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Paris for lovers and ex-lovers: the idea of a 'good divorce'

"Paris is for lovers," goes the famous saying. It's a fitting phrase, since the city of Paris was named after a lover named Paris: the Trojan hero who carried off Helen of Troy - precipitating the long-running conflict known as the Trojan War.

Today, another person named Paris, namely U.S. journalist Wendy Paris, is at the forefront of very different cultural waves. She has written a book to popularize the possibility of a "good divorce."

What is such a divorce and how realistic is it to achieve?

The traditional model

In 1989, Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner made a move about a couple going through a bitter divorce. It was called "The War of the Roses" and featured frequent fighting, often of an over-the-top nature.

A lot has changed since then. To be sure, traditional litigation is still needed in appropriate cases. If your ex is trying to take advantage of you, it's important to get strong advocacy from a skilled divorce attorney.

Under this adversarial model, a court will ultimately decide the terms of your divorce. It's up to your attorney to protect your interests while that happens.

Alternative approaches

In recent years, however, there has been more and more recognition of the positive role that alternative methods can play in helping the parties end their marriages in ways that minimize conflict.

These methods take the form of specific process such as mediation and collaborative divorce. But they also reflect a change in mindset, seeking to transcend the acrimonious for the amicable - often for the sake of the kids.

In a good divorce, then, couples can end their marriages and raise children together without going to war with each other. They can be allies in that effort and maybe even friends.

Is Splitopia a utopia?

Wendy Paris has surveyed these changes in divorce options in a recent book. It is called "Splitopia: Dispatches from Today's Good Divorce and How to Part Well."

In the world depicted in this book, ex-couples live near each other so that children can go back and forth easily. The whole family may meet for weekly dinners or go on vacations together, despite the divorce.

Paris isn't merely making this up. Such things really are going on. And indeed Paris is living them herself, having discovered to her pleasant surprise that the ex whom she separated from with such relief actually made a very good coparent.

But is this idea of an amicable divorce feasible for your particular situation?

Of course a lot depends on your ex's willingness to be cooperative. And another key factor is your willingness to grieve. In order to forge a new relationship with your ex, you have to give up the old one - the one based on your being lovers.

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