My husband and I are divorcing and sharing custody of the kids, fruiting plants, and the chickens

January 29 | Guest post by Rollinia Deliciosa
kid holding chicken
By: YagarTheVikingCC BY 2.0
"Just list fruiting plants and chickens — joint custody." Never in my life could I ever have imagined I would say those words.

Four years ago my husband and I had our first child and bought our house. In that time we went from average grass-growing Americans to small-scale urban farmers. Our home is in what could be considered a low-income area with a significant amount of gang violence. Still it is an oasis in the sprawling San Francisco Bay area.

We grow everything from heirlooms to subtropical fruits. I specialize in the vegetables, pollinators and poultry while my husband does the rare fruit (meaning it does not grow here, is not a commercial variety or it is an "old world" variety). Very few parts of the year do not involve planning, planting, grafting, watering, weeding or harvesting. Once you start, it consumes you. No wonder people buy the hybrid and patented plants — being an organic heirloom farmer is hard work!

Three years ago, our marriage hit the rocks. Two years ago we had our second child.

We still got on okay. We still "gardened." We didn't just garden, we farmed. We took the girls to every scion exchange, fruit tasting, garden work day and expo we could. Then last year he filed for divorce and many tears were shed. Three months later he withdrew his petition — back to the fruit hunting to went.

We went to Florida and Hawai'i in search of fruit adventures with our kidlets. We did the same round of exchanges, classes and tastings — it was amazing. The baby learned to walk and ate a starfruit nearly as big as her in the same week. She learned to chicken wrangle and how to pick ripe cape gooseberries while our older girl helped revamp a huge community garden and learned to plant seedlings this last year. I chased a woman down like a crazy person in the farmer's market in Hilo to buy her rollinia deliciosa (lemon meringue fruit) so we could add one more fruit to our 60-plus pounds we were already trying to consume.

We were in the clear, right? Nope.

Two weekends ago we were sitting talking and he stopped me mid sentence, just like in a sappy movie. "I want to separate."

Four days later I called my lawyer. I filed for divorce. Not for the reason you think, but he is right. It is just time. I have felt like I have been the only one holding up the sky for so long. This way, we can still be awesome parents — apart but together. I still love him and he cares for me and we can be friends. We will still chase fruit together and teach our girls about the magic of botanical diversity, but we cannot be married any more.

We have chosen to be amicable. That is a lot harder than you might think, but not because of us so much as those we know. We have these two girls and we want them to be able to love whomever they want of our friends and family without worrying about what mom or dad thinks.

Celebrating Divorce
Photo by Andy Moore used by CC license

So, here we are: doing it differently just like we always do. We started by giving what I call the "We're getting divorced and we still want you to love us" talk. We sat a few of our close friends down at dinner. We told them we were getting a divorce and that we don't want anyone taking sides and that we are trying to maintain all of our friendships as they are now. If anyone has questions, feel free to ask, but some we may not be ready to answer.

Then we approached my husband's family. We gave them our mini-speech and waited for the questions. The biggest one was expected but clearly our answer was not. Who lives where? I will be staying in the house since I am the primary caregiver for our children and it would not disrupt their lives in a great way. Being that my husband has put so much love into our mini-farm though, I cannot tell him that he must walk away from it.

So on our division of assets list when we thought we were nearly done last night, he asked me if we should list the plants. I said, "Just list fruiting plants and chickens — joint custody." He looked at me for a moment. We just argued over folding chairs and now I say this? He burst out laughing, and so did his family when we told them.

No one we know has ever seen a divorce like this before. We hope it will be the kind people talk about for years and model theirs after if they need one — the kind no one will ever forget or believe, and the kind that our kids will be thankful for.

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  1. I would love to hear more about this transition as it happens. Thanks for sharing your story.

    2 agree
  2. I just want to share my major kudos to you for making such a difficult decision and doing everything you can to make it work out right for you both. My parents ended their marriage with an amicable divorce but it took them a long time to sort through their joint assets and determine how to make it all happen. They are still friends. I'm grown up, but they are still jointly my parents. I think everyone would admit that a divorce long before they got to that point probably would have made them both happier. So I salute you for recognizing the truth of the situation after trying to make it work as a marriage, and working to move forward as friends.

