An Open Letter to Lindsey Bluth Funke

Dear Lindsay,

I’m not really sure where to start with your marriage to Tobias so I guess I’ll go with: what? I mean seriously, Lindsay, what? And why? Also how? And finally, him?

I know you didn’t exactly have a great family life what with having a mother that was as critical as she was drunk and a father that was always absent. But there are a lot of people out there that had a rough start in life, yet they didn’t end up marrying a failed doctor turned aspiring Blue Man Group cast member, who was also a Never Nude. And probably gay.

I know George and Lucille weren’t the best parents, but marrying Tobias as an act of rebellion was punishing you more than it was punishing them. I suppose at one point Tobias had qualities that were attractive to you. He was successful once; let us not forget he was the world’s first analrapist (that’s analyst AND therapist) before he lost his license after giving CPR to a man not actually having a heart attack.

You thought motherhood would bring you happiness but the road there was not an easy one. Sure you were pregnant dozens of times before, but having your daughter Maeby ended up costing over a hundred thousand dollars and put a real strain on your marriage.  Then it turned out, like your own mother, parenthood wasn’t for you and you felt adrift in life. Sure the Teamocil helped numb all feelings and shut down your sex drive for a while, but it didn’t fix things. You hated motherhood, you were in a sexless, and seemingly loveless marriage, and then you all moved in with your insane family. Yet for some reason, you still didn’t hightail it the heck out of there.

Why? I suppose there was the whole job thing, in that you didn’t have one and it’s difficult to pay rent and buy diamond cream with no paycheck. But it’s not like Tobias was supporting you either, as a failed actor doesn’t bring in the big bucks.

We keep dancing around the big issue here, and it’s not helping anyone. So here’s the thing. Tobias? Tobias is maybe gay. He’s a man’s man. He wants a banger in the mouth. He said so himself dozens of times and in varyingly crude euphemisms. You tried an open relationship with disastrous and often humiliating results. Yet still you stayed. And when Tobias left you and escaped to Reno, you followed him, inexplicably. 

Later you briefly Eat Pray, Love-d your way out of the relationship, but it didn’t stick. And after a lot more dating blunders and briefly (unknowingly) becoming a call girl, here you are, still married to Tobias.

You made a huge mistake, Lindsay.  It’s time to accept that and get out of dodge. Tobias can’t financially support you as he has still not gotten his hands on any meaty man parts, so it’s not like you need his money. Maeby is an adult now and it’s not like you ever cared about her wellbeing in the first place.

There is nothing forcing you to stay, and you are master of your own destiny. I think if you remind Tobias he too controls his future, you won’t even have to litigate the divorce. Because I think when you get down to it, both of you agree this marriage fell apart a long time ago, and there’s not a lot to fight over.

Find a good mediator and get the ball rolling. You have no real assets to speak of and I think alimony is off the table as long as you get this settled quickly, in case you end up winning that Congressional bid. Custody isn’t an issue as Maeby’s a grown up. You live separate lives anyway, so make it official. Cut ties, move away (maybe DC!) and start fresh.

So what do you say Lindsay? Should I have the “Lindsay Love Independence” banner made for your divorce party? I can get the celebratory hot ham water going on the stove if you want.

Don’t be nervous, Lindsay. Your whole life lies ahead of you. Remember, somewhere over the rainbow, there’s another rainbow. It’s time Lindsay, it’s time.


James J. Sexton

An Open Letter to Betty Draper, Everybody's Ex


Dear Betty Draper,

I don’t know why exactly I’m compelled to do an Open Letter to you, Betty Draper, except that you are one of those women who is both tragic, and—well, mostly tragic. (What can I say, tragic works well for this series.) When you appeared in our lives on the first episode of Mad Men in 2007, aka 1960, you struck a chord with the public as someone who a) we disliked, but not for being a villain, b) was interesting anyway, and c) was possibly being the first woman who has ever occupied that role on a major TV series. We usually get rid of the women we don’t like on television series, but not you!

In a way, this Open Letter is an homage to your ability to be a harsh, superficial, dependent, interesting, strong, very compelling character. Because so much of the show is focused on Don Draper, we do get the estranged-spouse view of you from a pretty early point in your history. And it has to be said that you made a fantastic fictional (ex-)spouse, because—much like pretty much everyone sees their ex during and just after divorce—you are both hate-able and lovable, and really good at being both.

