For Ed, Midge: The rules of disengagement

Posted: February 08, 2011

BREAKUPS CAN be hard on every couple, but imagine if thousands - perhaps millions - of people were paying attention to the details of yours.

That's the kind of scrutiny Ed and Midge Rendell face in announcing their split after almost 40 years of marriage.

"People can't get enough of it. It's seeing we're not the only ones who have ordinary lives," said Sharon Zarozny, founder of Northern Virginia-based Brilliant Exits, a counseling service for divorcing couples, and a blogger in the Huffington Post's divorce section.

"I don't know if it's the idea that, 'Thank God, it's not me,' or 'Look, they're so famous and it can happen to them,' but people want to know what's going on."

Impending splits, real and imagined, fill the front covers of celebrity magazines. Some couples - like Al and Tipper Gore, who seemingly kept things simple - do it right. Others - like Kelsey and Camille Grammer, who play it out daily in the press - are doing it wrong.

Here are some ways that the Rendells can keep it classy:

1 Work out as many of the

details as possible before going public.

"You don't need the extra fuel of public perception," Zarozny said. "What raises the costs in almost all divorces is the emotions that go out of control. If you have the press feeding stories and making one partner a bad guy, that's when the bills start skyrocketing."

2 Keep it as private as you


You can do a lot of that by following No. 1. Attorney Charles Meyer, of the Blue Bell-based firm Elliott Greenleaf, who has represented TV's Jon Gosselin and sports stars Aaron McKie and Andre Iguodala in family matters, said people are going to be particularly interested in the Rendells' finances.

"I just read an article about the different types of divorce lawyers," he said. "Some think publicity is great and others are the opposite. I've always tried to keep it out of the public eye to keep it as private as possible."

3 Think of the family. Even

adult children are affected by divorce.

"Studies show if you use the courts to bully your partner, it really makes it hard to co-parent," Zarozny said.

4 Keep communicating.

Meyer said it was a good sign that the Rendells had sent a joint e-mail to friends announcing their split.

"If they say it's amicable, and you assume that's the reality, you hope they'll be able to move on with their lives happily and that they're going to respect each other going forward," said Meyer.

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