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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Is it really possible to be friends after divorce?

I’m a big fan of the Vicar of Dibley. Shame they’re not making any new ones now. Funny, gentle, inoffensive – bit like the impression I have of its writer and star Dawn French, though I have never met her.

Over the years, I have also liked a lot of what Lenny Henry has done – though I think perhaps he peaked too early with Tiswas in the late 1970s.

For years, these two modern-day pillars of British comedy were pillars of a modern-day family – married, apparently happy and quietly raising a family – so it was some shock when they announced a few months ago that they were to split after 25 years together.

Like all couples, they had their ups and downs. Lenny was reported in 1999 to have had an affair, but they had always seemed dignified in the face of adversity. However, it seemed finally to have got the better of them.

This week their ex-marriage was back in the paper when Dawn admitted that their split had been easy and they had moved from husband and wife to good friends with no animosity.

"I am amazed by us - there is no war, we have turned out to be the best of friends," she is reported to have said.

The proclamation has led some social commentators and media types to suggest she is talking rubbish and that that is impossible. The reasoning would be that if they get on that well, why did they split up?

But why not? Picking up on theme from last week that “divorce doesn’t have to be…”, it doesn’t have to be confrontational and nasty. Admittedly, that is by far the more common, but it doesn’t have to be. Looking for an amicable settlement can save money, time and heartache, and is better for any children involved.

It probably takes more effort though. So well done to Dawn and Lenny. Let’s hope they’re an inspiration to divorcing couples everywhere.

Andrew Woolley
The amicable Divorce Solicitor

Comments and response - Is it really possible to be friends after divorce?

My entire goal as a divorce adustment coach is to help individuals to do divorce different and have an amicable relationship with their ex. It is much more beneficial for everyone involved…less stressful, they avoid alienating friends and family, the children are better off, and they generally end up with more money in their pockets because there is less conflict for lawyers or mediators to resolve. This is easiest when the two people mutually agree upon the divorce and there are no unresolved emotional issues. Quite often, two people can find themselves moving in two different directions; they become different people and want different things out life. When they acknowledge that with one another, moving forward is easier. They are able to respect each other, be friendly with each other, even like each other, but be missing some key components to making a marriage successful. We all have close friends who we’d never dream of marrying! Even when it doesn’t end quite this smoothly, an amicable relationship is possible. It requires a high level of emotional maturity and mutual respect. Two parents who may not have mutually agreed on the divorce, but who are able to keep the children at the center of their decision making, can create an amicable relationship which is beneficial for the children. Sometimes, after the emotions have time to heal, friendships are definitely possible. ...

By Vicki DeLoach on Monday August 2, 2010

I begin to suspect that the word “respect” is the key to much of this. Of course, it takes two to make an amicable relationship and both need to take responsibility. Sadly sometimes just one person can create huge upset for all concerned. After all, you “cannot shake hands with a clenched fist”. We work hard to help our clients see this from the start and almost all of them succeed! I am proud to say that only a very few of our clients ever have to see the inside of a courtroom….

By Andrew Woolley on Monday August 2, 2010

I not only think it’s possible but I’ve seen it. With distance the issues that plagued the couple no longer exist in some cases. In other cases, the parties realized that they have grown beyond what the relationship was providing and their okay with that. Sometimes, it’s the time that has past that heals the wounds. It’s about accepting the other person for who they are, accepting ourself and growing. ...

By Theresa Hayes on Tuesday August 3, 2010

I believe a lot of it hangs around the word intention as well as respect.  As Vicki points out, we have many friends who we wouldn’t marry! There is the undeniable issue of being able to take responsibility for how we feel and how we want to feel.  Learning that someone else’s actions/words cannot ‘make’ us feel anything can be a long road, however once made, the ease with which you live your life is unforgettable! Hats off to Dawn and Lenny who obviously recognised that in order for both of them to be happy in themselves, they needed to separate as it wasn’t serving them….

By Jackie Walker on Tuesday August 3, 2010

I agree with many of Vicky’s comments on this issue. It really does depend on how a couple arrives at the decsision to divorce. It’s not always about adultery and unreasonable behaviour - sometimes it’s as simple as marriage is no longer the right thing for the relationship. In Dawn and Lenny’s case, I applaud them for refraining from playing out their separation in front of the media and hope that it inspires other divorcing couples to remain dignified and respectful during the process, for the benefit of all concerned….

By justinecoach on Tuesday August 3, 2010

It is both possible and advisable to divorce amicably. There is another point here, as well: taking responsibility as an individual for how you engage in your divorce proceedings. While divorce is a joint venture, it is highly likely that the two of you will have different emotional rhythms during the process. I have experienced this, and seen it over and over again, with clients. Attending and tending to your emotional journey, and allowing for your ex’s emotional journey eases the pain of the process.  It also helps you to move forward more swiftly and easily.