    3 agree
  3. Good luck to you … your attitude and grace are both amazing traits to have.

    3 agree
  4. This is a lovely piece about a super difficult situation. Much love to your family during this. <3

    1 agrees
  5. I also had an amicable divorce. In our state, you can do a Dissolution or a Divorce. Both have the same effect, but a dissolution is for those spouses who can agree to everything, and thus don't need attorney's. We saved a ton of money and had to work together. Sure there have been issues since then, but right now we have joint custody of our 2 girls, we talk on the phone about them without fighting and all is well. I don't keep them from him and he doesn't keep them from me. In this age of epic battles, it's refreshing to see another couple put their egos aside and do what is best for all involved. Those that engage in the epic battles in an effort to hurt their former spouse really only succeed in hurting their children and that's just not ok in my book.

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  6. Oh, your girls will remember, even if they don't understand yet. My parents' divorce wasn't actually amicable, but they hid the hostility beautifully; I just sort of… had two houses now. And it was great. And now that I'm old enough to know how awful it could have been, I really, really appreciate it. It matters. They'll know.

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  7. Thank you for making it an amicable experience. I have no doubt that the love my parents showed me and the dedication to parenting me together made me the person I am today. They got divorced when I was two years old, 22 years later they still have many mutual friends, have dinner at my house with their significant others and each other, celebrating birthdays, holidays, and everything in between. I knew many kids growing up whose parents had to use the kid to exchange messages, they couldn't even talk to each other. The stress that must have brought. I can't imagine it but I am so very thankful for parents who chose to parent together, after a divorce.

    1 agrees
  8. I'm a young almost-attorney and this piece was inspiring. My family law professor taught us about a newer trend, collaborative (and sometimes a variant called cooperative) divorces, which are intended to be less litigious (or even non-litigious) and involve greater support for the family. The parties agree to work toward a dissolution with as little court involvement as possible. Sometimes extra advocates, including mental health professionals, are involved to provide support or aid parents in seeing a child's perspective. My professor thinks it will grow as more people take the perspectives in this article.

    I never pictured myself in family law before that class (even though I've done a little domestic relations work in the past) but I found something really spoke to me about collaborative practice. I graduate in May and take a July bar exam, and I'm really hoping to find an opportunity to practice in this area. This piece represents the spirit of collaborative dissolution/divorce and I really appreciate seeing this perspective represented!

    8 agree
  9. All over the place, THIS. As the oldest child of amicably divorced parents let me just say THANK YOU. I can guarantee your children will consciously appreciate your efforts one day. Being able to still have "family" events/outings/celebrations is one of the best things. You just get the opportunity of a bigger family; it's pretty great when your mom and you dad's girlfriend can be friends and everyone can be at your birthday dinner :)

    4 agree
  10. First, thank you for your kind words. I do hope for this to be inspiring for those who may face a similar situation. I won't say that it isn't hard or painful, but it is exactly as I described. We are doing mediation and our attorney is impressed without humor. I am glad to hear from adults who had Parents that did this. I am a little terrified we might mess our girls up. I really do hope that we are just making a bigger family. :)

  11. This resonated with me so much. I am a small-scale organic farmer too, and have had problems with my partner, too. It is so much easier for me, I'm sure, because we are not married and have no children – just chickens :)

    We work through our issues as they come up but farming is SO stressful… they say a leading cause of small-farm failure is not burn out or bankruptcy, but divorce. This has happened to friends of ours and it seems even sadder than non-farmers, because of that shared effort and rooted-ness. It is one of my deepest, darkest fears.

    But your story gives me so much hope! Thank you, thank you, for sharing this, from a farm girl with divorced parents. Much love.

  12. Another child of an amicable divorce here. They will appreciate it when they are old enough to understand it. I never really appreciated how "good" the divorce was until I got married. There are many people out there who are terrified of their divorced parents being in the same room at their wedding, and my parents work out at the same gym and had no problem throwing me a joint graduation party or gathering together for a BBQ when visit. I'm extremely grateful to have parents who can at least pretend to get along socially. Honestly, I don't feel like the divorce had any major impact on my life, and I attribute that to the way my parents handled themselves. I applaud you guys for doing the difficult thing for the sake of your kids (and your chickens!)

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