A divorce can share a lot of characteristics with, say, a hurricane hitting your house. As with a natural disaster, an emergency tool kit can help you get through this turbulent time. Unlike a more traditional emergency kit, the divorce version doesn't include bottled water, protein bars and canned franks and beans, but rather strategies to help you right yourself in the storm.
One element of a divorce emergency tool kit? A plan to build up your team of supporters. Connection with others helps us regulate our emotions, which is one reason people can act “crazy” in the middle of divorce; they’re missing out on the daily connection that comes with marriage.
Because our main conversational partner has left the building, and it’s up to us to actively find others to talk to who offer support and insight. A support team might include good friends, family members and a therapist or spiritual-guru-type. I spent a lot of time talking to my mother and my father, a few friends, and a few professionals, including a divorce coach.
Many people I interviewed said new or old friends stepped in to help. Others found support online. One woman I talked to spent a great deal of time on the single moms’ chat rooms of babycenter.com and similar sites.
Online divorce support groups continue to crop up. The latest offering is DivorceForce.com. The site, which launched in mid-November, was created by Gregory Frank and Jeff Meshel, businessmen who have both been divorced. I caught up with Gregory Frank to find out what DivorceForce can do for you.
Wendy Paris: Why did you decide to launch a divorce website?
Gregory Frank: We’d been holding live events in New York for people facing divorce, bringing together attorneys, former judges, accountants and child therapists. We saw that there was a lot of power when people going through like experiences had the ability to talk to each other. We realized that having an online presence would help.
WP: How does DivorceForce work?
GF: The site allows you to find others going through relevant circumstances. Say you’re about to appear before a judge. You can seek out others appearing before the same judge and find out what their experience has been. Stay-at-home moms can meet other stay-at-home moms. Fathers who are living out of the house can meet others with the same schedule.
WP: Meeting others in similar circumstances sounds helpful. What else does the site do?
GF: We have a shared parenting calendar where parents can enter their visitation schedule, holiday schedule and details about play dates. It avoids a lot of the back-and-forth between parents, and it really keeps people structured. Then there are the lawyer reviews. We have 16 questions, and then we attach a star rating. Questions include: “Do you feel your lawyer knows your case intimately?” Or, “How well does the judge respect the lawyer?” Or “Does your lawyer give you sound advice?”
WP: These questions sound like your site assumes that every divorce will be fought out in court. In my book, I write about how the introduction of no-fault divorce allowed for the development of cooperative forms of un-marrying, such as mediation and collaborative law—styles that let individuals make their own decisions without ever throwing their "case" at the court. I think it's critical to try to keep your divorce out of court, as do many family law reformers. Does your site have a similar point of view?
GF: Ours is really a neutral site. The number one priority is that we’re positive and uplifting, whether you’re looking for advice or want to offer it. But there are many circumstances where you can’t avoid litigating. We’re in New York, and you definitely don’t want to be in the matrimonial legal system here, but when someone is forced into the position where they need to be properly represented, there is no better place to find a review than from someone who has been through it.
WP: Thank you. Good luck!
Wendy Paris is the author of Splitopia: Dispatches from Today's Good Divorce and How to Part Well (Simon & Schuster/Atria, 2016). Splitopia and her work on divorce have been covered by The New York Times, Real Simple, The Washington Post, The New York Post, The Globe & Mail, Psychology Today, The Houston Chronicle, Salon.com, Parents.com, Family Law Quarterly, PsychCentral.com and radio and TV shows nationwide. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and is ann advocated for family law reform. She is divorced, and lives in Santa Monica, California, a few blocks from her former husband, David Callahan, with whom she has a warm co-parenting relationship.