Seven Podcasts to Listen To During Your Divorce

Getting divorced means you will inevitably have more time on your hands than you used to. Time you spent fighting with your spouse will now be spent on more productive activities like going to the gym, watching TV shows you actually like, and standing in the kitchen eating yogurt naked just because you can.

This got me thinking—as did the fact that National Radio Day is coming up this Thursday—that podcasts are an awesome way to coach yourself through this transitional period. Let’s be honest, we rarely know what to do with new freedom when it’s granted to us, it typically takes a while to figure out who we are in this new world of self-discovery. So while you’re wading around in the pool of alluvial muck that will become your new life, why not listen to some interesting and motivating podcasts? These are my recommendations.

Stuff to Blow Your Mind – “Animal Sexual Fluidity”
So, this is an amazing podcast, and I recommend listening to ALL the episodes as soon as you can. However, since you’re going through a seriously confusing time in terms of your personal life, possibly your sexuality and maybe even your family structures, I’d say start with this episode. The bizarreness of nature—and its insistence on change—will help put your current transition in perspective, while distracting you with lots of sexually diverse and crazy sex-changing animals. It will blow your mind.

This American Life – “Break-Up”
This is an old episode of this now world famous podcast (ca. 2007), but it has always stuck with me because of how cliché—and how sad—breakups actually are. And also how necessary they are. The best thing about this episode is that Phil Collins shows up to discuss possibly the best breakup song of all time, and to tell the story behind writing it. You’ll laugh, you’ll relate to Phil Collins, you might cry a little—this is just listening gold.

Stuff You Should Know – “Polyamory
Come on, you know you’re curious—and now you can look into things that titillate your curiosity without guilt! This episode of the Stuff You Should Know podcast looks into the myths and realities of what it means to be in a committed relationship with multiple people—and it’s probably not what you were expecting.

Officially, this podcast has nothing to do with your divorce, except that you are going to get so into it that you’ll forget all about your divorce for a few precious hours, and focus instead on this masterpiece of storytelling. The podcast is twelve episodes describing one reporter’s experience of re-opening the real-life 1999 murder investigation of a high school student. If you find yourself running over and over your divorce in your head, this is the podcast to break the cycle.

Berkeley’s Happiness Matters Podcast – “Is Divorce Always Bad for Kids?”
There’s a common perception—or maybe it’s just conventional wisdom gone awry—that having two parents together, no matter how unhappy they are, is better for children than having two divorced parents. This podcast episode looks at that question in detail, providing a lot of research context, in order to find out whether divorce is really always bad for kids.

Sex Nerd – “The Sex Slang of Urban Dictionary” (in 2 parts)
This podcast is genius from the folks at The Nerdist, and taps into subjects of interest and humor around human sexuality. This two-part episode is both hilarious and extremely useful (because you’re going to need to know this stuff now that you’re single). Enjoy your lesson!

RadioLab – “Who Are You?”
Let’s face it: you have no idea who you are anymore. Don’t worry—it’s totally natural to feel that way after a divorce. Even if you’re not getting divorced, it’s healthy to wonder about this question at least every few years throughout your life. (If you’re not getting divorced that means you’re just reading this post because you think I’m entertaining, and that means you are already awesome, so stop worrying.) But seriously, “Who am I?” is pretty much the most important question we can ask ourselves after “How do I get food?” and “Where’s the bathroom?” so this one really deserves your time. Plus RadioLab is funny.


Love and Radio – “Thank You, Princess.”
Did you know people buy used panties off the internet? Or that some people will literally pay good money to be harassed in a manner that possibly reminds you of your divorce? Have a listen to this crazy episode of Love and Radio, which is essentially an interview with a self-described “Humiliatrix”… and be prepared to be completely weirded out, yet completely fascinated. I want to put out a quick disclaimer that this is at times a strange podcast, and that this episode in particular is pretty out there. As such I’m not condoning the subject matter, some of which is likely to be illegal—but it is REALLY entertaining.