It should be said that over seven seasons (a decade on the show) your growth actually challenged expectations and made you a representation of something that is also convincing and also slightly scary: our ex-spouse having become a much better person

The 1953 to 1963: The Don Era

Betty, the saddest thing about your marriage to Don Draper—and there are many sad things to choose from—is that we can guess based on his mostly monotone demeanor and your mostly monotone personality, that you married him for financial and emotional stability. However, what you got instead was an extremely unstable ride.

As a husband, Don Draper was pretty much the worst: he lied, he cheated, he had a secret identity. He spied on you via your therapist. He pretty much pulled out all the stops, and you were left clinging on for dear life while trying to keep your hair in a perfect shining helmet. You knew he was cheating, but what were you going to do? He made the money. You had no earning capacity to speak of. You had two children together. Such is the problem of the Don Era.

But even as we sympathized with you, Betty, we also felt some ambivalence about your complicity in the whole situation. You made it your business to be beautiful in exchange for security, saying “as long as men look at me like that, I’m earning my keep.” That’s probably not the wisest choice in a marriage. You taught your daughter to let men call the shots with gems like “You don’t kiss boys. Boys kiss you.” On one hand, it was the sixties. On the other: you weren’t helping.

So when you finally kicked Don out of the house, and went to Reno for a quickie divorce, we were psyched! Except for one tiny detail: you were leaving your sexist and controlling protector for another sexist and controlling protector. Less sexist, less controlling, but still.

As a divorce attorney, and as a human, I saw all the problems piling up for you as soon as you made the decision to escape into the arms of someone new (and by new, I mean kind of old).

1963-1970: The Henry Era

Frankly, Betty, things got a little weird for me when you married the old guy. You didn’t change your ways much at first, and this was disappointing. No learning more about the finances of the house, no starting a career for yourself or anything of that nature. In fact, the main thing you did was get jaded.

You also managed to stay in the house, which was owned by Don, for a much longer time than anyone expected. I think we all expected Don to hire a divorce lawyer that would make sure you got nothing, but instead you won the divorce—although the show wasn’t too specific about numbers—and then you pushed the boundaries by staying in the house past the time you should have left, which unsurprisingly caused some trouble.

But when you and Henry finally moved out, you underwent a sort of transformation in which you started caring about stuff. You got an opinion about the Vietnam War. You went into the hovels of New York City in search of a missing girl. You started saying things like, “You’re sorry you forgot to inform me what I’m supposed to think. Guess what? I think all by myself.” You entered a normal weight category. We liked you more.

And then, Betty, just in time to screw over Husband #2, you became the symbolic ex-spouse again. You and Don reunited for one awkward sexual encounter, which I admit, I was kind of rooting for in a weird way—I wanted you guys to work it out. So from the standpoint of pure entertainment I was okay with that. But you also started flirting with the teenage neighbour-boy, and just, I don’t know, you lost us.

And then you got cancer.  That was, without question, unfortunate. But, from a sentimentality standpoint, it was a solid move.  We liked you again.

Why You’re Everybody’s Ex

The thing about exes—be they ex-spouses, ex-partners, ex-lovers or what have you—is that unless you stay real, actual friends, eventually the person comes to be more of a caricature than a real person. Certain parts are drawn larger than life, so they can entertain you and help explain the relationship’s failure; our exes are two-dimensional most of the time (much like you, Betty Draper), until we have to really engage with them, and then it gets complicated. Because the caricature of the ex, and the actual person, are two different things.

With your blank-faced stare, Betty, you are the perfect canvas of an ex: throughout the seven seasons of Mad Men, we could interpret you as hateworthy or loveworthy depending on perspective. And really, the hate and love on the show are never that clearly defined anyway—a point that probably resonates with most divorcees.

James J. Sexton

Have something to add or disagree with? Want me to counsel you through a divorce? Leave a comment below, call me or tweet to me.

For more irreverent commentary and real advice on dealing with your ex, check out my recent posts “5 Tips for Co-Parenting” and “Your Partner: The Narcissist.”

