Grey Divorce: Change at a Later Age

Michele was recently quoted in an article about "grey divorce" in the April/May issue of West Michigan Woman magazine.  You can read the article here

If you or someone you know is contemplating divorce later in life, there are some unique issues to consider. Contact us for a free consultation and find out how we can help you.


Is Divorce Always A Negative?

I recently came across  a blog post entitled "I'm 30, Divorced and Happy".  The author of the post was nearing her 30th birthday and reflecting on the successes and adventures she experienced in her 20's. One of those sucesses was marriage...followed 18 months later with divorce.  As she put it, "Where most people may look at this as a stain on my otherwise successful decade, I squarely place it among one of my proudest accomplishments."


Many may read this and think, "How can divorce be considered an accomplishment?"  For this author, she described her marriage as ongoing incompatibility and disappearing chemistry,  mutually agreed upon time spent apart and living separate lives.  Through it all, she states that she and her husband maintained a high level of love and respect for one another. 

So what was the accomplishment here?  To quote the author, "But, there we were, not even 30 and unhappily married. And of course, in this particular situation you…? Have a baby? Engage in multiple affairs? Drag each other under until you can’t breathe?  Or, you admit you were wrong. You push back the fear of judgement from your family and your co-workers and everyone who JUST attended your wedding. . . You feel ashamed and embarrassed and scared, because you’re allowed to, even though you know you’ve made the right decision."

Marriage isn't easy and is not something to be entered into lightly.  Divorce isn't the answer for everyone, a "one size fits all" solution to the ebbs and flows of a committed relationship.  However, it is important to remember that sometimes, divorce IS the answer - for the greater wellbeing of yourself, your spouse or even your children.  "Because there is no shame in living the life you want. In loving your husband enough to not want to make him compromise. In loving yourself more than your marriage."  

So why am I writing this blog post?  To let you know that divorce doesn't have to be a black mark on your otherwise beautiful record of life's adventures.  There are ways to end your marriage with as much love and respect as that which you entered into it.  I can honestly say that one of the best parts of doing this job is helping an individual make peace with one chapter in their lives while assisting them in turning the page to the next.  In watching clients grow and change and move forward.  Helping them see that there is more life on the horizon.  Is divorce always difficult?  Yes, I believe it is. But it doesn't always have to be negative.  


Community Blog Series: CASA of Kent County

I feel very strongly about the idea of community – that personal growth comes from giving back to the world around you.  I spend a lot of time serving on boards and committees in the area and while I am proud of what I am able to give to these organizations, what I get back from doing this work is tenfold.  I’d like to spend the next few weeks highlighting some of these groups and the work that they do.  I know this is a bit different than the legal information I generally use this blog to share, but I truly believe it is no less important.  I hope learning about some of these groups inspires you to go out and volunteer for a mission you’re passionate about. 





CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates for children.  I could try to explain what CASA does in my own words, but their website says it perfectly.  “CASA of Kent County is a non-profit organization that looks out for the best interests of abused and neglected children as they make their way through the family court system.  We do this by training volunteers to investigate, facilitate, advocate and monitor services for children who are wards of the court due to abuse and/or neglect. CASA volunteers present first-hand information and observations to help judges make the very best decisions about children’s futures. No other organization does what we do in Kent County—so when you support CASA, you are providing what may be the only opportunity for these children to overcome their family traumas and build a new life.”

I first heard about CASA when I started practicing family law in Kent County.  Over the years, I became interested in learning more about their mission and how they help children who find themselves in the system.  In early 2015, I met with the President of their Board of Directors and asked what I could do to help and that decision has been one of the most rewarding of my career.

Not only does CASA train members of the community to become advocates, but they also spend a significant amount of time each year planning events for the children that they can enjoy with each other.  My first CASA Thanksgiving will forever be a turning point for me - the night where I realized just how thankful I am for everything that I have.  Thanksgiving dinner is an event CASA puts on for children in family groups who are split up from each other.  In some circumstances, these siblings rarely have the opportunity to see or spend time with each other since they were removed from their home.   The joy I witnessed as these kids came together to share a holiday meal with their brothers and sisters honestly brought me to tears and it was in that moment that I realized what CASA can do for some of these kids who may otherwise feel left behind.

It costs CASA of Kent County $1,250 per year to advocate for one abused or neglected child.  CASA relies on its partnerships and volunteers to help make this possible.  While financial donations are always welcome, there are so many ways that someone can contribute to CASA’s mission.  If you have time to give, training as an advocate or volunteering on one of their committees is always a great place to start.  If instead you’re looking to contribute from your wallet, monetary donations, as well as clothing, shoes, school supplies, Christmas gifts, toys and activities can always be of use.