Happy listening, and Happy (early) National Radio Day!

James J. Sexton

Going Public With Your Divorce: 10 Tips From a Seasoned Divorce Attorney

So you’ve decided to get a divorce, and you now have to daunting task of actually telling people…Or maybe you’ve been going through a divorce, and have learned a few hard lessons about what not to say about it to your friends, family, kids…

Either way, from the moment you tell the first person, the world becomes a bit of a minefield, for reasons personal and legal, when it comes to talking about your divorce during your divorce.

Here’s a list of what to say–and what NOT to say–while you’re getting divorced. This is the same advice I give my clients, taking into account how what you say out of court can affect what happens in court.

Have a Plan.
This is my life, and I live each and every day by this maxim, because it’s the key to successful divorces. Know what you’re going to do. Write it down. Put it on a timeline. Check things off as you go. In this case, the plan is about deciding who to talk to and how you’re going to do it. Seriously–don’t be too proud to write this stuff down.

Decide Who You’re Going to Tell & In What Order.
It’s important that your family doesn’t know you’ve filed for divorce before your spouse, or that your kids don’t find out from a neighbor. Starting with the people who will be most affected, plan who to tell and what language you’ll use (it obviously won’t be the same with everyone you tell).

Don’t feel the need to tell everyone, either. Stick to the people who are directly affected, and the people whose support you’re going to be calling on during the divorce.

Choose a Headline.
The obvious one–“We’re getting divorced”–isn’t going to be enough for the people who are close to the fray, like your family and close friends. They’ll want to know more, and having invested in your marriage in various ways themselves, you might feel they deserve that. Decide exactly what you’re ready to say about a) your reasons for splitting, and b) what the future will hold. Use calm rather than emotional language.

Focus On the Positive. Within Reason.
Let’s face it, this isn’t a positive situation. But if you can take a positive–or even a neutral–tone regarding what you try to say about it, you’re likely to avoid ending up in an accidental rant, or bursting into tears in public. Not that this won’t happen anyway, it probably will. But having a positive message, however forced it might seem, will actually help you feel more in control, and be more in control. Eventually you’ll probably find that that positive message is something you sincerely feel.

Stay On Message.
A PR classic, it’s important to have your neutral or positive take on things in mind, and memorized, so that you will be able to remind yourself of what to say when people ask, which they will. This helps you keep from being goaded into talking about things you’re not ready to, to have conversations with your spouse that are counterproductive, or to have a meltdown in the grocery store (see #4). Know your message and stick to it.

Be Ready For Backlash.
Some people love hearing about divorce, because it feeds the rumor mill, and they’ll (subtly) grill you for details that they’ll then go repeating. This is inevitable, and you just have to be prepared to ignore it. Other people hate hearing about divorce because it means their marriage, too, is potentially fallible. They’ll be full of disapproval. Again, just ignore it. Or, have a response on-hand for when people are less than supportive, something that puts up a boundary without causing a confrontation, like “Well, we’re really trying to keep this as a family matter, but thank you for asking” or “I appreciate your input” followed by a quick change of subject.

Don’t Post Anything on Social Media. 
Anything you post on social media is effectively public, and can be used against you in court. Keep your privacy settings at maximum levels during your divorce, and you should refrain from mentioning anything related to your divorce at all–even rants, or rather, especially rants. (That’s what your divorce lawyer and therapist are for.) Here’s a useful infographic about what not to do on social media during your divorce.

Verbal, Not Written. 
On that note, be aware that anything you put in writing–like a private message on social media or an email–could end up out in the public domain. In divorce proceedings, sometimes these things unfortunately come up. If it’s not something you’re okay with the judge reading, don’t put it in writing.

Don’t Talk About Your Divorce at Work.
The exception here is if you have colleagues that you’re very close to, as in best friends. Otherwise, you’ll be wise to try to keep your divorce out of the workplace. On one hand, it can come across as unprofessional or airing your personal business in public; people have surprising attitudes about divorce sometimes.