To read more of the Open Letters series and my other stuff on the Huffington Post, start here

An Open Letter to Scarlett O'Hara: The Original Marriage Hacker

Dear Scarlett,

I’m one of your biggest fans. I’m a Yankee, of course, but ever since my grandmother forced me to sit through Gone with the Wind when I was eight, I’ve had a deep respect for your determination and general pluck. It’s possible you were even an inspiration for me being a divorce lawyer, because I think of you as the original marriage hacker. You couldn’t get divorced in old days, but you made the most of three unhappy marriages, taking what you could get and repeatedly building a new empire from the ashes of the last.

Let’s be blunt here: history wasn’t exactly on your side. Yet you managed to survive—and thrive—despite living through a war; despite losing your parents in really awful ways; despite having your entire livelihood burned to the ground; oh, yeah, and despite being tied into a corset, buried in petticoats and told to be a lady. You are not a lady, and that’s what we love about you. Had you lived in modern times, you would have been the terrifying grand dame of any of the “Real Housewives” series, without exception.

The thing about Gone with the Wind is that it everyone thinks it’s a story about love for other humans—your love for Ashley Wilkes, your love for Rhett Butler—but you’re not really a romantic, Scarlett. Women had it rough in the American South; marriage dictated that you were essentially the property of your husband. So not surprisingly, your most lasting love affair was with your house, the infamous Tara. I think the men were more or less just there to provide you and Mammy with some eye candy. Still, I think it’s worth having a look at who you married and how you marriage-hacked your way into a medium-happy ending.

Marriage #1: Charles Hamilton
Charles was your first husband, and you married him on a whim (I love when people do that). You had just found out that your crush Ashley Wilkes was marrying someone else, and as a way to make him jealous, you seduced his new brother-in-law-to-be, Charles Hamilton. You had a son together, in the book anyway, not the movie; then he went off and got himself killed in the war. This is convenient for you, and explains why you married someone right before they marched off to war. But Charles was a safe bet anyway, being super young a bit of a dummy; he would have made a good docile husband for a firecracker such as yourself. But anyway, he’s out of the way.

Marriage #2: Frank Kennedy
After Atlanta was burned in Sherman’s march through the South, tired and traumatized, you returned to Tara, your true love. Unfortunately you arrived to find the whole place had been wrecked and looted, and your mom was dead, and your dead had gone crazy. You probably would have been okay staying single at this point—you were well on your way to getting the farm functional again—until the government raised the taxed on your property. You needed to marry someone with money, and fast.

Rhett Butler, the face that makes all the grannies swoon, sadly wasn’t available, so you quickly settled for your sister’s boyfriend Frank Kennedy, who is—conveniently and thankfully—as much of a dummy as your previous husband was. But he was a dummy with a business, and he could pay the taxes on Tara, who was the only one you really loved, so it was fine. You and Frank even have a kid (in the book, not the movie). Then you get attacked, and in the skirmish that follows, in which local men try to defend your, ehm, honor, your husband Frank is killed. Marriage number two, complete.

Marriage #3: Rhett Buttler
After Frank dies, you’re actually fine. (Financially I mean, of course you were fine emotionally.) You don’t need a husband. But—and here’s where people get generally confused about the love story in Gone with the Wind—you are physically attracted to this Rhett Butler character. So, finally having the freedom to make the mistake most people make with their first marriages, you marry him for the sex. Oh, and also, he’s filthy rich, so that doesn’t hurt. But you don’t love him. You sort of sometimes think you do, but then not so much.

You have a child together (this one actually shows up in the movie) but then, when she dies tragically, so does your marriage. Rhett leaves you. And you decide to go back to Tara, your true wife.

What can be learned from this? A lot.

One big lesson is that if you can’t marry who you actually think you want to be with, the next best option is to marry someone else. Or, in your case, everyone else. Especially if they can get you out of debt and have a high chance of getting themselves killed in some manner.

Another lesson is that people can’t marry houses. Even today.

And a final lesson—and this is probably the real takeaway from this letter—is that women from the South are completely nuts. Take it from your friendly neighborhood divorce attorney: if you hear the rustle of petticoats, run.

James J. Sexton

About the Disney Princess Divorce Open Letters

Dear Friends,

For those of you who faithfully read the Disney Princess Open Letters, thank you, and I hope that you were mildly entertained. I think it’s important to stress that my purpose in writing them was not to demonize any of the Disney Princesses per se, but rather to use them as really interesting case studies for understanding how divorces can get ugly, and what you can do to stop that happening, or at least limit it. It helps that the Disney franchise is more or less built on shaky marriages, but that’s another story for another time.

