Letting the Skeletons Out of the Closet for Halloween: 30 Things We Don't Want to Admit We Do During Divorce

Because it’s Halloween week, and because I really like connecting with you guys, I thought it was about time to address the whole “things we never talk about” theme, ie. the dreaded skeletons in the closet.

The truth is, divorce can get pretty ugly. Uglier than we’d like to admit. Uglier than we expected. Contrary to popular belief, I’d like to suggest it’s NOT because of the lawyers (ahem) but more because when we’re fighting for what’s ours—from the toaster to our self-respect—people can be harsh. And when we go home after a day of that, we have our own ways of dealing with our hurt feelings.

Gleaned from years of seeing divorce up close and personal, and of course experiencing it myself, here are some of the skeletons that might be in your closet—and an assurance from me that you do not need to be ashamed. We’ve all been through it.

  1. Watching sad movies on purpose, so you can tear up and pretend it’s because of the movie.
  2. Getting really into “chick flicks”.
  3. Doing M.A.S.H. like you’re twelve, “just to check.”
  4. Listening to sad songs on purpose. Performing them in the mirror. Wallowing.
  5. Making a list(s) of things you hate about your soon-to-be-ex-spouse.
  6. Saying you’re going to gym, and actually going to Dunkin Donuts.
  7. Starting yoga to help manage your anxiety, then quitting.
  8. Breaking your ex’s stuff (accidentally).
  9. Realizing you have their credit card info saved on your computer, and charging something on it, like a Spiralizer or a small beer fridge (accidentally).
  10. Grabbing some self-help books at Barnes & Noble, then being too embarrassed to actually go to the checkout. Waiting until you’re at home and then buying them for Kindle instead.
  11. Hiding all your embarrassing self-help books on Kindle. (Thank you, Amazon Whispernet.)
  12. Facebook messaging your ex from college, just to say hi.
  13. Surreptitiously dropping a banana into a box of your ex’s stuff before it gets moved to the new place.
  14. Burning mail that arrives with your married name on it.
  15. Burning other things.
  16. Eating your weight in candy corn. =)
  17. Enjoying the feeling of having people be interested in you when they find out you’re single.
  18. Starting kickboxing to help get your anger out, then quitting.
  19. Buying a new wardrobe you can’t really afford.
  20. Not being as “okay with it” as you lead most people to believe.
  21. Becoming irate when you realize how unrealistic most movies and shows about marriage and divorce are.
  22. Become irate because it’s Tuesday.
  23. Starting a swimming routine to help get your body back into “single” shape, and then quitting.
  24. Becoming really, really, really invested in the outcome of every series of the Law and Orderfranchise.
  25. Wanting to kill everyone who does the sympathetic head-tilt when they hear about your divorce.
  26. Starting a reddit thread about how horrible your ex was.
  27. Letting your friends think you’re actually more depressed than you are, so you can stay home and watch Law and Order.
  28. Being totally okay with preferring Law and Order over human company.
  29. Joining a book club to help get yourself out among the humans, then only going to the first meeting.
  30. Writing motivational messages to yourself on the bathroom mirror.
  31. Have a good one (or three) skeletons you want to share? We’re all listening! Leave a comment or tweet it.

    Respectfully,
    James J. Sexton

The Best Divorce Movies to Get You Through the Dark Times

Divorce can be an isolating experience. Especially when those around you haven’t been through it themselves. They can try to comfort you and say the right things, but sometimes you need someone who knows what it’s like. Someone who’s been through it. Someone like my old pal Holly…wood.

There’s a movie out there for everyone. One that will resonate with you, no matter how unique you think your situation is. Below are my absolute favorite divorce movies. Find which one suits your needs, clear off the couch and get some snacks together.

First Wives Club
Did your husband leave you for some twenty-something? Was that twenty-something Jessie Spano? Do you like musical numbers that involve a lot of white semi-formal wear? Yes? Then First Wives Club is for you! Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton play three divorcees out for revenge. You can live vicariously through them while still taking the high road even though your ex-husband Steven is scum of the earth and his new girlfriend Tiffani doesn’t look old enough to babysit.

Mrs. Doubtfire
Did you lose your custody battle? Have you considered posing as a female nanny to spend more time with your kids? Yes? Well Mrs. Doubtfire is the film for you, friend. It’s got slapstick and hijinks galore and watching from the comfort of your couch is a heck of a lot cheaper than hiring a professional makeup artist to transform you into an older Scottish lady.  

Crazy, Stupid, Love
Did your wife leave you for some chump she works with? Do you like looking at Ryan Gosling? Are you looking for some tips to help you pick up women in bars post-separation? Look no further, all that and more awaits you in Crazy, Stupid, Love. Nothing pains me more than to tell you that you’re probably not going to meet Ryan Gosling at your local bar. And he’s not going to date you, nor is he going to teach you about pulling women like your own personal pick-up artist Mystery. But! You can watch this and pretend for two hours that those are all feasible things that can indeed happen.

She-Devil
Is your husband having an affair with a world renowned romance novelist? Do you want to ruin his entire life? Do you need a step-by-step guide? Well, you’ve got one in She-Devil. I don’t know why this movie isn’t more popular, it’s amazing. Just don’t get any ideas… So much of what Ruth does would land you in jail for a long time. 

Desperately Seeking Susan
Are you a bored stay-at-home wife? Do you read personal ads to get you through those monotonous days? Do you live vicariously through those ad writers? Have you ever been swept up in an ancient Egyptian jewel heist? Great! You’ll really relate to this one. So much is good here — fantastic soundtrack, very 80s New York, Madonna — you can’t lose.