I’m going to end this post with one of the Success Stories posted on CASA’s website and urge everyone reading this to learn more about this organization and what you can do for them. 

The six Randall siblings, young children who were removed from their mother’s care due to abuse and neglect, were eventually placed with the Morgan family. The Morgan’s home included two adult biological children and a total of 13 children adopted from foster care. The Morgans’ local community had named them “Adoptive Parents of the Year” for their willingness to provide a home for foster children. It would be years before a teacher learned that the adopted children were being sexually abused, tortured, and starved while in the Morgans’ care.

The Randall children were assigned their CASA, Kate, during the month-long jury trial that ensued against the Morgans, who eventually relinquished their rights to the adopted children. The four youngest siblings were sent to different adoptive homes, severing their ties to one another. Marcus and Shawna, ages 10 and 8, were sent to residential care.

Kate would spend the next decade of her life and then some advocating for the needs of Marcus and Shawna, far outlasting her assignment as their official CASA. Kate would ensure that the Randall siblings saw one another, giving them some measure of consistency in their young lives. Kate took Shawna shopping for her prom dress and found her a voice coach when Shawna shared her dream of becoming a singer. She advocated for Marcus to be treated as a child, not a criminal, while he was in residential care. It was Kate who provided comfort and patience to Shawna and Marcus when they asked her why no one would adopt them when all they ever wished for was a loving family.

When Kate took this assignment, she never imagined the Randall children would become such an important part of her life. Kate says her only regret is that CASA wasn’t assigned to these children long before they ever reached the Morgans’ home.



Infidelity and Divorce: Is There A "Good" Way?

“The best predictor of future behavior is relevant past behavior.”


After it came out last week that former congressman and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner had once again been caught having an inappropriate relationship with another woman, his wife, Huma Abedin, announced that she was separating from him.  This is not the first time that Abedin, a top aide for Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, had to face the news of her husband’s infidelity.  In 2011, Weiner resigned from Congress after he mistakenly posted a lewd photo of himself on his social media, intending for it to be sent as a direct message to a woman he met online.  Not long after, he admitted to engaging in several of these types of affairs over the years.  Despite that, the couple stayed together until news of Weiner’s newest tryst became public, this time including a photo sent to another woman while the couple’s young son lay next to him sleeping.


Infidelity in any form is never easy.  The damage caused to a partner after learning the person they trusted over all others has deceived them can be devastating.  There have been several studies conducted trying to get to the root of why people cheat.  Money troubles, long working hours and mere opportunity have all been cited as reasons that a partner may stray from a relationship. 


When infidelity ends a marriage, the potential for contentious litigation can run high.  The hurt is deep, the emotions are raw and the feeling of betrayal can create a cloud over the process, threatening to rain down at any given moment.  While attorneys are adept at handling the legal issues of the case, the emotional hurdles are best left to good mental health professionals who can help the parties work through their feelings and lead them on a path toward healing.  When children are involved, such as in the Weiner/Abedin matter, the need for emotional healing becomes that much greater.  Husbands and wives may split, but they will always be the child’s parents.  As such, it is imperative that they have as good of a co-parenting relationship as possible.


The Collaborative Divorce model is a commitment for parties to resolve their dispute outside of court.  In addition to legal professionals, a key player in the collaborative team is the divorce coach, a trained mental health professional.  While the divorce coach does not provide the parties with therapy, he or she does work with the couple on navigating any emotional aspects of the divorce as well as overcoming some of the emotional roadblocks that sometimes hinder progress in the divorce case. 


When a person feels betrayed, a natural instinct is to lash out at the one who hurt them.  In a divorce case, it’s all too easy to get caught up in this cycle, ultimately costing the family far more emotional and financial damage in the long run.  While it may seem impossible to imagine working collaboratively with a cheating spouse, a good professional team can assist parties in all aspects of the situation, gently working through the matter until they get to the other side, dignity intact. 


No divorce is easy but one cloaked in infidelity can be more brutal than most.  Knowing that there are options available that take into account such a sensitive emotional issue can be the first step in healing and moving toward your new life.  To learn more about Collaborative Divorce, contact us for a free consultation.

Collaborative Divorce: What Is It?

"When I became a family law attorney, my goal was to always remain family-focused.  I've often told clients in contentious divorce cases that they could never "hate" someone so much unless they once loved them deeply.  I encourage them to try to remember that love - that connection - they once had with their spouse, in order to end their marriage with as much of the same dignity as they had beginning it."

To read my newest article on collaborative divorce, check out the February/March print edition of West Michigan Woman magazine or read the digital version here.