I also wanted to draw attention to some of the common issues that normal, non-animated people face as they prepare for a divorce: what to pay attention to, what to look out for, how to get your ducks in a row so you don’t get screwed.

I admit I also enjoyed thinking up what life would be like if the Disney princesses had “real” marriages, or ones that could have realistically resulted from what the movies depict. It just makes them more likable somehow.

Those of you who read will have noticed that I took some liberties with the princesses and their “happily ever after” lives. For those people to whom it’s important that the princesses and their princes stay happy forever and ever, I hope I haven’t offended you with my interpretation. I also hope you remember me when you decide it’s time to file for divorce because your own Prince Charming is buggering the scullery maid. Just kidding. That’s isn’t going to happen to you.

Also, don’t forget all the ones I didn’t write to; in large part, the princesses who didn’t appear are the ones I think might have figured out how to make it all work. Pocahontas? She didn’t get married in her movie, but I’m betting she’s marriage material. Mulan? She’ll find a nice man or woman to be with and live realistically ever after. There’s even hope for those Frozen kids. (Hey, I have kids, I know my Disney movies.)

For legal reasons, I need to point out that the Open Letters are not in any way affiliated with Disney, or Disney World, or even Pixar. I am strictly my own man on this front. A man who likes writing to Disney princesses.

In a way, it’s bad for my profession that the Disney empire is gradually learning to set a better example for kids about marriage maybe NOT being the ultimate goal of life. In another generation or so, I’m guessing the legal profession will take a bit of hit as kids stop internalizing the fairy tale idea that love conquers all, a gem that drives adult people through the first, sometimes second and even third marriages before it dawns on them that, no, actually, it doesn’t.

But thanks for keeping me in suspenders, Disney—for now.

I should also note that while I haven’t yet counseled any actual princesses, I have represented and counseled a lot of people who had essentially identical problems, minus the talking mice. If you found a smidgen of relatability in anything I’ve said and you want to find out what your options are, I’m available for that.

And if you think I went a little hard on Ariel, don’t be intimidated. She did get her divorce in the end, and while she didn’t walk away minted, she did get to keep all her thingamabobs.

James J Sexton

An Open Letter to Princess Jasmine: Don't Get Taken for a Magic Carpet Ride

Dear Princess Jasmine,

I’m a little more pleased than I like to admit that I’m becoming the divorce attorney of choice for the Disney princesses. I’m glad that Cinderella referred you, that you’re happy enough to allow me to share your situation with the public, and most of all, that you’re leaving the ranks of the Real Housewives of Disney for something more fulfilling. My congratulations to you on that, and let’s begin.

Intelligently—and this doesn’t surprise me, Princess Jasmine—you arranged for a prenuptial agreement before your marriage to Aladdin. Thank you for including a copy of said prenup, which, as you informed me, does indeed ensures that in the event of divorce you will of course keep everything that you had before you married Aladdin, regardless of how those assets may have been shared during the marriage. That means no problem keeping the palace, your pet tiger, and your various royal riches. Ace. Your prenup also stipulates that as long as the sum of your assets are substantially greater than Aladdin’s, upon your divorce he’ll be provided with a monthly allowance, so that he isn’t forced to go back to the streets, begging and stealing. All very generous.

However, you came to me with a problem that you didn’t foresee at the time you wrote the prenup, and that’s what I’m really here to advise on. The problem is that Aladdin’s assets now might actually exceed yours—and by his “assets,” I’m referring now to the income from Aladdin’sillegitimate business, which, contrary to what you expected to happen, has grown exponentially since you dragged him out of poverty. Over the years, Aladdin has used his improved financial situation along with his natural talent as a con man to rise through the ranks of Agrabah organized crime. He is now an extremely powerful, and extremely well-paid, professional criminal. Tax-free. And now he wants to cash in on the spousal support from you as if he has no other income. Not with me as your lawyer.

This is how what we’re going to prove what Aladdin’s actual earnings are, rather than relying on tax records to tell the whole story.

Lesson 1: Show that the numbers don’t add up.

First, all the bills—mortgage, car payments, bank statements, credit card bills and what have you—need to be examined, and subpoenaed where necessary.

Once we have all this, we can probably show fairly easily that what Aladdin was spending, and what you were giving him from the palace accounts, don’t match up—essentially, that if Aladdin’s expenses were 10,000 gold coins per month and his royal allowance was only 6,000 gold coins, then he had another 4,000 gold coins coming in from somewhere.