By Vena Ramphal on Tuesday August 3, 2010

I think it depends on your definition of “amicable”. A “friendly” divorce may quite justifiably be a tall order for some.  But we should strive for “peaceable” “civil” and “courteous” and with some “good will” in other situations we may ultimately achieve a “good humoured” and “harmonious” divorce….

By Kathryn McTaggart on Tuesday August 3, 2010

Well, well…divorce coaches all agree that if only the bitter couple could follow their adult advice about respect and journeys and rhythms they would be able to put their differences behind them and get along. Some couples will benefit from this, let’s face it female dominated, approach to problem resolution. Others end up even more frustrated, poorer and further apart than when they started. Sometimes the best answer is to hammer out an agreement as quickly as possible and just get on with each other’s lives, ideally dealing with the former partner as little as possible then and in the future. Fewer revenue opportunities for the coaches there though….

By Separationhell on Tuesday August 3, 2010

Um… separationhell, I’m assuming you’ve realised that Andrew Woolley (whose blog this is) is not female (nor female dominated I suspect….) Your cynicism about the motivation of coaches who work alongside divorce lawyers is disappointing -possibly borne out of a misconception about the work that coaches do. I think that all of the previous commenters have shown an awareness that divorcing “amicably” is a desired outcome, and one that is not going to be accessible to all couples. But that doesn’t mean we should stop striving for a better divorce experience…. does it?...

By justinecoach on Tuesday August 3, 2010

Not sure where Separationhell gets the idea that interest based negotiation methods are a female (dominated) approach to problem resolution.  But even if they are, they tend to work.  And if the best answer is sometimes to hammer out an agreement as quickly as possible - the traditional approach encouraged historically by the majority of family lawyers - it is only so in a small percentage of cases, most of which will be difficult to identify in advance.

And I don’t think children would want to hear of solutions that lead to their parents “dealing with the former partner as little as possible”

Dawn French & Lenny Henry should simply be admired for managing their divorce in such a respectful way when so many celebrities seem to prefer to sling mud.

Oh, and I’m not female, not a divorce coach and certainly don’t advocate divorce processes that generate the maximum revenue stream for my business….

By MediationNotWar on Tuesday August 3, 2010

Separationhell - seems to be misunderstanding that neither we lawyers, nor divorce coaches are out to antagonise what are already often fragile emotional situations.  Our “best” cases are those which can be resolved quickly, smoothly, and with the minimum of “baggage” getting in the way.  But as divorce often affects every single aspect of a person’s life, some support from a divorce coach or indeed counsellor seems to be be an ideal way of minimising the fall out.  And using them will inevitably reduce the lawyer’s costs charged!...

By Kate Butler on Tuesday August 3, 2010

I don’t suppose this will get through the moderation as I’m from another law firm BUT (1) mediation only works with those who want it (2) most mediators are rubbish, admittedly I accept a few are not (3) coaches are irrelevant and anybody can be a coach anyway (4) it takes 1 to make the whole thing a nasty mess so your comments are unfair on many spouses who have a nasty divorce due to the actions of the other spouse.  By the way Baroness Deech believes that mediation is unfair on women as they get bullied by the men and studies show this happens especially when the mediator is a woman…

By A Nonymous on Tuesday August 3, 2010

Are you lot having a debate or more interested in congratulating each other on how knowledgeable you are about the best way to coach people through separation? Divorce lawyers are a mixed bag but *tend* to be busy enough, charge enough and needed enough to seek solutions that don’t drag on. It’s the leech like coach industry that has an interest in hauling couples and their children through traumatic resolutions that troubles me. ...

By Separationhell on Tuesday August 3, 2010

I think I’m going to draw this to a close!  I do think there have been some valuable comments from all who replied to my Blog. In my opinion Court hearings, negotiated settlements and mediation are all things that should be in the armoury of all good family lawyers. It is naive of us to think that any one of them can cure all and I think it is arrogant to assume clients want what we might think they need. But I do know that coaching can help people in all these situations—but only if they want it. Trying to negotiate with, mediate with or coach someone who is opposed to it, is a very thankless task!...

By Andrew Woolley on Tuesday August 3, 2010

Andrew, I know you’ve closed this but I can’t let the comment that ^most mediators are rubbish^ to pass without replying.  Unlike lawyers, mediators have supervisors to oversee their work, so rubbish they are mostly not.  Perhaps A Nonymous doesn’t understand what motivates people in mediation, or the difference between a good and bad settlement.  And as for mediation being unfair on women, please show me the studies that show this to be the case….

By MediationNotWar on Wednesday August 4, 2010


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