5 life lessons from Angelina Jolie's divorce lawyer, Laura Wasser
Or rather, harsh truths to keep a divorce as painless as possible — and how to save your marriage
It's been a week since "Bradxit".
The Jolie-Pitts are soon to be no more. On 20 September, TMZ revealed that actress Angelina Jolie has filed for divorce from her actor husband of two years, Brad Pitt. With six kids in tow and a relationship history spanning a decade of hits and flops such as Mr & Mrs Smith (2005)and By The Sea (2015), a Google search on their names post-announcement gathers unfavourable words such as "custody", "abuse" and "pre-nup" in the air. The reactions were mixed — CNN made it one of their top stories (much to the dismay of Susan Sarandon and others who don't worship at the altar of celebrity), Donald Trump was blamed and Adele didn't "give a f*cking sh*t".
But away from the celebrity mayhem lies a woman as instrumental as the parties themselves. Laura A. Wasser (whose initials spell out "LAW" — something her lawyer father coined) is Jolie's divorce lawyer of choice, having worked with her on her previous divorce from Billy Bob Thornton in 2003. 13 years later, she's employed Wasser, who recently represented Johnny Depp in his divorce from actress Amber Heard. With more than two decades of experience, the lawyer has represented some of Hollywood's high profile names, including Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Kim Kardashian, Ryan Reynolds, Heidi Klum, Stevie Wonder and Jennifer Garner. The 48-year-old's even been dubbed the "Disso Queen" — "disso" short for "dissolution", of course.
She's so adept at seeing to her clients' needs that she's written a book on how to make divorce as painless as possible. Published in 2013, it's a handy companion for partners who are in the midst of one, or who's simply had the idea planted in their heads and can't quite afford Wasser's skyrocketing fees (she reportedly charges USD$850 an hour). It Doesn't Have to Be That Way: How to Divorce Without Destroying Your Family or Bankrupting Yourself touches on how to get started, finding the right lawyer and the nitty-gritty of divorce proceedings. Importantly, it sheds inspiring nuggets of wisdom from Wasser — call it "real talk" from an A-list lawyer.
1. On realising the importance of a marriage contract: "Interestingly, the last time you went through a similar transaction was when you got married, but back then, you were likely thinking about what flavour cake to order, how your dress would fit, or exactly what would or would not be appropriate for the bachelor party. You were almost certainly not focused on the fact that you were about to enter into a legal contract with someone, nor were you pondering what the ramifications of that contract would be."
2. On getting fit for your marriage: "Any couple that can afford the luxury of counseling should indulge in it. Just as you go to the gym regularly to keep your body fit, regular couples counseling can keep your relationship fit as well."
3. On knowing the right time to separate: "It's time to dissolve a relationship when the pain or oppression of being in it exceeds the fear or anxiety of being on your own."
4. On the importance of really getting involved: "There are ways to change a marriage you cannot afford to dissolve, and they are limited only by your imagination and by your willingness to take charge. Dissolving a relationship, whatever form it takes, is your process. The more substantially you involve yourself in it, the better your lives will be."
5. On why people get divorced: "People get married because they fall in love. They get divorced for one of three reasons: 1. Unacceptable behaviour on the part of one or the other partner, 2. You just don't get each other anymore and 3. You grow apart."