David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]


There’s a difference between enlisting in the arms services and being drafted; there’s a distinction between a march and a hike; there’s a terrible discrepancy between consent and not. There’s a divergence between how divorcing parents determine where the minor child attends third grade.

Divorcing moms or dads or their family lawyers frequently ask to employ me to provide expert testimony. School A is clearly better, Mom begins. The classes have fewer students, the faculty is more educated, the kids go on to better colleges. It will come as no surprise that School A is located walking distance from mom’s house whereas School B is across town and–stop me if you’ve already figured this out–closer to Dad’s residence.

I no longer go to court to provide expert testimony. Been there, done that, wished I was dead. I’d rather have an unanesthetized colonoscopy. Yes, I know the schools in my town pretty well. I attended some of them, enrolled my own children in others, and have advised students from all the rest. But delivering expert testimony requires, in addition to finding a parking space downtown, answering questions from attorneys representing each parent and it is a fundamental and universal truth that no one can simultaneously make two lawyers happy. Mr. Altshuler, did you know or should you have known that just the other day there was a broken beer bottle across the street from School A? Mr. Altshuler, were you aware or should you have been aware that School B has more toilets per student than School A? (No, I didn’t research the commode ratio at School B, but I’d certainly like to find a lavatory now to go be sick in.)

So should junior attend School A or School B? Which school will provide a better education, a more appropriate peer group, pave the way for acceptance to a better college? Answer: it makes absolutely do difference, doesn’t matter one iota, none, nada. Either school would be fine. Like I said, I know both schools; they’re both fine. Percy’s a bright boy, won’t walk down the aisle not knowing what three times seven is. But as long as mommy and daddy are in court litigating about school choice everyone involved—parents, lawyers, experts—are all putting a band aid on a flesh would. Kids perceive parental discord and stress more accurately than you see the enormous E on the top line of the eye chart. The parents need to come to a decision that doesn’t involve Defcon Three, blinky poker, or brinkmanship.

Rather than providing expert testimony—did I mention I’m conflict avoidant and averse to interrogation?–I instead help parents understand that a letter modeled on the following is their best chance, the only reasonable way to go about choosing a school. I hope your marriage remains everything you had hoped for when you first said, “I do.”  I’m optimistic that you never have to use these paragraphs. I’m confident that if you do get divorced, you’ll do it in a sensible, sensitive, child-focused way. But statistics suggest that some of my readers will indeed be involved with unpleasant child sharing disagreements. Here’s a draft, you are welcome to it, I hope you never have to use it.

Dear Soon-to-be-Ex-Spouse:

I know you prefer School A for Percy; you know I think School B would be better. Would you agree that where Percy goes to school is less important that Percy seeing his parents get along, peaceably resolve conflict, and focus on his long-term best interest.

I know that you don’t have a lot of positive regard for me.  And I admit that on the list of people for whom I would cheerfully die, your name does not appear near the top. I feel bad about trying to run you over with my car. I know you’re not proud of trying to push me off the roof of our building. It is abundantly clear to me in retrospect that I shouldn’t have slept with your brother.

I’m not asking you to forgive me. I’m asking a different question: do we love our son more than we dislike each other?

You could argue that the school more convenient to your house is better because it offers an elective course in Evolution of the Corduroy Suit. I could argue that the school closer to my house is preferable because Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse is part of the curriculum.

The argument could complete our transformation into The Itchy and Scratchy Show–except with higher attorney fees.

If you agree that Percy can go to the school I like, I will agree to the following: you can cut your child support payment from ten gazillion dollars a month down to five, have Percy for six weeks in the summer instead of four, and I’ll throw in a draft choice to be named later, a copy of Amazing Spider-Man # 5, all of my internal organs, and a washer dryer from Spiegel Catalog, Chicago, Illinois, 60609.

We loved each other once; we made a child together. Let’s do what’s right by this wonderful little person. Let’s find a way to stop fighting and focus on what is in his interest—parents who get along and stop using attorneys, judges, and educational experts to beat each other up.


That’s the end of the suggested letter. One more thing: my favorite therapist taught me the following some 30 years ago when I myself was getting divorced: if you’re still fighting, you’re still connected, still enmeshed in your now-defunct relationship. Something to think about before you sign on for more billable hours. If you have truly moved on from your marriage, you should be able to focus on your kid, acknowledge that where he attends school is less important than seeing his parents do the right thing.

Picture of David


4 thoughts on “D-I-V-O-R-C-E

  1. Jane Hoffman

    Fantastic piece. My husband and I are getting divorced after 40 years of marriage and 2 adult kids, ages 36 and 32. So while choice of school does not apply your overall sentiment does. And your sense of humor is always appreciated as well!

    1. David Altshuler 2

      Sorry to hear the family is going through a rough patch, Jane. I’m keeping a good thought for you and your children.

      As always, thank you for your kind words.

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