Hope Floats
Did your husband cheat on you? Did you find out he cheated on you when he told you on a national talk show? Destroyed by the news, did you move back to your hometown? Yes? That is so freaky because that’s what Hope Floats is about! There is nothing like a sappy chick flick to really get you through the hard times and give you some perspective plus I hear women like this one, too. This flick is the perfect combination of preposterous and heartwarming. 

Heartburn
Are you ready to leave that cheating spouse and start fresh somewhere new? Have you changed your mind about that decision a bunch of times? Well, Heartburn’s for you! It’s based on Nora Ephron’s novel (and personal life!), stars Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson and takes you along on a rollercoaster of a marriage. 

Enough Said
Are you divorced and dipping your toe back into the dating pool? Are you relatively normal and understated? Yes? Then, this one’s for you. Enough Said is a sweet little film that feels real and just might make you feel less alone in the world. 

City of God
Sure…you might be getting divorced but at least you aren’t living in a Brazilian favela run by drug lords and corrupt police. Seriously…you haven’t seen City of God? Stop whatever you are doing now and go watch it. It has absolutely nothing to do with divorce but I just didn’t want to make a movie list that had the words “best” and “movies” in it that didn’t have City of God on it.  Why are you still reading this….go watch it….you can thank me later.  

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Who Gets the Pets?

The New York law has been changing around pet issues for several years now, with courts, and pet owners, increasingly treating pets like family rather than like property in divorce proceedings. I’m in full support, as you can imagine, having my pup, Huckleberry, as a big reminder that pets are people too.

In New York and across the US, it’s mattering less and less whose name is on the dog owner’s certificate, if indeed you have one, because pets aren’t subject to the rules of property division anymore. Basically, much like custody matters work with children, decisions are going to be made based on the best interest of the pet.

This also means that the courts can and have awarded shared custody, visitation, and alimony payments relative to pet ownership in New York courts. If you love your dog or horse or snake like it’s your own baby and believe it would be better off with you, here are the things you need to be prepared to argue for in divorce proceedings.

• The major care of the pet. Which partner has been the one providing more of the day-to-day care of the pet, including managing basic needs (food, water, scooping poo, etc.) as well as emotional needs (affection)?

• Financial means to support the pet. Pets can be expensive, especially if something goes wrong, or if it’s a big pet that eats a lot, or if it’s an exotic pet or a special needs pet. (Yes, I said special needs pet.) Which partner is able to support the pet financially?

• Time to spend with the pet. Does one of you work significantly longer hours than the other? If so, it could be argued that the pet should be with the person who works less taxing hours, because they’ll have more time for the pet.

• Who brought the pet into the marriage? Even though pets aren’t considered property, it may make sense to consider who has a longer-standing relationship with the pet, because this might establish a primary bond.

• Space for the pet. Different pets need different kinds of living spaces. Is one of you better equipped to provide what the pet needs in terms of space? Be ready to defend it.

• Children’s relationship with the pet. If you have children, it’s important to consider their relationship with the pet (whether positive or negative). This, of course, could impact arrangements for children as well as pets, so be sure you think this one through carefully.

The best scenario is that you, your partner and your divorce attorneys approach the pet issue with a goal of arranging an agreement outside of court, including ownership and visitation terms. This may not hold up in court, but it is likely to influence the decision if both partners agree beforehand. However, couples often disagree over pets, and fighting this out in court is something to be prepared for.

If you can’t reach an agreement, one thing to consider is what you’re willing to give up to keep your pet. In other words, you should discuss with your lawyer the possibility of exchanging property for pet ownership.

This is all relatively new territory, but it’s an important area that needs to be considered carefully before and as you wade through the joy of divorce proceedings. It’s not just about you, after all, but about this guy:

Respectfully,

James J. Sexton

New York Abandons Unique Form of Torture Previously Imposed on Law School Graduates

Did you hear about this recent New York state law change this week?

New York is going to adopt a uniform bar exam used in 15 other states. I think the full headline of the article should actually have been “New York Abandon’s Unique Form of Torture Previously Imposed Upon Recent Law School Survivors – Students Rejoice – Therapists Cry Foul!

I remember, with great nostalgia, spending hours in my local Starbucks studying the intricacies of New York State Corporation Laws and obscure state specific contract issues while my friends who had gone into investment banking were busy enjoying their mid-20’s.  I knew I was going to be a divorce lawyer the day I started law school and, thus, it added insult to injury (having already suffering the indignities of the required “Federal Income Taxation” class at Fordham Law School) knowing I only needed to remember this drivel long enough to regurgitate it onto the final exam never to access it again in my chosen profession).

 

The uniform bar exam is more a function of attempting to “streamline” the test so that it’s easier to grade and easier to administer on a computer.

But to be fair (and candid) the bar exam is just the last in a series of hurdles they make you jump so you can put “ESQ” after your last time.  By the time you get to it – you’ve jumped so many you don’t care anymore.  I sincerely think you could make the final three months of law school the same as an episode of “Fear Factor” and 99.9% of students would have the most bored expression on their faces while chomping on bull testicles in a vat of spiders.  The whole experience of law school is designed to see how badly you want it.  Virtually nothing you learn is of any practical use in the day-to-day practice of law.

I applaud the change to the new exam (although I still think they should consider the alternative I’ve suggested).  It would be far more fun to watch and potentially less traumatic than the current bar exam format. I live two blocks from the Javitz center (where I took the bar exam 14 years ago) and still walk three blocks out of my way when heading uptown so I don’t have to walk past it.  I’ve got the same PTSD most recovering law students suffer from.  I spent two days in that center wondering if the three years prior would just be a waste because I couldn’t remember, at a specific moment in time, how to apply obscure property concepts to a question that may or may not implicate admiralty law issues.

And people ask me why I can’t go to a car show there…..

 

Respectfully,

James J. Sexton