Calgary couple Shannon and Chris Neuman made headlines last month after posting a photo together after filing for divorce.
Shannon Neuman shared the selfie on her Facebook page with the hashtag #divorceselfie, and the image has been shared thousands of times.
In the caption, she explains their smiling faces after having “done something extraordinary,” noting they wanted the split to be conflict-free so their children would never have to choose sides.
“They’ll never have to wonder which side of the auditorium to run to after their Christmas concert or spring play, because we’ll be sitting together,” says the caption. “They won’t have to struggle with their own wedding planning because we’ll be sitting on the same side of the aisle — THEIR side.”
The couple was applauded as being inspiring as the photo went viral online.
“Far too often, the media — and social media especially — only post stories that show the negative side of divorce, but there are many good sides as well,” says Savin, a partner with Birenbaum, Steinberg, Landau, Savin & Colraine, LLP.
“I think this new trend gives people hope, which is what they need when going through that difficult transition. They can see that if they do it properly, they can still come out the other side of a separation and have a viable relationship with their ex-spouse to co-parent successfully, which is what most family lawyers are interested in preserving,” she says. “I think it’s something to aspire to.”
But staying civil during a split isn’t easy, says Savin, which is why those couples who remain cordial deserve to be celebrated.
“It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s challenging,” she says. “In my practice I do a lot of collaborative family law, and certainly the goal of collaborative cases is to have a win-win situation so both parties can walk away feeling like it was an equitable settlement handled with dignity and respect for the relationship and their family.
“Just because you’re not living together doesn’t mean you’re not a family anymore,” says Savin.
In the Neumans’ case, Savin says it’s likely the children saw the photo as well, “which is heartwarming.”
Children model their parents’ behaviour, says Savin, and are more likely to do what they see rather than what they are told.
“If you can model good conflict resolution, especially over something like this, it allows the kids to see their parents doing something positive so they can emulate them when they have challenges in their own life,” says Savin.
The benefits of amicable resolutions go beyond getting noticed on Facebook, says Savin.
“The vast majority of these cases are a lot less expensive and they don’t usually go to court, which is beneficial as litigation can be very destructive,” she says. “Outcomes for children are significantly better when they are not exposed to the conflict of their parents’ separation.
“The trend is moving away from the winner-takes-all approach to separation, which results in a winner and a loser and bad feelings and animosity. The selfie is kind of indicative of where a lot of people want to end up.”