On the other, talking about it could easily make you become angry or upset at work, which is unprofessional. There’s also the fact that if you let everyone know what’s happening in your personal life, it might affect how they interpret your professional work, regardless of whether it’s affecting your work or not. To be on the safe side, you’re better off keeping it relatively quiet until the divorce is final.

Keep the Kids Out of It.
When you’re talking to friends and family, be careful who might be listening (ie. your kids–I was amazing at listening through air vents as a kid). Be especially careful when speaking about your kids directly, for example what might happen to them regarding custody; this could get back to your kids and cause a lot of anxiety.

In an age-appropriate way, discuss issues that affect your kids with them directly, and make an agreement with your spouse not to say anything negative about each other or go into details about divorce proceedings while they’re around. It’s just unnecessary negativity and pain that they don’t deserve.

James J. Sexton

Holiday Cookies and Cocktails to See You Through

If you’re not familiar with The Great British Baking Show on Netflix, I will wait for you to log in, binge watch and meet me back here. Go ahead.

… … …

That was great right? Relaxing while somehow still intense, no? It is the perfect show. Friendly competition among supportive, genuinely nice people, interesting challenges, and mountains and mountains of cake. GBBS has been a huge hit in the UK for six seasons, and while we wait patiently for Netflix to add more episodes (hint, hint Netflix), the good people at ABC have decided to give the concept a spin with The Great Holiday Baking Show which just premiered November 30th. Please, please let this be as good spirited as GBBS. Do not let this be another bullet point in the we Americans can’t have nice things list.

In the spirit of sugar and spice and everything nice, and the fact that you need to have cake around if you’re going to watch The Great Holiday Baking Show, I’ve rounded up some treats for you to try. Also alcohol, because holidays. I’ve given them a divorce spin, because I’m me. So swing by Costco or the closest bodega, get several tons of sugar, whip up some treats, invite all your your pals over and pig out.

Credit: Modern Day Moms

Credit: Modern Day Moms

First up, how about some Eat Your Feelings Brownies. These brownies contain oreos and chocolate chip cookies, because if you are going to eat your feelings, you should be efficient.

More into nuts, as in your ex-husband was freaking nuts? Then how about some Passive Aggressive Pecan Sandies? You know who was nuts? The guy who divorced Martha Stewart.

Should you have frozen your eggs and waited for a better fella instead of marrying Mitch? Maybe? Who knows. Contemplate the answer over some Frozen Egg(s)nog.

Craving something sofisticato? How about some Alimony Amaretti? You’re going to want that alimony to pay for the pricey almond paste needed to make these.

Nothing says sweet victory like these Full Custody Custard Tarts. One taste of these babies and you’ll be planning a trip with the kids to their Portuguese birthplace. The kids really should see Europe, especially on your ex’s dime.

Celebrate your settlement with these I Got The Boat Banana Boats. These are great for parties because you can make a little fixings bar and everyone can go to town.

If you’re feeling artsy, flex your creative muscles with some Midlife Crisis Cutout Cookies. Any rollout dough will work, as the focus here is the visual. Freehand your cuts outs. Anything from flashy sports cars to motorcycles to 25-year-old tennis instructors will work. The devil is in the details. You really want to get that tennis instructor’s eyes the right color, so take the extra time to get the royal icing shades just right.

Nothing says the holidays like mulled wine. And nothing says getting over a breakup than being drunk on mulled wine. Make this seasonal Glogg which will make the house smell so good, and get tanked.

Finally, some Finally Home Alone Cookies. These classic Irish treats happen to contain nearly every ingredient of the sundae masterpiece created by Kevin inHome Alone. What’s that? Double pun referencing both the film and the satisfied sentiment of a finalized divorce? That’s right, yahtzee!

Ready, set, BAKE!

Cheer Up, Hallo-Weiner! Halloween for Divorcees

As a holiday, Halloween is one of the least depressing ones out there. I mean, this is a day that is designed to support people embracing alter egos, coming out of their shells, experimenting, letting the hair down—you get the picture.

