Handling Divorce with Grace

I had the opportunity to talk with Kate Fratti, journalist with the Bucks County Courier Times, about how couples can divorce with grace.

Check out the article in Friday’s Bucks County Courier Times or click here to read online.

Handling Divorce with Grace

By: Kate Fratti, Bucks County Courier Times

There’s no way to end a marriage without pain but there are couples who manage the ending with grace.

In the public forum, the Gores come to mind. So, too, now Midge and Ed Rendell.

I checked in with attorney Mindey Elgart, 52, who’s gone from traditional litigation practice to “compassionate issue resolution.” It’s mediation for divorcing couples – a way, she thinks, to avoid the antagonistic energy that builds up in court battles no matter how well-intended all parties may be.

I wondered what she thought about the Rendell split. She thinks Ed was “brilliant” to announce to friends and associates they could invite him and Midge to the same parties. “It removed the awkwardness for others,” Mindey said. Mostly, it said to the world that while the marriage was over, mutual respect remains. It can be easily lost in a messy court battle.

Mindey has been divorced from prominent Bucks attorney Ron Elgart six years. It helps her understand what couples are going through, she said. She considers hers a “good divorce,” in large part, because the two were clear on what was most important at the time of the divide. That was the wellbeing of their son, now 18, and daughter, 15.

Ron is “a very good dad,” Mindey said. Both parents take special care to set aside time to spend with each child individually. They make decisions and handle issues that arise with the children by asking themselves first, “How would we deal with this if we were still together, and then try to do even better.”

It’s sometimes easier when a marriage has disintegrated over an extended period, instead of suddenly imploding. Overall, Mindey said, it is not uncommon for older couples like the Rendells to be better behaved in a divorce simply because they have more life experience and so, maturity.

“People agree to stay together in some cases for money, the kids, politics. When it’s over, there’s no shock or terror,” said Mindey, who practices in Bucks, Montgomery and Burlington counties. She tells the story of an acquaintance whose kids came to their parents when the last sibling graduated from college and asked, “What are you guys waiting for?”

In her mediation practice, couples pay a set fee and come to the conference table to create an agreement, with Mindey’s guidance. Then, each individual has the agreement reviewed by his or her attorney before signing off. It means being billed for several hours of legal work instead of years.

Mindey’s advises clients to see other specialists, too. Sometimes, it’s a good therapist.

“No matter how sane you think you are, you aren’t. For lack of a more professional way of saying it right now, you are crazy for the first year as you make the transition.”

Crazy sad, mad, scared – sometimes all at the same time. It doesn’t aid clarity about how best to go on without further damage to the family.

Sometimes there is so much raw anger involved in a split that nothing decided is going to satisfy the spouse who feels most injured. It’s not worth the energy.

“There’s just not enough blood in the stone to make up for what he/she did to you,” Mindey counsels.

In court, anger can cost plenty. You’d be surprised how much people will spend on legal fees to be awarded bake ware or some silly collection just so the other can’t have it.

Mindey’s website is www.newhopedivorcemediation.com – not New Hope, the place; but new hope, the goal. She offers advice for divorcing couples whether they choose to litigate or work it out more gently.

Her best advice for couples with children? NEVER badmouth the other parent to your kids. “It’s hard. The nicest people do it, but (it never has a good result),” she said. Your ex makes up one half of your child’s DNA. Disparage your ex and you also disparage his son or daughter.

She added: “Don’t give away your strength + this is not the time to fall apart.”