mom's guide to a good divorce

Book Review: Mom’s Guide to a Good Divorce

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Having written a Good Dad’s Guide to Divorce, I was intrigued by Sarah Armstrong’s book title. I’d commented on a post she’d written on the Divorced Moms website a few weeks ago. When her publicist offered to send me the book, I was both enthusiastic and curious, what information were the moms getting that I needed to understand? Could a dad, reading a mom’s guide, get some insider information?

Practical Information About Divorce with Kids

MGGD is chock full of simple practical advice. There’s not a lot of storytelling, though I will get to that in just a second. What is here are tons of things you wouldn’t think about until you were getting a divorce. This is a good planning book if divorce is looking like a path you’re heading toward.

Ideas on parenting plans, how to make your kids more comfortable, getting therapy if you’re having emotional trauma, and so on. MGGD has plenty of details on the process of divorce. The book is split into 3/4 sections that group the advice by where along the process you find yourself needing advice.

Preparing for the Change is the getting ready section. Things like mindset and approach are important concepts to think about. Hidden in there are other ideas like “hiring a private investigator” and “where do you want to live?” These tidbits of information are given in a plane voice with not much personal reflection. At times the book comes across as a checklist. Do this, then do this, and you might want to think about this. While it’s not the kind of writing that draws me in, I understand this information is critical to moving intelligently into a divorce.

During the Change is mostly about schedules and holidays, custody, child support and hidden yet critical tasks like “changing the name on the bank accounts.” This one is the meatiest, and also the most clinical. The only place where this book fails to illuminate possible divorce conflicts is in scheduling. Here we get another glimpse of Sarah’s own divorce, which unfortunately becomes this book’s blindside.

Here’s what she says about her own situation. It’s interesting that this data is in the intro and has no connection to this section in the book.

“I was in the fortunate situation where I made a comparable amount of to my husband. From a financial standpoint, I entered into the post-divorce stage able to support myself, my daughter and the lifestyle I wanted… which I realize is not necessarily the case for many women going through this process.”

And there it is. She’s right, it’s not the case for many women. And in the case where there’s going to be a custody and child support battle, Mrs. Armstrong offers little advice. It’s simply not part of her experience. I appreciate that. I also think it’s the big miss of this book.

Divorce is going to be about money and schedules. If money is easy, as it seems to have been for Ms. Armstrong, then all we’ve got to worry about are the details of the schedule. And if you can afford to live in the house you want to live in and are happy to share custody and 50/50 schedules with your ex-husband, you are in luck. The book goes into three scheduling scenarios of a 50/50 schedule. If the schedule is going to be different, like 85% of divorces are in my state of Texas, well, this book has little helpful guidance for you.

The last section is really two Post the Change for Your Children and Post the Change for You. This section is full of ideas for keeping conflict at a minimum and giving your kids the chance to thrive post “the change.” I’m thinking the stilted section headers would be better if it just said divorce, rather than “the change” but that’s a writerly nitpick.

I do believe this book can give you a lot of ideas both pre, during, and post the change. Ms. Armstrong is dutifully giving you the best advice she has assembled from her own idyllic personal story. I would’ve loved more personal details.

It’s About the Kids

In the end, the most impactful moment of the book, for me, was in the second opening section A Good Divorce. Mr. Armstrong’s daughter asks her about a magazine cover in a local CVS. “Is that a good divorce or a bad divorce?” And in a well-executed ninja move, she asks her daughter what the difference is. The words of her daughter should be enshrined in stone on family courthouses across America.

“A good divorce is when mommy and daddy are nice to each other and try to be friends… like you and daddy, and a bad divorce is when mommy and daddy fight and scream at each other.”

Let’s paraphrase her daughter’s words into the theme of the lovely book written by Sarah Armstrong.

A good divorce is when parents remain nice to each other
for the good of the children.

You can find MGGD on Amazon: The Mom’s Guide to a Good Divorce. It will be helpful to moms and dads looking to understand all the steps involved in divorcing (amicably) with kids.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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Reading List: What is Love (Redefining what we want in our lives and loves)

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