the mediation, but she would wear loose clothing just in case.
4. On the day of the mediation, NH and X arrived together, much to the agitation of X. I was concerned because sometimes settlements are scuttled over purely emotional / egoistic reasons. Had I known that NH wanted to attend with W, I would have strongly discouraged it. Unsurprisingly, after much compromise here and there on the terms, X was still reluctant to settle, even on his lawyer’s persuasion. So, with time ticking, lawyers agreed that the mediator should speak to parties.
5. We attended before the mediator, a retired Judge who is well known for bursting into stories midway through proceedings, much to the annoyance of counsel (not me) and parties alike. But in this matter, this mediator was the right person for the right case. When X burst out about X and NH, the mediator spoke with a calmness that can come only with wisdom and experience. These words (or words to that effect) changed everything: “Both of you deserve to give yourselves happiness. I’m sure neither of you went into this marriage wanting it to end. You have tried. But now that it did not work out, you should work on moving on and focusing on yourselves”.After some tears, parties parted ways amicably.
6. But not all cases are the same and much depends on the dynamics. I agree with the counsellor’s views in the article on being mindful about how a new relationship might affect children. This is something I always emphasize with my clients. After all, while a divorcing party should not put him/her life on hold, the ex-spouse is still the mother/father of the child. I also agree with the lawyer’s take on the issue. Quite frankly, having your (soon-to-be) ex-spouse going ballistic upon finding out about your new relationship halfway through proceedings, is 1 less issue that you would want to have to deal with.
7. As stated in the article, the decision to divorce does not happen overnight. Neither does the decision to fall in love with someone else. My personal take is that, even in crisis life goes on and a person should not have to put his/her life or happiness on hold. Just ensure that this is done responsibly – e.g. ensure that both spouses clearly have the intention to end the marriage, be honest with your new potential partner from the outset, be realistic with your ability to commit to a new relationship, and be open and honest to everyone concerned especially your child(ren) [*Note: How to communicate this sensitively to children is a whole topic on its own]. You should also be mindful about who you share your personal issues with, especially when you are in a vulnerable state and need to confide in someone. People gossip and will be quick to scandalize your situation if you are not careful. But if this happens, you will have a natural filter of who your real friends are.
8. Letting go can be difficult. But holding on will drown you. Moving on takes time, but even a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. I am assured that most of my clients, young-and-old, men-and-women, see happiness after the dust has settled. For my clients, I will walk with you for 1 crucial leg of your journey and then send you on your way to happiness. You will get there. Not “if”, but “when”.