Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rant #318: Splitsville

I read that the Tiger Woods divorce has been finalized. He and his now former wife and the mother of his children, Elin Nordegren, have agreed on everything from money to parenting.

That is good for the children, and now the two principles can move on with their lives.

And once again, the news reports I read use the word "amicable" to describe the parting of golf's most famous figure and a former nanny.

The dictionary I have says that "amicable" means "friendly, peaceable" and is an adjective that can be used, as it seems to always be used in Hollywood, with the word "divorce." So "amicable divorce" has evolved in our lexicon of phrases ... phrases that don't mean anything.

So how can a divorce be "amicable"?

It can't be. There is no such thing.

Based on my own experience, even if you want it to be nice, there is no such thing as an amicable divorce. Even if you are civil on both sides, how can a divorce be amicable? You've parted ways over something--in this case, Woods' infidelity--so how can the parting be friendly? There has to be some animosity, and if you want to believe the news reports from some months ago, Nordegren was not only devastated by her husband's meanderings, she was downright livid about his affairs.

The two parents can be amicable about their children, but let's face it, in this case, because of Woods' profession, how much will he actually see his kids, and more importantly, be parents to them? Probably not much.

Nordegren will pretty much be the sole parent here, with the kids seeing their father on occasion.

Even in real world divorces, even with joint custody, how much does the non-physical-custodial parent see his children?

In my case, even though I had joint custody, my rights as a parent were constantly abridged. I know that as a child gets older, they need to interact with their parents less and less, but in my case, it got to the ridiculous stage, where I couldn't even go to a parent/teacher meeting without having to go through red tape as thick as tar.

I did speak to her on the phone, but let's face it, that isn't the same as seeing your child in person.

I was shut out of a lot of things that I shouldn't have been shut out of due to the circumstances.

And you can run to court to complain, as I did, but it doesn't change the situation. Judges don't care about anything other than moving things along, and in my case, even though my daughter had an advocate appointed by the judge, I really don't think the judge--or the system--cared too much about our situation.

I remember one instance where the judge--at this point, a judge in the lowly Family Court--told me (I was at this point acting as my own attorney) during a hearing that he didn't believe in joint custody. I had joint custody, and was there to try to get the judge to enforce these terms that both I and my ex-wife had agreed upon, but which were constantly ignored by my ex. My joint custody was put in place by the higher Supreme Court, and I told the judge this--and he threatened to put me in handcuffs and throw me in jail.

That is how much the court cared about this situation.

In my case, what changed the situation was that my daughter learned to drive, and could come over to see me whenever she wanted, not being bound by the constraints put on visitation by the court.

Now, my daughter is an adult, a college graduate, and she lives 300 miles away from me. I try to speak to her once a week on the phone, and I guess that is all I can hope for now.

But an "amicable" divorce simply does not exist in this society, whether you are talking about a high-profile divorce like Woods, or like Alec Baldwin, or many other celebrities, or just average Joes like myself.

And the possibility of an "amicable" divorce will not exist until the laws change and become more flexible in some places and more stringent in others, which will make the whole situation fairer for both parents, and the children they are both supposedly raising.

By the way, New York State finally has "no-fault" divorce, where parents don't have to give a specific reason for their wanting to part ways. This is a good step in the right direction.

So, for those of you who are fortunate that you never have to worry about this nonsense, whenever you read the word "amicable" in terms of divorce, don't believe it, not for one minute.

That's what celebrities want you to believe, but there is no such thing, no such thing at all.

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