Halloween is not a time for reflection (you’ve done enough of that) nor does it require a lot of awkward family time (if you’re in the middle of a divorce, you could use a break from that). Instead, Halloween is an opportunity to have some non-reflective fun, and probably get a little creative, drunk, or both. And what could be a better distraction from your crumbling marriage than a sugar high and a lot of weird costumes?! Here’s what you do.

If You Have the Kids

  • Trick-or-Treating. The classic Halloween activity, though it has become a bit worrisome in recent years as people are advised to be more and more careful. If you live in a safe area, you should have no qualms, surely, about taking your kids out begging for candy in the dark—but if there’s any doubt, perhaps stick to one of the alternatives.
  • Throw a Kids’ Party. Cupcake decorating, Halloween games, even create a haunted house with peeled grapes standing in for eyeballs—why not go the whole nine yards. After all, now that you’re divorced, you need to REALLY make an effort to make sure you’re the Fun Parent.
  • “Scary” movie marathon. Age-appropriate scary movies, of course—ie. no need to drag out Freddy Kruger if the kids are under five. No, in all seriousness, if you’re hosting your kids and possibly their friends for Halloween night, there’s almost nothing better than Nightmare before Christmas or a selection of Halloween Specials on Netflix, some candy, popcorn and fizzy apple juice—you get to chill out and everybody’s happy.
  • Scavenger hunt. If you have a bit of time to spare, putting together a scavenger hunt for candy or small prizes or whatever is pretty fun. Write out a sequence of clues, and place them in and around your house for the kids to find, accompanied by treats along the way—with the final treat being a giant pile of candy OR a giant pizza and Halloween movie. Total win.

If You Don’t Have the Kids (or if You Don’t Have Kids at All)

  • Make an amazing Halloween-themed dinner party. I once went to this dinner party where the hostess dressed up like Morticia and served six courses of things like Jack O’Lantern Soup and Poisoned Apple Pie – and it was all delicious and it was all really fun to eat and talk about. (I mean, the adult palate gets so neglected at Halloween time, seriously.) If I wasn’t so lazy I would do this.
  • Throw a Grownups’ Costume Party. Making your friends dress up can either make them love you or hate you, depending on your friends; you really have to make this call for yourself. One tip if you decide to do this: leave it pretty open as to what people can dress as. The worst thing is if you specify people should dress up as either pirates or monkeys, and then everyone comes as Sexy Donald Trump. Just let them go nuts.
  • Bar crawl (in costume of course). Feel like embarrassing yourself and/or your friends? Organize a bar crawl in costume, which demands that people actually be seen out in public in full Heidi/Edward Scissorhands/Sexy Donald Trump attire, a fact that just adds to the general fun.
  • Halloween cocktails. Just want to get drunk with your friends, and Halloween is a good excuse? No problem. There are actually a LOT of Halloween cocktails out there, like a Candy Corn Martini, a Smoking Zombie, or THIS super-weird, super great Glow-in-the-Dark Cocktail. Bottoms up!
  • Scary movie marathon. Okay, now you get to break out the REAL scary movies, and these days there are a lot to choose from. Just to help you out, here’s a list of the most popular horror movies released in 2015, and HERE’s a list (I actually recommend this one more) of the best horror films of all time.

Have something to add, ask, or some inconsistency to point out? I LOVE IT. I’m all ears. Leave a comment below or tweet to me.

James J. Sexton

6 Awkward Post-Divorce Moments (and Tips for Handling Them)

There’s something about going through a divorce that makes you pretty much bulletproof—eventually. Eventually you don’t care when people ask really awkward questions, or when you’ve been walking around with toilet paper stuck to your leg for two hours. Eventually, after you’ve been through a tough divorce, nothing short of life-and-death could make you bat an eye.

But during a divorce? Not so much. Let’s be honest here: divorce is a fragile time for everybody. And it takes a while to get back on your feet. YOU WILL. But it takes some getting there.

