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Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr. Blog

Friday, December 21, 2018

Splitting Up Together: Good TV, Bad Advice

Have you watched the new comedy Splitting Up Together? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. As someone who practices family law, I find the show both hilarious and horrifying.

According to the official ABC synopsis, the show tells “the story of Lena (Jenna Fischer, The Office) and Martin (Oliver Hudson, Scream Queens), whose marriage is reignited by their divorce. Lena and Martin were once madly in love. But, like many marriages, time and circumstance eventually took their toll. Lena, the perfectionist, fell into the role of caretaker for everyone, including Martin. Martin felt he could never do anything right and gave up making the effort. This created a romantic rift between them. Finding themselves in a platonic marriage and acting more like a pair of camp counselors wrangling their kids than a couple hopelessly in love, they decide that everyone's lives would be better served if they got a divorce. Still wanting the best for their three kids and facing a daunting real estate market, the couple decided not to sell their house and to "Bird Nest" instead. One parent will live in the house as the "on-duty" parent taking care of the kids, while the "off-duty" parent will live in the detached garage, doing whatever he or she pleases. They will switch off every other week.”

While this arrangement makes for good sitcom fodder, it is not something I would encourage anyone to try out in the real world. There is no such thing as being halfway married, but still dating other people, or turning your parenting responsibilities on and off at the flip of a switch. Living your life this way would be a recipe for disaster.

It would almost certainly make your pending divorce messier than if you had a clean break-up and set up separate homes. Everyone needs their space, and that is especially true of divorcing couples. Nobody wants to see their ex start dating, or worse, catch them mid-walk-of-shame. Living like this will only breed resentment and make an easy divorce unlikely.

Furthermore, successful co-parenting does not require exes to live under one roof. But it does require both parents to put the welfare of their kids first. In the show, each parent gets one week living in the house and taking care of the children, and one week living in the garage apartment by themselves. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a Pennsylvania judge that thought this arrangement was in the best interests of the children. It is chaotic and could lead to the children feeling like they are less important than the parent who is on their “off duty” week.

A non-traditional living arrangement may be right for you and your family, but please don’t think that the arrangement in Splitting Up Together is something you should try. If you do want to do something other than getting a traditional divorce, please talk to an experienced family law attorney and get some advice on how to protect your rights and your children’s well-being.

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