by Susan Kraus, M.S.W.
Sometimes the best way to find what book works best for your situation is to check out descriptions and reviews on Amazon, or spend a few hours at a local bookstore looking at all the titles in the divorce, custody issues, mediation and 'parenting after divorce' sectionsâ€¦ and then picking a few that make you want to read more. There is no particular order to the bibliography, just a list of what we have found helpful or books our clients have said they really appreciated. We welcome your suggestions of other books or resources that have been helpful for you.
Mediation and Divorce
- No-Fight Divorce: Spend Less Money, Save Time and Avoid Conflict Using Mediation by Brett McWorter Sember, J.D., McGraw Hill, 2006. Emphasizes making informed choices about mediation, finding a mediator who is a good match, developing parenting plans that work for your family and your circumstances, dividing assets respectfully. Examples and descriptions illustrate process. Good primer on mediation.
- A Guide to Divorce Mediation: How to Reach a Fair, Legal Settlement at a Fraction of the Cost by Gary Friedman, J.D. Workman Publishing, 1995. Deciding on mediation, choosing a mediator, and then twelve chapters illustrating divorce and custody issues with specific cases. Readable, with actual dialogue exchanges, it gives a realistic picture of the mediation process and what can impact success or failure.
- The Unofficial Guide to Getting a Divorce, 2nd Edition by Russell Wild and Susan Ellis, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2005. Assumes a legal process will be involved (discovery, interrogatories, depositions, etc.) so if mediation does not succeed, then this may be your next resource. Starts with making the decision to divorce, moves through the legal steps to aftermath and post-divorce issues. Written by a financial planner and litigation attorney who were married for 22 years, divorced... and then managed to write a book together. So, exactly why couldn't they manage to work it out if they could collaborate enough to co-author a book?
- Getting Divorced Without Ruining Your Life by Sam Margulies, PhD, J.D. Simon and Schuster, 2001. Rational and pragmatic guidance regardless of gender from an experienced attorney and mediator. A comprehensive, common sense guide that emphasizes long-term goals vs. short-term wins. Good at clarifying priorities when you are so hurt and angry you can't think straight.
- A Man's Guide to a Civilized Divorce: How to Divorce with Grace, a Little Class and a Lot of Common Sense by Sam Margulies, PhD, J.D. Rodale Books, 2004. From the initial decision to post-divorce communication, this is a top pick. Covers negotiation skills, dads and kids, budgets, parenting plans, asset division... but the tone sets it apart. Mature, rational, compassionate, the author helps readers clarify priorities and then strategically work to achieve them. SO much better than those so-called guides for either men or women that tell you how to screw your ex and thus 'win' at divorce.
- You can keep the damn china! And 824 Other Great Tips on Dealing with Divorce by Hundreds of Heads Books, LLC 2006 Robert J. Nachsin, editor. If you're dealing with divorce, this book provides helpful tips with a dose of humor. Keep it in the bathroom. Some of the advice is silly but some is pretty darn good. Plus, when life looks bleak, really, really bleak, silly can be just what the doctor ordered.
Custody and Co-Parenting
- Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After a Divorce or Separation by Jan Blackstone-Ford, M.A, and Sheryl Jupe, Chicago Review Press, Incorporated, 2004. Co-written by an ex-wife and wife of a guy who probably never expected to find his personal, marital, family and divorce dynamics used as a basis for this helpful, practical and painfully truthful book. Really helps parents see how kids can be in the middle and how small, simple courtesies go a long way to foster good will.
- Parenting After Divorce: A Guide to Resolving Conflicts and Meeting Your Children's Needs by Philip Stahl, Ph.D., Impact Publishers, 2000. Puts the focus where it needs to be for divorcing parents... on what's best for the kids and how to communicate and cooperate enough to make that happen. Stahl's goal is to help parents minimize the negative impact of divorce and to build even stronger parent-child bonds and supports post-divorce. It is realistic and the chapter headings (like "Children Aren't Property") hit hard and hit home. I've attended Stahl's workshops and always learned something new.
- For The Sake of the Children: How to Share Your Children With Your Ex-Spouse in Spite of Your Anger by Kris Kline and Stephen Pew, Prima Publishing. Breaking bad habits, giving up the games, finding situational peaceâ€¦ these authors help parents appreciate what it is like from the kid's perspective, especially when they feel torn between loving both their parents and loyalty to one or the other parent. Good, solid guidance and plenty to think about. I suggest reading it before you start hashing out a parenting plan.