Lesson 2: Find out what he’s hiding from you.

Considering Aladdin’s history of conning people. That in mind, I’m sure he’s been conning you, too, Jasmine—if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this business, it’s that Disney princes never change. (It’s true; very little character development for men in Disney films.) Once a con man, always a con man, so it’s time to uncover his hidden treasures.

(I’m not talking about what Aladdin’s really been doing when he locks himself in the bathroom and says he’s “rubbing the lamp”—I’m talking about his hidden assets.)

We can subpoena bank statements in Aladdin’s name that might contain money he’s not reporting, and that you might not know about. We can also do a public records check to find out about any reported assets he hasn’t told you about, as well as any that pop up in the names of his friends, like the Genie. This is how we figure out where and how Aladdin has been siphoning off the palace fortune to purchase assets (which technically belong to you or both of you). You might be about to win treasure you never knew you had, Jasmine.

If you can enlist mutual friends to help with the search, you might consider it. Abu has been at Aladdin’s side for years, vastly unappreciated too, and he knows where the bodies are buried—I would start there.

Lesson 3: Argue for Aladdin’s earning capacity.

Even though your “diamond in the rough” turned out to be a con man in the truest sense, there’s a potential silver lining in that you might be able to use Aladdin’s con artist skills—his charisma, selling ability, his political charm—as reasons why he is extremely employable and is not and should not be, as he claims he is, entirely dependent on your wealth in the event of your divorce. At this point, we’re not arguing for his financial or property assets; we’re really discussing his skills as assets in themselves.

The Genie, oddly enough, is also a sort of asset for Aladdin; we might be able to argue this. While technically not Aladdin’s property nor indebted to him any longer, the Genie remains a powerful being who can make things happen for Aladdin (and, from the sounds of it, frequently does). Your husband is a man whose best friend has the ability to turn paupers into princes—does he really need monthly support payments from his ex-wife? Let’s discuss.

The great thing about your situation, Jasmine, is that you thought ahead, and you’re not going to get as screwed in this divorce as most of the Disney princesses will, because you got a prenup.

I hold you up as a shining example for married people everywhere, especially women; it’s not for nothing that you were named 5th Most Feminist Disney Princess by Nerve Magazine (a high honor if there ever was one).

No genies or wishes required, Princess Jasmine, just a prenup and a good lawyer. And I won’t even make a dirty joke about your Cave of Wonders.


James J Sexton

An Open Letter to Ariel: You're Going to Lose the Divorce

Dear Ariel,

Many thanks for writing to me, adding to my growing knowledge of the inner lives of the “happily ever after” folk, and giving me a chance to comment on your situation. First let me say that while I appreciate your desire to “get in on this open letter thing,” and I’m happy to provide advice on your imminent divorce, I fear you may not be happy about what I’m going to say. Still, yours is a situation that will potentially be informative for others, so here goes.

As you wrote in your letter, after two decades of marriage to Prince Eric, you’ve decided you want to divorce him. However, the facts of your life together may make it difficult for you to get what you feel you deserve, in terms of division of marital assets. You say you’d like to keep half of everything, based on the fact that you gave up your fins and your livelihood as a sea princess to be a wife to Prince Eric.

Personally, I think it’s fairly obvious that you are not going to get what you’re aiming for, for a number of reasons I’ll explain now. It should be noted that, of the reasons below, alone none of them would necessarily bar you from getting something—but taken together, they present a fairly hopeless case. (Ie. These are some pretty big mistakes; readers, take note.)

Lesson 1. The prenup should be updated and/or include an elevation clause.

You have a habit of signing your life away, Ariel, and this is what it appears you did in your prenuptial agreement. After going over the copy of your prenuptial agreement that you faxed, I can see that it does not allow for you to receive half of the marital assets, as you’ve said you want, but rather allots to you a monthly stipend (roughly equal to what you currently spend on self-tanning and pedicures). In the case of infidelity, says the prenup, you get nothing.

It would have made sense for you and Prince Eric to update the prenuptial agreement at some point in the last two decades to reflect your spending and lifestyle as these increased over the course of your marriage. It also would have benefited you to have built a percentage increase in your allowance based on the number of years spent together (known as an elevation clause) into the contract. However, you did neither of these things, so in the event of divorce you’ll theoretically be back to the monthly allowance that made sense when you were sixteen.

