Divorce selfies, conscious uncoupling and the rise of the amicable divorce

Katrina Clarke | July 5, 2017 | CBC Life

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Bruce Willis and Demi Moore with their daughter (centre) and Willis’ wife, Emma Hemming (left). (Getty Images)

Corinne Krepel-Bernatt and her then-husband, Adam, were in their 40s, together for half their lives, parents to two young kids, when they realized they were great friends but not in love.

They split up in 2013, but that didn’t stop them from remaining friends or devoted parents – a hard-fought outcome she encourages all parents to work toward.

“I’m not going to say that it’s easy,” said Krepel-Bernatt. “I know that it is difficult but people have to put their children first. They have to put the childishness, the pettiness, revenge, jealousy, obsession with material things – it has to be pushed aside.”

The family still hangs out, now as a sixsome with the parents’ new partners in tow.

Amicable divorces like Krepel-Bernatt’s, while still not the norm, are becoming more common, according to family law lawyers, mediators and divorce coaches. They’ve seen a rise in the number of separated couples striving for and achieving amicable divorces over the past decade as couples increasingly opt for collaborative approaches to splitting, parents strive to put their kids first, and celebrities model “conscious uncoupling.”

Some ex-couples are so happy, they’re snapping selfies after signing divorce papers.

“Most people don’t want a divorce that’s going to be even more horrific than their separation,” said Shelina Sayani, a collaborative family law lawyer and mediator in Vancouver. “Most of them, no matter how hurt they are, will say they want to do this (amicably).”

Sayani said she thinks today’s separated couples are willing to take risks and are more open to learning through seeing a counsellor or parenting experts if it means avoiding a nasty divorce. She also believes people are motivated to strive for an amicable split because of friends’ divorce horror stories.

Sometimes, they’re also inspired by celebrity success stories.

“When Bruce Willis, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore had that whole blended family thing, there was a huge surge of people coming in (saying), ‘I want that. I want to be able to co-parent with my family after like this,’ ” said Sayani.

Russell Alexander, an Ontario collaborative family law lawyer and author of The Path to a Successful Divorce, said diverse legal options, including collaborative law and mediation, are helping couples split amicably and with lower costs.

Collaborative law, which involves two or more lawyers and sometimes other professionals working with exes to meet their interests and goals, can help the former couple come to mutually beneficial agreements and stay out of court, said Alexander, noting litigation can be an expensive, stressful and drawn-out experience.

But not everyone has the option of splitting with a smile.If one partner wants an amicable divorce but the other is abusive, hostile or vengeful, a happy divorce may be impossible to achieve – a fact the media often ignores, said Lynn Kaplan, a divorce doula and coach in Toronto.

“The media… has really, really been pushing and talking about the amicable divorce,” said Kaplan. “For the people that are having the very difficult divorce… but they want the amicable one, they almost feel shamed because they’re not being able to attain that.”People in that position should know the adversarial split is not their fault, focus on their own well being and not sink to the level of their former partner, she said.

As for Krepel-Bernatt, she’s proud that she and Adam never stepped into a courtroom, that they divorced without hostility and that they put their children first. Today, she calls him an “unbelievable father” and his now-fiancée their children’s “other mother.”

“It was tricky but we got there,” she said. “I’m proud of it, I am very proud.”

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About Katrina Clarke

Katrina Clarke is a Toronto- and Vancouver-based freelance reporter. Her work appears in the National Post, the Toronto Star, CBC Life and J-Source. Reach her at katrina.clarke24@gmail.com or on Twitter at @KatrinaAClarke.
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