Mar 2011 11

An entire box of Making Divorce Work copies arrives at Peace Talks!

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010).

Sometimes people wonder why I wrote a book. I probably should’ve written a sitcom, or maybe a memoire…’s some stories from my litigation days back in the 90’s in New Haven, Connecticut.

You pick up a few tidbits of wisdom that they don’t teach in law school when you are a divorce lawyer. Rest assured, the names have been changed to protect the innocent, and these cases all happened in a galaxy long ago and far away, back when I was practicing as a divorce litigator.

One of the first things you learn is that not everyone is very good at picking a spouse. It stands to reason that a successful marriage probably depends on picking a good mate. I had a client once who married a man who had been acquitted of murdering his wife with a poison spear made by attaching an Indian arrowhead to a broom handle with twine and covering it with curare.

“But he was acquitted!” she protested. Never mind that he made her teenage son call him “Mr. Daniel Loomis” even after they were married, and he beat her within an inch of her life. The lesson learned: homemade poison darts do not make for a happy marriage.

But sometimes marriages fail even when you’re a reasonable person, and you are careful about picking a mate. I originally practiced in New Haven, Connecticut, which has a very large Italian American population. As a result, you pick up some Italian words and incorporate them into your vocabulary. That helps build your credibility when you’re practicing in an ethnic area, and it also helps when you watch The Sopranos. The vocabulary word you’ll need for this story is agida, which is Italian for “heartburn”.

My boss’s cousin came into my office. She was a sweet Italian girl from the East Coast, which means she was wearing her hair in a style we affectionately referred to as a Hair Helmet—basically a wall of hair standing straight up from her head, in some sort of modified 90’s bouffant. She tells me tearfully, “my father he spend $20,000 on this wedding. I spend $20,000 of my own money. What do I get? Agida!” The lesson learned: sometimes, things just happen, despite the best laid plans of mice and men.

One of the keys to a successful divorce is how you break the news to your spouse. One night my client was leaning on the kitchen counter, shooting the breeze with his wife, and she said to him, “do you want chicken or fish tonight for dinner? I need to know what to take out of the freezer. Oh, and by the way, I’m having an affair with the next door neighbor, and so we’re going to get divorced.” Her nonchalance really threw him into a tailspin—if she could break that kind of news to him as easily as “chicken or fish”, what else did she have up her sleeve? He became convinced she was trying to kill him to expedite her love plans with the neighbor, and that she’d accomplish this by poisoning his food, and so he installed a deadbolt on his bedroom, bought himself a mini-fridge and a hotplate, and he didn’t leave his room until the mandatory waiting period to finalize the divorce expired.

Another client believed that she and her husband were very much in love, and that they loved their dog as much as each other. When the dog refused to eat, stopped going to the bathroom, and got the dry heaves, they took it to the vet in a panic. When the dog went under emergency surgery to remove a bowel obstruction, the vet pulled out a red lacy g-string. The dog was fine but the marriage was over—the g-string didn’t belong to the wife! The lesson learned: if you’re going to get divorced, treat it like the serious matter that it is, and your spouse should learn it from you, not the vet.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

Mar 2011 10

For an author, the day the very first copy of the finished book is a reallly exciting moment. There’s nothing like it in the world, and it’s one of those experiences that you think you know how you’ll feel when it happens but when it actually happens, your feelings are so much more intense than you’d imagined.

My first book was Your Divorce Advisor and it was published in 2001 by Simon and Schuster. I ended up writing it innocently enough—I went to the bookstore to buy a book that talked about the entire divorce process, from start to finish, from both a legal and psychological perspective, but I couldn’t find such a book.

So I started writing it. It started as an office handbook, but once I got about 125 pages into it, I began to think that maybe it could be a book.

Not sure if the emotional divorce is as important as the legal divorce? Consider this true story:

Sometimes, no matter how far it appears a marriage has broken down, there’s still hope for reconciliation. I was sitting in court one day, waiting for my case to be called, and listened to a man give testimony in support of his motion to vacate his divorce judgment on the grounds that he didn’t know that he was getting divorced. He testified that while his wife had filed divorce papers on him many times in the past, that they’d always reconciled. He’d received a copy of the most recent papers, but they’d continued to live together, eat dinner together, put their money in a joint bank account, and they even slept together.

I started to nod off, as all this testimony was taking awhile, but my head snapped to attention on cross examination when the wife’s lawyer, barely able to contain his indignation, blurted out, “yes, but while you were all lovey-dovey making hamburgers on the barbeque and watching TV holding hands, isn’t it true that your wife SHOT you? Didn’t you realize then that your marriage was OVER?” Sheepish, the man replied, “well, she’s got a hot temper all right, but I got better and a week later we went to Disney World and had a great time!” The lesson learned: it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

Legal problems? not so much…..!

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

Mar 2011 08

Co-author Diana Mercer discards drafts of the Making Divorce Work manuscript

Mar 2011 05

The manuscript for Making Divorce Work is finally done!

Mar 2011 04

How to negotiate a divorce settlement with your spouse

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