HBO’s Divorce: Episode 6 – From Mollie’s Perspective
By Mollie Caplis
No matter one’s religious affiliation, the holiday season is stressful. As parents, we are busy entertaining kids being home from school and also the tenuous balancing act of impressing the meaningfulness of a religious holiday versus the joy of children receiving piles and piles of presents. On top of that, there is family time. Ahh yes, getting together with the grandparents, the in-laws, the out-of-town family members… By the time the New Year rolls around, we are inevitably, dare I say, excited to get back to the daily grind of work and school!
I thoroughly enjoyed the realness of Episode 6 of HBO’s Divorce. The timing was perfect as I just watched it last week, during my family’s Winter Break. While we may have previously observed Frances and Robert DuFresne lawyer up with colorful caricatures of lawyers, Episode 6 shows the working mechanics of two parents trying to co-parent, i.e., trying to figure stuff out on their own. Not long term decisions, like how to divide the house and the retirement, but the more short term, immediate ones, like how to share Christmas break. While Frances may have been ready to negotiate with Robert and devise a schedule armed with her paper calendar, Robert was simply not ready to contemplate not having the kids on Christmas. And Frances was really prepared to not have the kids with her at her parents’ house on Christmas. While the outcome may have been an unrealistic (but made for TV) one, it was promising to observe the DuFresnes begin to work out custody and access issues on their own. In the absence of Robert’s anger, Frances’ resentment, and their respective attorneys fueling the emotional fires, we see that, indeed, Frances and Robert have the capacity as parents to communicate and to reach shared decisions affecting the children’s welfare. This factor is one of many that a court will consider in a case where a party seeks joint custody of minor children.
So away the DuFresnes go, off to stay with Frances’ parents, like they do every year! As a sidebar, I note that as family attorneys, we often refer clients to helpful resources, whether it be books or the help of professional counselors, on how and when to communicate the message of divorce to children. However, until watching Episode 6, I had never given much thought on the difficulty of telling one’s own parents about a separation and divorce. Aside from the challenges of communicating that message, this episode illustrates the importance of maintaining traditions (to the extent possible) and contact with family members, such as grandparents, for the best interests of the children.
In any event, my perspective as a family lawyer is that Robert and Frances sleeping in the same bed during the Christmas holiday was not a good idea. Aside from any confusion and/or false hopes of reconciliation it may have caused the kids, the reality is that sleeping in the same bed disrupts the one year separation period needed for an absolute divorce on the grounds of a twelve month separation. For that particular ground, Maryland law requires parties to live separate and apart without cohabitation for 12 months without interruption before filing for divorce. If the DuFresnes were seeking a divorce in Maryland, sleeping in the same bed, even without any hanky panky, would jeopardize the 12 month separation period needed to get divorced. As a result, they would need to restart the separation clock, so to speak, once they returned to their respective residences, to begin the 12 month separation period all over again.
Episode 06: Christmas
Original Air Date: November 13, 2016
– Mollie G. Caplis is an attorney at Wright, Constable & Skeen, LLP. Her practice focuses on family law issues, which include separation and divorce, custody (including third party custody disputes involving grandparents), child support, alimony, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, as well as domestic violence and adoptions. Ms. Caplis has also been collaboratively trained to handle family law disputes. She is a frequent speaker on domestic relations issues facing families in transition. Read more >>