Lesson 2. Know what’s going on with your house finances.

Ariel, you said in your letter that you don’t deal with any of the financial matters. You know next to nothing about monthly bills and outgoings, accounts held jointly with Prince Eric, or the state of joint assets. (You did mention you keep a very detailed catalogue of your “treasure trove” of secondhand forks and spoons—unfortunately I feel this will be of little value in the divorce.) While I can help you to get hold of some of the relevant information, you’ll be in a disadvantaged position.

I’m guessing it’s rather difficult to feel empowered in a clamshell bra, but as a modern human, Ariel, you should make a point of understanding your finances. As it is now, you don’t have a leg to stand on, so to speak, when it comes to arguing for more money.

For the same reason, you should be aware of what mutual assets are in your name, if any, and if not, you should start putting things in your name—cars, summer house, what have you. Then you would be able to argue for at least these things, irrespective of the prenup.

Lesson 3: Don’t cheat.

Now we’re down to the most difficult issue of all, and the one I was indeed most surprised to see you bring up in your letter, especially one you knew would get a public response: your infidelity.

The long and short of it is that, suffering from a feeling that the “seaweed is always greener” as you put it, you’ve found it difficult to save your upgraded lady parts for Prince Eric alone. In the early years of your marriage this wasn’t such an issue—you had gadgets and gizmos aplenty, you say—eventually, you wanted more.

While you haven’t yet been caught, Ariel, you’re right to be worried that somehow it will come out—and the longer it goes on, the more you raise that risk. As for how that affects the prenup, there will be very little room to argue for a cent if there is any evidence of you cheating. Not only are you not going to get the optimistic half of everything that you want, you’re not going to get anything at all.

My advice to you, Ariel is this: Stay married, or else be ready to leave with nothing.

This isn’t advice I give often, but in your case, you have committed the golden trinity of mistakes: bad prenup, no financial involvement, and infidelity. In a phrase: You lose.

I feel for you, don’t get more wrong. The Disney franchise compelled you to get married at the age of 16, as they do. This isn’t just an epidemic of Disney princesses: getting married too young is a mistake you share with thousands. So is giving up your entire life and livelihood for another person—again, a mistake made by many people who come into my offices, usually female people.

The problem with making big commitments, like marriage, at a young age is that you believe the future will take care of itself, when in fact, it often doesn’t. That’s why, in my opinion, marriages between people over 28 are at least 3 times as likely not to end in divorce: you get to a certain point where you realize planning is important.

That’s not to say you can’t divorce Prince Eric; you can still divorce him, certainly. But you are likely to leave the marriage with, at best, a stipend, and that means a change of lifestyle.

Thank you again for the opportunity to use the hard-earned lessons of your fairytale marriage – and fairytale divorce – to educate the masses.


James J. Sexton

An Open Letter to Snow White: Alimony, Custody, and Child Support for the Dwarves

Dear Snow White,

Thank you for reaching out to me.

I expect you got wind of my recent open letter to Cinderella, and that’s why you got in touch. While I was sorry to hear about your marital troubles, I’m simultaneously honored to be of service to the original Disney princess (and the star of the first ever animated feature film), and of course I’m happy to assist you.

(Also, many thanks for allowing me to do so in this public form of address. As you so aptly pointed out in your letter, perhaps indeed there’s something in it that can be of use to others in a similar situation.)

This is my understanding of the situation, Snow White: you are a cheerful, nurturing, positive woman whose extreme naivete has essentially led you down the garden path with a partner who was perhaps never set up for the domestic life you love. Beyond this, you’re in an even more precarious position because you have a family of little ones to consider, that is, the dwarves.

The dwarves are central here. It seems many have misunderstood your relationship with the dwarves, seeing you as a bit of a house-wench when in fact you have been for all intents and purposes their mother figure. You say this remained through the first years of your marriage to the man we’ll simply refer to as The Prince, that in fact early in your marriage he was not only an excellent father to the dwarves, no easy task when some of them were twice his age, he even legally adopted them as his own children.

However, as your marriage deteriorated, so apparently did The Prince’s investment in your family, and now you feel you would all be better off to return to the way things were before you awoke from that fated coma to find The Prince attached to your face. In other words, you want a divorce.