Unfortunately, this is when the awkwardness creeps in. You’ve gone through and are still going through a huge transition, and suddenly you’re dealing with stuff like, your neighbor asking you whether your spouse is traveling a lot for work lately, or being invited to the birthday party of someone’s kid, as a family. It’s awkward. It’s even a little painful.

Here’s how to handle some of the more common moments you’ll run into—advice prepared with a hint of humor and a dash of pragmatism, as per usual.

Kid-Focused Events
If you’re doing the co-parenting thing, which most people these days are, this is one you’re sure to run into pretty regularly. This advice applies to your kids’ sports games, piano recitals, school plays, birthday parties, Girl Scout thingies and so on.

When it comes to your kids, you have to be there, and you have to be composed. The key thing to have in mind is: when in doubt, focus on the kids. Feel a wave of resentment coming on because your spouse is late? Focus on how cute your kid looks in that carrot costume. Another thing that works in these situations is to make a concerted effort to talk vivaciously to the other parents. Be the social butterfly, you’ll find you’re able to avoid talking to your ex or soon-to-be-ex, and you’ll be nice and distracted from thinking about them being there.

Running Into People Who Don’t Know.
I found that this was a real challenge at first. It takes about a year for everybody to catch on to the fact that you and your ex aren’t together anymore, and that’s through no fault of their own; yet I found myself getting impatient with having to explain, even vaguely, to yet another person that Yes, my marriage fell apart, and how are you?

A big, helpful crutch in this situation—which you’ll stop needing once you start feeling less, eh, vulnerable—is to have a statement prepared. Have a one- or two-sentence answer that you use, which is generally a nice combination of grateful-for-your-concern and no-further-questions-on-the-subject-please. Then go immediately to asking about them. People love to talk about themselves.

When People Ask Intrusive Questions
So how about when you’re at said event, and someone with no sense of boundaries whatsoever asks you, loudly, “So what happened between you and [insert spouse name here]?? You were such a great couple!!!” Yeah, stuff like that gets said. In such situations, a good thing to remember is that this person is the one who should be embarrassed—not you. And then refer to number 2.

Events with THAT Side of the Family
For a lot of us, divorcing our spouse doesn’t mean divorcing their family. I happen to get along great with lots of my ex-wife’s extended family, and particularly for the kids’ sake, you might find you want to keep the relationships strong. So showing up at family events is going to happen, and you’re going to have to be prepared.

A good rule of thumb is to have realistic expectations about how people are going to react, especially in the beginning. They’re likely to feel loyal to your ex, because they’re blood, but at the same time they want to be fair to you—so they’re going to feel awkward. Be understanding about that. Don’t say anything that puts pressure on them to choose (like complaining about your ex). And be ready with lots of conversation topics that don’t involve the divorce.

Parties of Mutual Friends
If you feel compelled to go to an event where you ex is likely to also be there, the best thing you can do is to have a plan, which you mentally agree with yourself before you get in the car to go, of a) what to say if you have to talk to them, and b) how you’ll make a graceful exit if such is required. As for a), the main goal is to be civil, bland, and brief.

For b), the main goal is to avoid making any kind of scene, such as arguing in public, crying, & etc.Depending on where you’re at and where your ex is at, this can be a real risk. So explain to the host, if it’s a friend, that you might have to make a quick exit—they’ll surely understand—and if you do, do. No biggie.

First Date
Didn’t expect this one, did you? This is the one that you don’t WANT to be awkward, but it just is. It’s also one of the game-changing moments post-divorce: you’re likely to see things a bit differently before this moment, than after it. So it’s important. But, yeah, it can be pretty awkward.

I think the best advice in this situation is more or less what your mom/dad/grandma told you about dating when you were sixteen: Be yourself. Be honest about the fact that you’re recently divorced—it’s only fair. And if you try to hide that kind of thing, you’re guaranteeing yourself a train wreck. If you’re not ready to tell the person across the table that you’re a divorcee, you’re probably not ready to date—and that’s no biggie, either.

Have something to tell me, want to vent, or need a hug? Leave a comment below or tweet to me.

