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HBO’s Divorce Ep. 3, Counseling; Commentary by FK

HBO Divorce Series: Issues and Commentary—Episode 3

In episode three, Robert and Frances are exploring whether there is any chance of saving their marriage; then, after deciding there is not (as the title of the show foreshadows), they begin to talk about separating and how to go about working through a divorce.

Through much of the episode, Robert and Frances are seen talking about Frances’ infidelity and Robert’s “emotional affair” during marriage counseling with a therapist who, for all intents and purposes, seems to be more of a casual observer than an engaged counselor. As a result of disclosures each one makes during counseling, Robert becomes appalled at the extent of Frances’ relationship with her paramour, and Frances learns that her insecurities about Robert’s close friendship with a female high school classmate—who seemed to want a sexual relationship that Robert briefly considered but spurns—were justified. After a couple of antagonistic counseling sessions and while awaiting a follow up appointment with the therapist, Robert and Frances jointly conclude that counseling will not help them reconcile and they abruptly advise the therapist’s receptionist that “they’re done” and walk out.

In one scene, we see the couple’s daughter bathing the family dog in the hopes of curing the allergic reaction that Robert supposedly has to the dog and was the excuse Robert and Frances gave the daughter to explain why they were no longer sleeping together (apparently, the dog was used to sleeping with its owners). This is clearly an example of what is often a child’s effort to do whatever he/she can to help save the parents’ marriage. One would hope that at some point soon—now that there is a realization that the marriage is irretrievably broken—Robert and Frances will sit down with their children and in a sensitive, non-partisan manner inform them that their parents will be separating.

During a final conversation before the separation, Robert and Frances briefly address how they are going to move ahead with getting divorced. Robert blithely tells Frances that he will contact his lawyer and Frances wonders aloud whether they can work on the divorce without involving lawyers. This is, of course, a critical question. At this juncture, each of them should consult with an attorney at least to get a feel for what’s ahead and how best to work through the issues that need to be resolved to finalize a divorce. Given what appear to be the issues in Robert and Frances’ divorce—custody, child support, a disposition of the family home, and looking at Robert’s construction business as a marital asset—this is clearly a case where lawyers will be helpful, if not critical, to accomplishing a proper and fair outcome. Lawyers will also be able to help direct Robert and Frances to selecting the best mechanism for working toward a resolution of the divorce; the options being litigation, negotiation, mediation and collaboration. Assuming that in a future episode Robert and Frances will have selected one of those options, we’ll put off addressing the differences among them for another post.

It seems that at some point off camera, Robert and Frances have agreed that Robert will move out, insofar as he briefly mentions something to Frances about having to find an apartment. The viewers have not been privy to how that agreement was reached. Maybe it was just assumed that Robert would be the one to move out. Either way, this seems like a real change of heart on behalf of Robert, who, when he first learned of Frances’ infidelity, tried to keep Frances out of the house. The question of how to initiate a separation and under what circumstances can create a lot of angst, discord and strategizing. Who stays in the house and where the kids will be spending most of their time post-separation can have a significant impact on the final outcome of a divorce. Often, these decisions are made spontaneously and without much thought. Other times, they demand painstaking negotiation, often with the help of lawyers or a mediator. This is a crucial time in the divorce process and should be carefully considered before making initial arrangements about the family’s residential situation.

Review commentary By Mollie G. Caplis.

Episode 03: Counseling
Original Air Date: October 23, 2016








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– Fred Kobb is a litigator at heart.  He first joined Wright, Constable & Skeen over 25 years ago to defend the firm’s railroad clients in serious personal injury cases.  His practice quickly expanded into the family law area, where he applied his negotiation and litigation skills to zealously advocate on behalf of individuals whose families were undergoing a life-changing event.    Read more >>