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After the Divorce: Who Takes Custody of Your Friends?

How do you divide up friends after a divorce?

How do you divide your friends after a divorce? More from The Divorce Diaries

Dividing everything up in a divorce is a gruesome business no matter how amicable or reasonable or relieved you are. It's like watching yourself have surgery. Everything that ever mattered, every element of your existence is pulled out, shuffled around, placed on the table for you and your ex and your lawyers or whomever to paw through.

I can tell you it sucks even if you don't have a lot of money and stuff to share. I'm told it sucks if you do have a lot of money and stuff.

First you officially dispense with the inner-ring: kids, house, all the crap in the house, something called assets (wish I had some of those) and the pets. Then there's this weird outer layer of life that's harder to quantify but often requires some cold, calculated divorce math. For example, what do you do with your friends?

Luckily, I have a clear plan that accounts for nearly any friendship configuration. Simply cut and paste it into your Divorce Decree for maximum clarity:

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1. FBMs (Friends Before Marriage)

In certain ways, some friends are treated like possessions. If your grandmother gave you her pearl earrings when you were 16, well before your marriage, those remain yours. If your ex's father gave him a suped-up Mustang when he was in college, that horse is all his. Same deal with FBMs. Those are your Friends Before Marriage. They all automatically transfer to their side of origin, no paperwork necessary.

2. FAWM (Friends Acquired While Married)

Then there's the grey area of FAWM (Friends Acquired While Married). Here's where things can get hairy. If you two met in college and have a crew from back then, it's tricky. Gender tends to be the deciding factor. Girls team. Boys team.

I know a couple for whom the choices were easy because:
a) they only shared two marital friends and divided them by gender;
b) they struggled to make friends as a couple, which was one of the many ways their separate lives were reflected in their marriage.

However, I know a lot of folks whose entire social circle was deeply intertwined with their married life and extricating one from the other was excruciating and complicated.

3. Who are these AMP (Arrogant Married People) Who Think It's THEIR Decision?

Lastly, I was just robustly reminded by an annoyed single commenter that many single folks are sick and tired of their newly-divorced friends "whining" about their exes or dumping them once they get married.

The commenter asks pointedly: Why do the marrieds get to choose which friends go where, anyhow? Good riddance, she says.

"Not only do married people dump their single friends like yesterday's trash once they marry, but they are arrogant enough to feel they can dictate which of their new and improved friends to keep and which ones to toss after the marriage collapses.

Maybe us don't want to hear your endless whining about why you must end your marriage, why your spouse is evil and why he/she is treating you so badly. Maybe we'd like a say on who can be friends with whom after your bitter crappy marriage ends.

What planet do these arrogant divorced people live on?"

Who Gets Custody of Your Friends After the Divorce?

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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