Now you need to ensure that if you get this divorce, you’ll have the resources to continue looking after the dwarves, and to do so as the primary caregiver.

Here is my advice to you, Snow White.

Lesson 1: Be certain you’re the more capable parent.

When it comes to getting custody, the primary concern of the court is going to be the best interest of the child. In short, which parent is the better parent? Your first job is to make sure that you are, in fact, the better parent.

Now, Snow White, I can see with you that this is certainly the case. Your recounting of the recent occurrence of The Prince coming home drunk after two many tankards of mead and challenging Grumpy to a duel for allegedly staining his tights, which ended in fisticuffs—well, I took your hint that this wasn’t the first time, and surely won’t be the last. This alone suggests that it’s you, rather than The Prince, who is more suited to look after the dwarves.

So too does your assertion that the care of the dwarves, in particular Dopey with his special needs, fell almost entirely to you. The truth is, YOU were the one who got up every morning and sang the dwarves awake. YOU were the one who packed their lunches for work, did their laundry, and cleaned up after them as well as after The Prince. You waited and waited for your prince to come, and when he arrived, he turned out to be less of a rescuer than he was an addition to your daily chores; you have had the equivalent of seven children (or seven husbands), a position few would envy.

Since you’ve been doing all the heavy lifting, Snow White, you need to be ready to remind the court of that, over and over.

Lesson 2: Take note of your financial sacrifices.

It’s important to understand that, by taking on the majority of the domestic duties in your home, including caring for the dwarves and The Prince, you effectively sacrificed your prime earning years, decreasing your lifetime earning capacity in a way that is unlikely to be rectified. In short, you’re never going to get those years back, and as such you will have to get on the career ladder at a lower rung, later in life, if indeed you can get back on at all.

You will never be able to make the income that you would have made, had you not married The Prince. As you yourself pointed out, when you met The Prince you were well on your way to earning an online Master’s in Counseling, and only stopped your studies at his request that you “relax and focus on domestic duties” instead. Had you continued, at this point you would likely be financially independent. But because The Prince insisted you didn’t need a profession, you gave up your earning capacity.

As such, in your divorce you ought to be compensated for your sacrifice in the form of alimony, just as The Prince’s practical contribution to the dwarves’ welfare should be accounted for in the form of child support.

Lesson 3: Do good PR.

It has to be said, Snow White, that while your innocence and grace have made many fall in love with you, unfortunately these attributes have to take a back burner in the coming months. Indeed you have to develop just a pinch of the main thing you lack, that your wicked stepmother had in spades: that is chutzpah, Snow White, in common usage, which in reality usually simply means a willingness to stand up for your own interests.

As I see it, Snow White, you haven’t been so great at doing your own PR so far. Now it’s time to buckle down and stand up for your character, and you will probably have to do this by contrasting it, in court, to the deficiencies in your partner’s character. We’ve discussed the things you should highlight that you’ve done right. What about what he’s done wrong? It will feel a bit vulgar, but trust me, don’t be Bashful.

Consider the case of Shrek. He wasn’t the best father figure, as it turned out, and the messy divorce between him and Fiona was made so mostly by what came out about his parenting: everything from his lack of basic hygiene to his tendencies to disappear for days to the infamous driving around with a baby in his lap. As a result of the unpleasant coming out of these details, however, Fiona got custody of their children and rightly so.

It’s also worth mentioning the uncomfortable historical details around how The Prince “rescued” you from your coma, when you were fourteen and he was a ripe thirty-six. Allowed in fairytale times, this isn’t going to fly as normal in the New York courts. And while we’re on the subject, it’s also to be considered that The Prince, back on that day, effectively came across what would have appeared to be an attractive corpse in the woods—that being you—and started making out with it. This raises another red flag, this one more related to his mental health and perhaps odd sexual habits.

I’ll help you be at the ready with everything you feel can and should be used, Snow White, to show who The Prince really is.

Lesson 4: Be prepared to argue for limited visitation, if you so wish.

While I think you’ll have no problem getting custody based on the above, then the terms of that custody, for example, the rights of The Prince to visit the dwarves and continue to be a part of your lives, will be the next issue to resolve.

It’s my guess that The Prince is will argue for visitation rights. While he might not care about visiting Grumpy, but he will certainly, it sounds like to me, argue for the right to see Happy, Dopey, Bashful, etc., based on what you’ve said about their mostly pleasant relationship. And he is likely to get visitation, because he is a legal guardian of the dwarves at the time of your divorce.

