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Extreme Divorce: Home Edition

War of the Roses.jpg

Here's this week's AM New York column, all about DIVORCE. (My father says my topics are getting "darker.")

Given, my personal experience with connubial strife is limited. Having never been hitched, I’ve found it exceedingly difficult to get divorced (except in Nevada). In addition, I’ve always lived in a statistically anomalous world of intact marriages: my parents, both sets of grandparents, my childhood friends’ parents, and all of my serious boyfriends’ parents – not a split in sight. (Weird, right?)

In fact, until I met The Boyfriend, I didn’t really “get” the concept. But after experiencing his divorce vicariously, I realized that the one (only?) benefit in such a situation is learning exactly how that person will act under the worst of circumstances. The Boyfriend came out looking like a champ, unremitting in his generosity and positive spirit, never once uttering a negative word about his ex-wife, never once faltering in his chivalry towards her or even allowing the proceedings to hang over our burgeoning relationship. "You have to take a step back and think about the other person," he tells me. "You have to remember the good times. It's not productive or healthy to be angry or petty - you can always make more money or buy more stuff."

But the more I see of other divorces, the more I realize that The Boyfriend's magnanimous behavior and exceedingly constructive attitude is anomalous. The most obvious, recent example of the OTHER end of the spectrum being the deranged Dr. Bartha, who exploded his Upper East Side townhouse last week, rather than give it to the ex. In contrast, The Boyfriend's former house is not only still standing ("too beautiful to blow up"), but it's currently on the cover of Elle Décor - credited to his ex-wife, of course.

Why some people handle divorce well while others fall apart is still beyond me - (Cosmo EIC Kate White on the demise of her first marriage: “My in-laws were so nice they gave me 12 place settings of silver when I got divorced.”) - but at least I now know this: I'd divorce The Boyfriend any day. ;)

Read full text of today's column after the jump.

EXTREME DIVORCE: HOME EDITION
AM NEW YORK – “THE DATING LIFE”
JULY 17, 2006
BY JULIA ALLISON

There are bad divorces. And then there are really bad divorces.

Blowing up one’s marital house pretty much falls in the latter category.

In a real-life War of the Roses, (former) Upper East Side resident Dr. Nicholas Bartha decided that “over my dead body” wasn’t just an expression – and rather than sell the four-story townhouse that he and his ex-wife had shared to pay her marital settlement, he would just, you know, blow it up.

The New York Times called it “no ordinary divorce,” but “a nightmarish New York saga of … vengeance worthy of a Lifetime channel movie.”

But really, who has an “ordinary” divorce? What does that mean, anyway? That you didn’t fight? That you’re still friends? That you avoided committing suicide in your former house?

Or maybe, when they wrote “ordinary,” they meant “good.” In that case, as high profile divorce attorney Raoul Felder told me, “there’s no such thing – it’s an oxymoron. There are only divorces that are relatively civilized.”

“Someone you once loved is saying that you’re not a worthwhile person,” says Felder, who has represented Rudy Giuliani, one of Mick Jagger’s myriad baby mommas, and P. Diddy’s ex-wife. “It’s not like you got a lemon of a car! This guy [Bartha] was obviously very troubled, but these emotions are in every divorce. He just carried it one step further.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that the more you hear stories of real life, the more you start to think that Lifetime movies aren’t so unrealistic after all.

In fact, shortly after the Bartha-blow-up, MILF extraordinaire Christie Brinkley filed for her (fourth) divorce, allegedly because her golden boy hubby Peter Cook was having an affair with his 19-year-old assistant, whom he met in a toy shop. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

Given their co-ownership of at least five houses, they’d better start stocking up on explosives now.

Actually, that might be better than wading through New York’s Byzantine divorce laws and stubborn, baffling refusal to adopt a no-fault system. Under the current procedures, “divorce court is the last place you want to be,” says Felder.

“The law is not the place for emotional grievances or reparations,” he adds. “If you’re looking for reparations, go to the UN.”

That’s pretty much what The Boyfriend concluded when he went through his divorce. Eschewing protracted negotiations over their joint assets, including an apartment in the city and one painstakingly restored Hamptons house, he had a single 30-minute meeting and gave everything to her.

“Divorce is already painful,” he explained, “why make it more painful? I’d rather she have the money than the lawyers. Possessions can be replaced.”

Thank god Ron Perlman doesn’t think like that. Half of the city’s law firms would be out of work!

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Comments

He is obviously a keeper.
I can't complain. I was the beneficiary of my mother's three divorces.
Have you seen the purple house in Winnetka that the wife painted because it was next door to her ex's husband house, and he had left her for another woman? True story, apparently.
This quote reminded me of something: http://www.overheardinnewyork.com/archives/006495.html

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