The Divorce Posse

Remember when all it took to get divorced was a shark lawyer? Today, tony Philadelphians don't dare split up without a cadre of pricey experts — from decorators and plastic surgeons to chakra-soothing massage therapists

MAYBE NOT, JUDGING by a recent hour spent with Alison and Adam, who are in mediation right now to help end their marriage of 21 years. This polite couple in their 40s, sitting in DivorceDoneRight’s Plymouth Meeting office suite, with cheerful brown-orange walls and soothing sailboat paintings, look perfect together. They’re attractive, successful, and seemingly compatible: He’s a pharmaceutical executive, she’s a banking consultant. (We’ve changed their names to protect their identities, and because they have sons ages eight and 12.) But they’re splitting nonetheless, and enough issues have come up that they’ve found themselves with a mediator — an attorney named, incongruously, Maribeth Blessing.

Mediators are an increasingly integral part of a divorce posse — some counties, including Montgomery, have made them mandatory before any court hearings. And in this couple’s case, it quickly becomes apparent that they really, really need a mediator in their entourage.

“We wanted to go the traditional route,” says Alison, who has a scarf elegantly knotted at her neck and a Gucci handbag next to her chair. “We went to see lawyers, but I was uncomfortable with the attitude — ‘We’re going to take him for everything he’s worth.’ So I did some research and found Maribeth’s bio, and talked to Adam.”

Adam remembers things differently.

“Your attorney was a total shark,” he counters, “and I went out and got a total shark, and then I said, ‘I don’t want to give our kids’ tuition to them.’ We both came to the conclusion that we didn’t want to give it to the two sharks.”

You can definitely sniff the tension in the well-bred, highly educated air, but Blessing breaks in at one point to, well, mediate, commending both spouses for trying to work out a good schedule for their kids, and pointing out that Alison is even helping Adam house-hunt so the exes can live near each other. However, it turns out they don’t agree even on the niceties of dropping off the kids to each other. “He wants some information, what’s been going on with them,” says Alison, who prefers a quicker exit.

Adam rolls his eyes.

Rather uncomfortably, we all move on to finances.

“I just want to make sure we live within our means,” mutters Adam, with a raised eyebrow. “I got a letter that said, ‘We’re coming after you with both barrels.’ I had no choice but to put missiles in Cuba.”

“Well, you’re with what’s-her-name now,” says Alison dismissively. (Alison left the marriage first, but it seems that even if you’re the leaver, you’re still annoyed when your leave-ee manages to dig up someone else who finds him attractive.)