Visitation can range from short, supervised visits to weekend-long visits with the non-custodial parent; to keep this on a tight rein, you’ll need to be prepared to argue against The Prince’s capacity as a parent. What you want to do is keep the visitation minimal and under your control—and you can potentially allow more, when and if it suits you.

Snow White, here is the bottom line, as I see it.

In terms of custody, you’re in a great position; you’re the better parent.

In terms of alimony, you’re also in a good position. So too for child support. With The Prince’s considerable financial assets, you can hit him hard.

Maybe that makes you feel guilty, but frankly, you’ve put up with more than your fair share of hardship. Just because you took a bite of the proverbial apple when you married the The Prince, doesn’t mean you should be punished indefinitely; there must be a statute of limitations on kissing someone out of a coma, and my sense is that your debt is well paid. At this point, you shouldn’t be left without adequate and deserved financial support for yourself and the dwarves.

I’m ready to get you what you deserve, and trust me, it’s a lot.

I urge you to be ready to combine your wholesome work ethic (that has doubtless been the first inspiration for what are now literally thousands of single mothers) with a dash of your stepmother’s poison … The big lesson here, Snow White? Don’t be afraid to let your chutzpah show.


James J. Sexton


An Open Letter to Cinderella: How to Divorce Prince Charming

Dear Cinderella,

You might be surprised that I’m writing you this letter, considering that you are one of the world’s most prominent examples of a happy marriage. But, as a seasoned divorce attorney, I’ve learned to spot the ones whose marriages are on the way out—and frankly, Cinderella, I’ve seen that look in your eye.

You probably don’t want to admit it. You’re probably thinking, If I get a divorce from Prince Charming, will I be letting the world down? Will I be disillusioning thousands, nay millions of little girls whose dreams of finding fairy tale romance hinge on my prime example? Cinderella, we can only hope.

With this in mind, I’m going to advise you now as if you had wandered into my office, impractical shoes and all, asking “How do I divorce Prince Charming?”

Lesson One: Get a prenup.
I’m not going to sugar-coat this, Cinderella: You, like most ill-advised Disney princesses,
have been operating under the assumption that a Prince will make you happy. I’m guessing based on the fact that you were roughly sixteen when you got married, and your decision to marry was doubtless driven by a desire to escape a life of indentured servitude, you were probably more focused on racing to a life of bliss than on arranging a prenup.

Prince Charming has substantial assets, and this was probably part of the attraction. But,
as you’ll find out in the process of divorcing him, the Prince’s assets—his royal inheritance etc.—are “pre-marital assets” that you won’t have any claim to. Thus, like so many women, you were in a financially disadvantaged position at the start of the marriage, you assumed you shouldn’t ask for a prenup, and now you are at a financial disadvantage when you want to end the marriage.

This probably seems unfair, considering you’ve spent your life looking after Prince Charming and your royal children, smiling and waving when you’re supposed to, fulfilling your responsibilities, even indulging his sexual fantasies of having you dress up like a house wench and tickle his feet with your feather-duster—even with all that, now you’re left in a position where you probably can’t touch his royal monies. Such is New York law.

Lesson Two: Commingle your assets.
My advice to you is to get some of it for yourself by commingling your assets. In effect, commingling assets means mixing joint money, or your personal accounts (for example what you get from renting your father’s house to those wicked stepsisters of yours) with your husband’s inherited money. The idea is to make it difficult for Prince Charming’s lawyers to show clear separation of accounts in the court.

In short: open a joint bank account. Make big financial outlays (country house, jewels, angel investment in a Talking Mouse Circus) using mixed moneys. Avoid making big joint purchases from your husband’s inherited funds whenever possible, because you won’t have any claim to those in the divorce. And so on.

Contrary to the general belief among legendary damsels in distress, marrying royalty isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. Without a prenup and without commingling your assets, frankly it doesn’t matter that you caught him in three different broom closets with three different scullery maids last year; his pre-marital assets are still likely to stay with him.

Cinderella, you understand the complications of the fairy tale marriage; you, more than anyone, know what it really means to live “happily ever after.” I urge you to take that knowledge, along with your glass slippers and your wits, to the bank.

James J. Sexton