James J. Sexton


How Do You Make New Friends after Divorce?

The thing about major life changes, is that they always affect more than one aspect of your life—they usually affect pretty much every aspect of your life. Divorce, for many of us, means a big change in our social lives.

Of course there’s the initial “I don’t want to see anybody,” curled-up-in-a-ball phase. This is often followed by the “Don’t take pity on me / don’t-need-anybody-but-myself” phase, which can throw another wrench into the gears of your social world.

Eventually, when you crawl out from under your divorce rock, you might find that all of your previous social engagements have dried up, and/or you might realize that hanging out with your usual crowd is going to mean risking running into your ex. Or worse, it’s going to mean putting your friends in the awkward position of choosing between you, and the business of figuring out which friends are “yours” and which ones are “theirs.” 

Embracing your independence, this is quite possibly the perfect time to get out of your bubble and make some new friends.

Making friends as an adult is inevitably a heck of a lot harder than it was to do as a kid. I mean, as a kid, all you have to do is give somebody your Snack Pack and you’re in. With adults, you’re competing with their busy schedules, and with the fact that, to be frank, most adults aren’t looking for new friends.

So how do you do it?

Workout Buddies
Yeah, you probably need to get in shape anyway, right? There’s almost no better foundation for a healthy, motivating friendship than giving each other support, and holding each other accountable, for getting or staying in shape. You might not want to say “Hey, you should get in shape with me!” out of the blue—that could have the exact opposite effect you’re going for—but if someone mentions wanting to get out and be more active, for example, invite them to meet you for a hike or walk in the park.

Making a Friend At Work
Maybe you’re one of those people who initiates after-work beers … or maybe you’re one of those people who avoids those people. If the latter is true, burst through your antisocial tendencies and give it a chance at least a couple of times. Sometimes just saying Yes turns into a friendship.

Play Dates
Use your kids! The funny thing about playdates—and this is something all parents know and don’t talk about—is that sometimes your kids’ friends have parents you’d rather not hang out with, and sometimes they don’t get along with YOUR friends’ kids at all. And you just deal with it. And sometimes, randomly, you’ll find that golden equilibrium where everybody’s entertained—and these are the friends you should never let go. Playdates are also a unique opportunity where you’re achieving something and at the same time you have very little to do, much like being on an airplane. So it’s a great time to just chat and get to know the other parent anyway. It’s a fertile ground for friendship.

Get Back in Touch
We all have those old friends that we’ve just lost touch with, and feel a TAD guilty about losing touch, just enough to keep us from picking up the phone and giving them a call. This can go on for decades. Make a list of your old friends who you haven’t talked to in awhile (Facebook doesn’t count) and give them a call. Be the bigger person. They’ll almost certainly be very pleased that you called first.

If you’re one of those nice people who cares about things, find a cause and start volunteering! You’re sure to find like-minded, kind-hearted people like yourself. Just make sure to pick an activity that involves being with these other people, rather than off doing something on your own.

Professional Networking Events
If you’re a busy professional, going to networking events can be a nice way to kill two birds with one stone—work AND play. Conferences that last a few days are particularly good for making new friends, because they effectively take a bunch of busy people out of their normal routine, and this leaves space for new relationships to happen. Ever notice how people at conferences are more open to chatting? It’s because that’s why they’re there: to meet people.

Join a Group
Joining a group is one of those no-brainer things for adults who want to make friends, because they almost certainly guarantee it. Also, there are groups for everything—from antique appreciation societies to anime enthusiasts—so you are bound to find something that interests you. Groups that meet regularly are the best for friendmaking, because of the consistency, ie. you’re less likely to lose track of each other, because there’s pre-scheduled meeting every week or two. And you already have a basis for a friendship in that you share a common interest, so it’s a winner on all fronts.

Have something you want to add, complain about, share, demand? I’m all ears! Leave me a comment below or tweet to me!

