If Cupid’s stupid, separate smart - a guide to sensible separation in the US

12 February 2024 | Applicable law: US | 6 minute read

This article was originally published in on February 9, 2024.

A guide to sensible separation and a dignified divorce.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, the dark and, for some “dry” days of January make way for champagne-enhanced February evenings; florists stock up on red roses, restaurants offer romantic menus for two, and jewelers rub their hands in anticipation; and breathy bachelors gallantly get down on one knee in expectation of an excited “Yes!” from the subject of their affection, as Feb. 14 is reported to be the most popular day of the year for engagements.

The last thing on the mind of any lover is that this fairy tale will ever end. Sadly though, some endings are more Brothers Grimm than Cinderella, and a Prince or Princess Charming can find the apple of their eye less to their taste as romance fades along with the long-stemmed roses, and a spouse’s thorns unexpectedly appear.  

Valentine’s Day is equally associated with breakups as it is engagements, as swooning, moon-eyed lovers giggle beside a silent, stony-faced couple who, in sharp contrast, wonder where their love has gone, decide not to face another Valentine’s Day in a relationship devoid of love and pull the plug on their partnership.

But for the sake of your reputation, peace of mind, and finances, if you want to cast your companion to the curb, the key is to uncouple consciously with care and divorce with dignity.

Private, but in the public eye

For those living in the goldfish bowl of celebrity, a high-profile split or divorce can be irresistible to the media, resulting in acres of press coverage as every twist and turn of the break-up is a very public twist and turn of the blade not only in your heart but also in your reputation.  We, the people (or portions of it), love nothing better than to watch as our favorite celebs find love and happiness and settle down - nothing better, that is, than seeing those relationships fall apart. There is an unattractive but undeniable delight in knowing that those stars of the silver screen, stage or stadium have feet of clay and face similar relationship trials and tribulations as do we mere mortals. So, if the unraveling of a relationship, with click-bait headlines and deliciously desperate photos, is as enticing as images of the once happy couple walking down a celebrity-strewn wedding aisle, those in the public eye with a special attraction to, and access to, the media have particular reasons to divorce in a dignified manner and to end a partnership on an amicable note.

But let’s not forget that even those of us in the bleachers of the celebrity stage—corporate CEOs, heads of families, professionals, entrepreneurs, and the general public—can face unwanted publicity from an acrimonious split, including on the small screen of social media. Chit-chat about your separation or divorce over the garden fence, at dinner parties or at the school gate can give rise to more pain than necessary over a breakup, with individuals feeling as though they are failing and flailing before the unwanted, and at times unforgiving, gaze of third parties. Worse still, if you are the perceived “bad actor” in the split, your friendships (like a celebrity fanbase) may wane, your currency with colleagues (like celebrity endorsements) may dwindle, and you, like they, may face societal “cancellation.”

The preferred route – although it may seem anathema as you experience feelings of betrayal, anger, frustration and fear – is to take the high road by seeking to reach agreements, whether for the sake of the children, each other or out of respect for the love you once shared. Not laying blame but separating amicably enables both parties to exit the marriage with some of the relationship, and all or most of their reputation, intact.

Child’s play

Civility, rather than acrimony, will inevitably benefit any children of the relationship. Unless it is obvious to them that they are escaping an otherwise hostile, toxic family situation, and unless they have been victims themselves within the family fold, few children want their parents to part ways.

Parents who divorce in a dignified manner will do their job as a parent, teaching their children by example in a sometimes-hostile world that aggression and anger are not the only, and rarely the best, ways to settle a dispute. While a breakup is inevitably personal to the parties, putting aside differences and putting the children first can help them exit this difficult and disruptive time as unharmed as possible.

Husband and wife are understandably concerned with their own feelings and fears over the breakdown of the relationship – but where they are also father and mother, they should consider and attempt to alleviate the impact and stress of the divorce on their children’s mental and physical well-being.

Fair play

The phrase “you attract more bees with honey than vinegar” can be applied to divorces and breakups. A poisonous approach will likely disincentivize your partner from engaging in the process sensibly and reasonably, let alone with generosity. On the other hand, being generous of spirit yourself is much more likely to result in a shorter time between the start and finish of your divorce case. It is expected to make the ride much smoother. And it may also lead to a fairer and more favorable outcome.

While the last thing on your mind during separation or divorce may be a long-term friendship with your soon-to-be ex, it may be dangerous or foolhardy to burn one’s bridges. Where children, other family members, or mutual friends are also at play, continuing to be courteous may allow for a different but satisfying future relationship with your former partner to materialize, such that all of the time and effort invested in your former relationship and marriage is not wasted.

Let’s get legal

When uncoupling from a long-term or entangled partnership, you may face issues including child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, the division of property and finances. Those issues can be legally complex as well as personally stressful. Dealing with them with a cool head and a calm heart will assist your divorce attorney in navigating you through this challenging period in your life.

Being civil to your spouse and allowing your attorney to do the same does not mean that you are weak. You can be smart without engaging in sharp practices. Approaching divorce with aggression can unnecessarily entrench parties in positions that are needlessly far apart or have no basis in the law, which will make resolution of the case a more complex, lengthy and costly process.

Your divorce attorney will be emotionally intelligent and experienced in the nuances of the legal issues you face. He or she will understand and accommodate your inevitable and valid human emotions and be better able to navigate you swiftly and successfully through the process if you (and hopefully your partner) refuse to engage in online accusations or public grandstanding, if you both avoid unnecessary and unjustified threats, as you consciously uncouple from your former relationship.

When it comes to matters of the heart, and no matter how savvy we are in other respects, it seems that Cupid can play stupid with all of us all.  “Stop picking on me,” went the refrain in the 1958 song Stupid Cupid. But if we focus on our futures, and refrain from picking on our partners should we decide to go our separate ways, we can indeed, part smart.

This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.


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