Redefining “Family”: Divorce Lawyers Divorce But Stay Connected
Vanessa Hammer and Brendan Hammer are two divorce lawyers who fell in love and married. Both came from families who had struggled financially, which helped mold their shared values and goals. Vanessa came from a large Mexican-American family in Houston. Brendan was the only child of an Hispanic mother.
When Vanessa graduated from law school in 2006 she moved to Chicago where Brendan had one more year. They planned to move to Houston after his graduation. The early years were filled with hard work as they built their careers. They traveled, made friends and were happy.
First signs of trouble revolved around their families
For Vanessa: “I sacrificed to leave my family, and I made concessions in my career in Chicago because I thought we were going back to Texas.” For Brandon, it was the death of his mother, his father coming to live with them and the birth of their son—all in one year.
By 2013, when their son was nearly three, things began to change. Brandon became snappish and began drinking too much. Vanessa learned that he he’d had an affair. This was his reaction to the events in his life.
They spent a year in therapy exploring the roots of their divide
Family was important to Vanessa. She wanted to move home to Texas and wanted another child. He wanted neither.
Divorce became inevitable
In 2014 Vanessa and their son moved to Texas. Brendan visited frequently and spent weekends with their son, who hated when his father left at the end of their visits. In the summer of 2015, Brendan left the firm where he had made partner and moved to Houston. A year later they all moved back to Chicago. “Culturally and educationally, Chicago better fit our values for raising a young child,” he said.
A living solution that was right for their family: Nesting: Two houses for three people
Despite their Divorce, they now are purchasing a home for their son who will stay in that home with one of them as they each take turns living in a separate residence that is also shared. This is referred to as nesting — providing the child of divorce one consistent, stable place to call home.
Feeling stigmatized by Divorce
Brendan feels that there’s a stigma associated with divorce, that their solution for keeping their family together isn’t understood by all. Vanessa wants people to understand that they are a family—though their living arrangement is a little unconventional.
As seasoned divorce lawyers, the economics of their Divorce were settled fairly, with the flexibility necessary to accommodate two parents living in an expensive city raising a child. Yet their incomes now must cover two households, not one. Their son is too young to understand divorce. “He knows there was a time when mom and dad didn’t live together, but he knows we are a family.” They always use the word “we”, as in “we are giving you this gift”. They made a conscious decision not to use the word “divorce” with him.
Life after Divorce: Their priority is raising their son
Having an equal partner helps when one of them travels or has other commitments. “We are clear the marriage is over, but I care about Brendan and what happens to him because he is my family,” she said. Both agree that their son is the best thing that happened to them and that they’ve grown up through the divorce process.
Is their new life better?
In some ways, yes. “I have a lot more freedom, and if I am honest with myself I found marriage restrictive.” She concurred: “I always felt I had to ask permission for everything, for having my own life apart from the family.” The move to Texas had to happen to prove that it wasn’t right for our family.
Don’t say anything to the kids until you have a plan.
There’s happy divorce and I’ll-never-see-you-again Divorce. Be creative and understand the range of options for divorce.
“If there are children, minimize their exposure to adult issues,” she said. “All a kid wants to know is that everything is going to be okay. Be a rock even if you don’t feel like one.”
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Our dedicated team has helped hundreds of families get divorced. We’re responsive and available throughout the process. It starts with an office visit to review the Divorce process, responsibilities and costs. If you’re contemplating Divorce, schedule an appointment today to talk to one of our team. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.