A fresh perspective on divorce, spousal support, child support, parenting after separation and everything family law

Family Law: book reviewed

LOTS has been written about divorcing, breaking up, recovering and moving on.

"But where does Liz Lemon go when she's out on the town? The Barnes and Noble bathroom!" ~ Liz Lemon

I often browse the divorce books in Chapters, with a Starbucks, after my Sunday run, and before I head into the office.  Not all that many (read: not any) people are browsing in the divorce/relationship section in Chapters on Sunday mornings so I usually have it to myself (I feel somewhat like Liz Lemon).

It all started a few years ago when I was living in Edmonton.  The Starbucks in Chapters on Whyte Ave. was my favorite place to stop on my way to work at McGlashan and Mackinnon.

One cold Sunday I stopped in Chapters on my walk to work to warm up (from what I remember it was -30 out…it was probably only -7 but it seemed VERY cold).  I was stalling and delaying getting back into the cold and I stopped to pick up the book Divorce Sucks by Mary Jo Eustace (who I remember from What’s for Dinner with Ken Kostick).  It was pretty funny – I read most of the book that Sunday.

More recently (I now go to the Douglas Street store in Victoria) I noticed a book worth mentioning: The Breakup Bible: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Healing from a Breakup or Divorce by Rachel A. Sussman.  A summary can be found in the February 2012 issue of Chatelaine.

I enjoyed the Breakup Bible – it had some good strategies for coping with the breakdown of a relationship and practical information.

One strategy the book mentions is journaling (at page 11):

Journaling is a useful tool following a breakup or a divorce and I strongly recommend it.  It allows you to track yourself and your relationship in a very meaningful way.  It will help create clarity and personal development.  It will improve your self-awareness and self-knowledge.  It will also reduce stress and obsessive thinking; the simple act of writing something down clears your head and reduces the tendency to fixate.

In regard to strategies for dealing with breakup and for moving on, it is important to think of the legal repercussions that some activities could have.

For example, a caution I have about journaling as a strategy for stress management is that if your journal entries are relevant and material to the matters in dispute in your family law proceeding (or any litigation for that matter), they could be used in court (and your former spouse could seek an order compelling you to produce your diary for use in court – even if you do not want to produce it).

In one case, the court considered entries in the diaries of both a husband and a wife.  When evaluating the content of the diaries for the purposes of the litigation, the court stated:

In my opinion diaries can be helpful tools if a person wishes to record the events of the day or week, and their feelings about those events, both positive and negative.  I accept that it can be therapeutic for a person to be recording their feelings about something for the purpose of sorting out those feelings and then putting them aside to move on, especially if these feelings are a source of frustration or anger or depression.

However, in my view, there is a fine line between using a diary to record feelings, both good and bad, for therapeutic reasons, and using a diary to record negative feelings as a method of dwelling on those feelings.  There is nothing therapeutic about using a diary to constantly lash out at your former spouse.

This is how I read the mother’s diary.  It contains an abundance of negative comments about her ex-husband.  It is completely unreliable as a record of current events and as a record of true statements that the children have made to her about their father.  It is not even chronological.  It appears to me that the mother probably sets aside a certain amount of time per day so that she can record in her diary all of the negative things that she can possibly say about her ex-husband, even if these negative comments are about incidents that happened months earlier.

Even where the diary may record actual comments of the children, I doubt if they are exact comments as opposed to the mother’s interpretation put on their comments.  Sometimes it is difficult to even tell if the children have made the comments or if they are the mother’s own comments of her attitude toward her ex-husband.

The diary indicates to me that the mother is obsessed with damning her ex-husband as much as possible, either because of the attitude she perceives he is showing towards her, or because this somehow makes her feel better about herself.

If you are going to journal, think about what you are writing and exercise some discretion before putting all of your thoughts to paper.

NOTE – the Breakup Bible focuses on women getting over relationships.  If you are looking for a book aimed at both women and men getting over breakups I would recommend Getting Past your Breakup by Susan J. Elliot.