James J. Sexton

Divorce All-Stars: Heather Mills & Sir Paul McCartney

Things seemed great for Paul and Heather at the start. They had a fairytale wedding, complete with castle and signature song. Oh, but then…

Things started going south after the birth of their child. Then things went from south to knock down, drag out war. Heather blamed the marriage’s demise on one of Paul’s older children and made various claims of abuse. Paul’s team countered with Heather’s own words found in happy anecdotes featured in a book released by Heather in 2006.

Heather fired her lawyer and began representing herself in the proceedings and asked for £125 million. Paul countered with nearly £16 million. They finally settled at nearly £25 million plus yearly support payments. To add insult to injury, during the judgement the presiding judge praised Paul’s handling of the case and scolded Heather for giving inaccurate and inconsistent evidence.

While money can’t buy you love, it can buy you freedom.

McCartney seems to have found L-O-V-E with Barbara Walters’ niece but I think it’s Martha who will always have the crooner’s heart.

James J. Sexton


Same-Sex Divorce in New York State

Just like Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails, I was into LGBT law WAY before it was cool. When the firm opened our doors in 2002 we were among the first in New York to seek out LGBT clients and to help educate the public regarding the myriad of complexities facing same-sex couples seeking to dissolve their relationships. We held poorly advertised, yet packed seminars on “Gay and Lesbian Legal Issues” at an Episcopal church. We handed out purple balloons with the firm’s logo at the first Rockland Pride event in Nyack, New York.

Back then, when a same-sex couple was dissolving their relationship the Courts weren’t sure what to do. Some Judges applied simple property theory (“Whose name is the house in? Okay…it’s his house.”) Some Judges applied strict contract principles (“Who provided the funds for the house? Was there a written agreement? Okay…it’s her house.”)

Some avant garde Judges applied the Business Corporation Law and tried to treat the failed relationship like a two partners splitting up a business (“Who paid for the house? Who fixed up the house and kept it maintained Who tended to the rose garden? Okay…they’re splitting it 50/50″). Some Judges just scratched their heads and wistfully pondered the prospect of retirement and the promise of yelling at children who dare step on their lawns.

I remember arguing a custody case for a transgender client who didn’t want to face an impossible choice: lose your children or lose your authentic self. I had to explain the difference between a transsexual and transgender to literally every individual working on the case (the Court Officers, the Court reporter, the Judge, the attorney appointed to the children) and I didn’t have Caitlyn Jenner to help explain.

We were into LGBT law back when it wasn’t even a thing to be into. Now there are whole firms that focus, and advertise primarily to that market. Oh, the times… they are a’ changin’. I remember speaking at the “Lavender Law” conference at Fordham Law School back in 2005 on a panel regarding mediation and alternate dispute resolution for same-sex couples. I warned those in attendance of what a “roll of the dice” taking a same-sex case to court was in the then- current cultural climate. I ended my presentation on a hopeful note. I told the attendees that same-sex marriage was coming. In our lifetime. It was inevitable.

There have been many recent victories for same-sex marriage, with the institution now recognized as legal in 36 states (although there is plenty of variation on how it works, and some states have flip-flopped on the legality over the years).

Seventy percent of Americans now live in a place where they can legally be married to someone of the same sex, a fantastic step towards equality. Here in New York, same-sex marriage is legal, which means same-sex partnerships should enjoy all the rights and privileges heterosexual couples do, including the right to divorce if need be.

Same-sex divorce is certainly less talked about in the media, because who wants to be the Debbie Downer at the party? Hooray, what a great day for America! By the way, after all that joy and celebrating and the vows and the big party and gifts and everything, don’t forget, divorce is also now part of your equality, if and when things go south! Less celebratory, sure, but it certainly
doesn’t make sense for same-sex couples to be trapped
in unhappy marriages.

Divorce as an Equal Rights Issue
Marriage and divorce laws vary state by state of course, but basically they’re pretty similar for hetero couples. This means if you get married in New Hampshire, move to Washington state, and settle down in Arizona and want to get divorced there, your rights as a married couple were essentially identical throughout that whole journey, as one would hope.