- Mom's House, Dad's House: Making Two Homes for Your Child by Isolina Ricci, PhD., Fireside Books, 1997. New edition of an old classic. Stuffed with information, plenty to absorb. The only problem is just that... almost too much information. In my experience, when people are struggling with all the issues of divorce, 381 pages of tightly written guidance may be too much to take in. Still, if you try it in small doses, it's a solid resource.
- What To Tell Your Kids About Your Divorce by Darlene Weyburne, A.C.S.W., New Harbinger Publications, 1999. Detailed and helpful with exercises and tips for helping kids understand and express their feelings. Also focuses on parental communication like learning the difference between blame and "I" messages. Sensitive to the needs of kids, it tells parents in practical, step-by-step terms how to communicate so that your kids will not be damaged. Read this before you tell your kids.
- Divorce Poison: Protecting the Parent-Child Bond From a Vindictive Ex by Dr. Richard Warshak, Regan Books, 2001. Bad-mouthing, ex-bashing, brainwashing... This book covers what it takes to alienate a kid and how to counter it, from the alienating environment and corruption of reality to poison control. This is for extreme cases, and it will only make you paranoid and anxious if your divorce is within the normal limits of craziness. But, if truly extreme, it helps to know you aren't the only one.
- Joint Custody With a Jerk: Raising a Child With an Uncooperative Ex by Julie Ross and Judy Corcoran, St. Martin's Press, 1996. People love this title when we suggest it to them, assuming, of course, that it must mean that the mediator or therapist truly understands what they are up against. It is a practical and solid common-sense guide to getting a handle on what you can control and what you can't... and learning to tell the difference. Their model of a "Problem Pyramid: is a helpful construct for use in co-parenting and learning when to make a fuss and when to just let it go."
- Caught in the Middle: Protecting the Children of High Conflict Divorce by Carla Garrity and Mitchell Baris, Lexington Books, 1994. Provides readers a developmental understanding of conflict, clarifies normal visitation vs. conflict visitation, and defines a model for intervention when there is high-conflict and alienation. I've had this on my shelf for years and refer to it whenever I find myself going in circles, yet again, with a high conflict case.
- Helping Children Cope With Divorce by Edward Teyber, Josey-Bass, Inc., 1992. Teyber covers divorce from the kid's perspective...like "Why did they and did I do something wrong to make them?"... "What can I do to get them back together?"... all the myriad concerns kids have during the initial period of separation. Also covers loyalty conflicts, children's needs during and post-divorce, and how parents can hurt their kids by giving them too much information. Solid and sensible, I've had this one on my shelf for 15 years.
- Difficult Questions Kids Ask and Are Afraid to Ask About Divorce by Meg Schneider and Joan Zuckerberg PhD, Fireside 1996. A little dated but solid and useful for parents to read and consider. Very practical. Sometimes it is easier to see an issue in another family or another case than in our own... and this book helps by providing a lot of examples and families struggling with the same issues, It is amazing how many families report that the exact same questions come up... and how it helps to anticipate them and have a response ready rather than blurt out something inappropriate or in anger.
- Why did you have to get a divorce? And When Can I Get a Hamster? by Anthony Wolf, PhD., Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1998. The authors focus on how to help your kids get through your divorce with the least stressâ€¦ from how to tell them to how to keep from putting them in the middle. Extends to post-divorce parenting... managing exchanges, new relationships, problems with visitation, parenting with a new partner. Common-sense, easy to read.
- Divorce Book for Parents by Vicki Lansky, Book Peddlers, 2005. I call this the "Cliff Notes" version of divorce and custody books. It's small, concise, yet covers a lot of issues and is stuffed with common sense advice. First published in '89, it has been updated every few years. I buy these by the carton to give to new clients at their first mediation session. Small enough to put in a pocket, it's a helpful start to thinking about how to be the best parent possible during the most difficult time of your life.
To Read and Share with Your Children
- Dinosaur's Divorce: A Guide for Changing Families by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown, Little Brown & Co., 1986. A classic in divorce books for kids 6-7 and under. Picture book in theory, although sometimes the concepts are a bit too much to be absorbed at one sitting. To be read to the child and discussed.
- Divorced But Still My Parents by Shirley Thomas and Dorothy Rankin, Springboard Publications, 1998. For kids ten and under, to be read to the child by the parent or even read by the child. Has workbook pages and exercises as well as a story line.
- My Parents are Divorced, Too: A Book for Kids by Kids by Melanie, Annie and Steven Ford as told to Jan Blackstone-Ford, Magination Press, 1997 From about age 8 to early teen's, this is a quick kid-to-kid reassuring but honest take on what happens with divorce.