Divorce can be an irrational emotional roller coaster no matter what the circumstances are. Consequently, the dissolving bonds of matrimony between a married couple may involve issues of alimony (spousal support), child custody, child visitation, parenting time, child support, distribution of property, and division of debt. This process can take its toll– mentally and physically.
Regardless of who is wrong or right in the situation, we must educate ourselves on how to settle issues and move forward to heal.
Chicago Native Attorney Lester L. Barclay has released his book “The African-American Guide to Divorce & Drama: Breaking Up Without Breaking Down,” the first-ever comprehensive book on divorce tailored specifically for the Black community. The book skillfully guides readers through the often-painful process of separation and divorce, while seeking to minimize the “drama” and trauma for them and their children.
It also focuses primarily on divorce and nonmarital separation, alongside custody, visitation, child support, financial disputes, and related issues in the context of African American cultural and social realities.
Barclay stated, “I get to meet and speak to dozens of people every week regarding their relationships and the problems they encounter in their marriages. Having counseled thousands of people, I am privy to both the underbelly of marriage and divorce. In the same way that people get married by choice, they make a choice about the tone of their divorce.”
Barclay wrote this book to fill a gap in the information available to African Americans about divorce and its aftermath. As in other aspects of their lives, Black folks often face special challenges when it comes to divorce that is culturally based. “I wrote the book as a guide to help people contemplating or going through a divorce. Divorce is never a pleasant experience. It’s always stressful and painful. However, as an attorney, I’ve seen many people mismanage their divorce, which made the process even more stressful and expensive than it had to be.”
The most common things couples fight about are money and the disciplining of children. Lack of good communication is also commonly cited as a reason for the breakdown of marriages. However, underlying it all is often myopic selfishness and narcissism—our society has grown increasingly individualistic.
There are as many reasons why people get divorced as why they get married. Through Barclay’s experience, the leading reasons why people get divorces are the one-sided selfishness of one or both spouses, love-ending infidelity, and out-of-control anger.
“There are a lot of books that talk about how to find the perfect woman, how to find the most handsome, greatest guy, but there are very few books that tell Black people how to a break up in a drama-free way and that’s what I address here.”
The Barclay Law Group is named after Lester Barclay for a reason – he is the best of the best. Renowned for his groundbreaking work in family law, Barclay also has extensive experience in probate, real estate, and general litigation. Born and raised in Englewood on the South Side of Chicago during the turbulent 1960s, he is the youngest of 11 children. He attained his law degree from Case Western Reserve University Law School and his bachelor’s degree with honors from Oberlin College. Barclay is a father of three and his wife of 34 years is a pediatrician.
Barclay is currently looking to expand his practice in the Black Metropolis-Bronzeville District, which is a historic district in Chicago. He will be expanding to one of the historical properties that John H. Johnson owned on the South Side of Chicago.
“We are changing our headquarters, Brownsville historically has been a place that is vibrant for professional businesses and we’ve been renters downtown for 30 years, so now it’s time for us to go home,” the attorney said. “I want to spend this time in my neighborhood. I take from that community and I have an obligation to give back.”
Barclay was also celebrated as one of the Defender’s 2018 Black Men of Excellence. Those who have been selected are African American men who inspire others through vision, leadership, exceptional achievements, and participation in community service through success in business, community involvement, and philanthropy.
“I felt like I didn’t do anything to deserve the recognition, but I talked to a number of people who said that you’re well deserving, you’re a trailblazer and I’m very humbled by that.”
Barclay said a breakup or divorce can send anyone into unexplored territory. Everything is disrupted: your routine and responsibilities, your home, your relationships with extended family and friends, and even your identity. A breakup also brings doubt about the future. What will life be like without your partner? Will you find someone else? Will you end up alone?
This pain, disruption, and uncertainty mean that recovering from a breakup or divorce can be difficult and take time. However, it’s important to keep reminding yourself that you can and will get through this difficult experience and move on with your life as a stronger and wiser person.
“I believe that we have to do some hand-holding through this process. It’s like going through a dark tunnel and you don’t know what’s about to happen. Sometimes you can’t see the light because of the fog [kids, your spouse just left you for somebody else, angry, bitter] and you’re in dark place but my job as a divorce lawyer is to grab your hand and take you to the light,” Barclay said.