Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie announced their divorce last week. Being the world’s richest man, a divorce announcement is big news. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, there are rules to writing one.
“Alexa, read me a divorce announcement”
In a world of social media, where personal news like divorce can spread to millions in minutes, the days of sitting down and privately explaining to friends and family your decision are over.
For CEOs, its also a matter of re-assuring shareholders, employees, and customers that they won’t experience any turbulence.
Announcements allow you to frame the narrative of your case: to set the tone and story so others don’t have to guess what’s going on or how you approach divorce.
“Alexa, what do you need to divorce”
I’ve written on various topics about divorce. There can be good and bad divorces. How you announce your divorce these days has dramatically changed. This change has given you a lot of power over how your break-up is perceived by others.
But does it matter? Historically to obtain a divorce, you had to prove legal grounds such as adultery. This often-required additional expenses making the divorce process more expensive and cumbersome than it already was.
Florida Statutes actually still provide that these things may be considered in certain circumstances in the award of alimony, equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities, and determination of parental responsibility, but courts give them little consideration from a legal perspective.
In the years leading up to the enactment of “no-fault” divorce, courts often granted divorces on bases that were easier to prove, the most common being “mental cruelty.”
In Florida, either spouse can file for the dissolution of marriage. You must prove that a marriage exists, one party has been a Florida resident for six months before filing the petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken. Because of the advent of no-fault divorce, your announcements should be focusing on things other than the cause of the divorce.
“Alexa, write an announcement”
You don’t have to be famous to announce your divorce. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow invented the catchy phrase: “conscientious uncoupling” in her divorce announcement from singer Chris Martin. That announcement put a good spin on her divorce. But, there are some other good rules to follow.
Wait until the decision to split is final. If you’ve announced your divorce and then reconcile, it could get awkward.
Announce publicly after you’ve told your children, family and close friends. Remember the point is to own the narrative, so get your message out ahead of gossip and speculation.
Strike a positive tone — remember that your children and family will be reading it — and present a united front.
Don’t lie. If you don’t love your ex, don’t say: “Although we still love each other we need to move on.” It’s enough to state that it just didn’t work out.
The Wall Street Journal is available here.