But same-sex partnerships face uncertainty because same-sex marriage is still legally very new. Because it is recognized differently in different states, how to get divorced where you currently live —or in a state where it was legal but now isn’t—can be a problem. How can people divorce if they’re not recognized as married? If you can’t easily obtain a divorce, how do you move on with your life? Particularly if it’s not an amicable split, how do you enforce the equitable division of assets and deal with custody arrangements?

Going even further, how can the length of a relationship be defined in places where same-sex couples were waiting for marriage to be legalized in their state? On principle it seems that time should be counted when determining equitable division of assets based on the time spent in a marital relationship—even if it wasn’t legal marriage.

Divorcing for Nontraditional or Same-Sex Couples
As states are still get their footing and new laws are enacted, in all likelihood you’re going to have more red tape and hurdles than heterosexual couples have. Thankfully, rockstars like Susan Sommer are making huge inroads. She championed legalizing divorces of same-sex couples who had been married in other states where same-sex marriage wasn’t previously legal. Until there are dozens of Susan Sommers around the country paving the way for streamlined same-sex divorce laws, it’s important you be prepared for what might be more complicated proceedings compared to your heterosexual divorcing counterparts.

The climate is changing – as highlighted in this year’s NYC Pride theme: Complete the Dream – and in fact just last week the Texas Supreme Court upheld a same-sex divorce despite the fact that the state does not (yet!) recognize same-sex marriage. A day will come when it sounds strange for a lawyer to make a distinction between “gay divorce” and “heterosexual divorce.” Our children’s children won’t remember a time when two men or two women in a marriage was relevant to anything other than what pronouns you used in your arguments.

Until then it’s a good move to trust your case to a firm like mine, that has handled a large number of same-sex dissolutions and divorces. A firm that was “into” LGBT legal issues before it was cool.

Happy Pride Week!



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

Get Divorced Like a Real Housewife

As I’m sure you already know, the seventh season of the masterpiece Real Housewives of New York (#RHONY to those in the know) premieres this evening on Bravo.

Perhaps it surprises you that this is one of my favorite shows. Hardly a guilty pleasure, I have watched Real Housewives for five glorious years of pinot-drinking, catfighting madness. It bespeaks my values with gems like “I was so mad I almost ran her down in my Ferrari” and “I fought too hard for this zip code to go home now.” Oh, and classic wisdom: “You work hard, you give a lot of love, and you end up at the White House.” Words to live by.

The Real Housewives have also done their part to keep my industry afloat, with a whopping 33% of the couples on the show getting divorced, and no end in sight. And they do it with style - if you think you’ve got divorce figured out, you don’t. The RHONY wives are the people you want to take notes from. Here’s how to get divorced like they do.*

  1. Leading up to your divorce, air your dirty laundry to anybody who will listen.

  2. Get plastic surgery as a coping mechanism.

  3. Get drunk, get loud, and storm out of a restaurant.

  4. Put on a lot of mascara and then cry on someone’s shirt.

  5. Go to a club.

  6. Go to the Hamptons to blow off steam. Throw something at someone there.

  7. Date someone old (with money).

  8. Date someone fat (with money).

  9. Date someone who doesn’t have money and then giggle about it over cocktails.

  10. After your divorce, write a book in which you air your dirty laundry to anybody who will read it.

  11. Go to a club.

  12. Develop adult-onset asthma so that people will pay attention to you.

  13. Be loudly and self-righteously offended AT ANYONE AT ANY TIME. It’s your right.

  14. Sue someone for a book they’re writing that makes allusions to your dirty laundry.

  15. Have a lot of “turtle time”.*

  16. Make up a catch phrase that doesn’t work, because you’re middle-aged.

  17. Tell people to “be cool.”

  18. Go to a club.

  19. Flirt inappropriately.

  20. Consider having another baby.

Right, time for me to break out the Kit Kats and SkinnyGirl Sweet’Rita, RHONY is waiting. Mazel tov.


James J. Sexton