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Mark A. Barondess Headshot

Follow the Example of Howard Stern

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HOWARD STERN
Getty

Let me begin by reassuring you that you read the title of this article correctly-I am advocating that everyone going through a divorce should heed the example of media giant Howard Stern--at least in certain respects. Let me additionally disclose that I have never met Mr. Stern or his former or present wives, so my conclusions are based only upon what I have heard during Mr. Stern's radio broadcasts, his various television appearances and his enlightening recent interview as the cover story on the Rolling Stone.

I have always respected Stern's willingness to push the limit of the envelope and his fervent passion for the First Amendment, even when he would be mocking one of my clients. He has earned a reputation for his outlandish exploits on the air that have included insights into matters that would be considered extremely personal to most of us -- including the miscarriage of his former wife's pregnancy. But he does intelligently self impose certain significant limits on his freedom of speech, which all of us should follow.

Let me explain: For years, Stern had always spoken lovingly about his former wife and his children while he shocked the morning drive time of our nation. Then seemingly, out of the blue, he was separated. And then he was divorced. I do not know what the reasons were behind the divorce, and to my knowledge Stern has never revealed what those reasons are. He has only expressed the pain the divorce caused him and his family. But to my knowledge, he has never once spoken publicly about the details of his divorce or maligned his former wife. I have never read anything any that Stern's former wife has stated about her ex-husband or the divorce. When Stern remarried, there was no public rancor regarding his decision. Not from the husband, not from the ex-wife, not from the present wife and not from any of the lawyers. The children of the family were never mentioned. Everyone handled what was no doubt a very stressful experience with respect and dignity.

I am sure that some cynics will state that Stern probably is restricted by his settlement agreement from making any comments about the divorce. You are probably correct and that shows the good judgment of their parties and their attorneys by including such a provision. But I candidly think it is more than that. I am sure that the Stern's wanted to keep such a highly personal matter as confidential as possible. Too many people don't realize the long-term harm of a short-term decision to verbally attack or disclose information pertaining to a spouse, especially when children are involved.

Another example--Alec Baldwin was very wrong when he lost his temper with his daughter. But he did so after having endured what must have been an insufferable divorce experience. He apologized, was obviously devastated by his words and has hopefully mended his relationship. Nonetheless, the conduct that was even more outrageous than his words was the release of the voice mail message by someone that had to be extremely close to the family, if not part of it. Hurting Baldwin was done at the expense of an innocent child, and that is shameful.

I believe that matters of marriage and the reasons for separation and divorce are inherently private, and should be kept that way. So whoever might think that Howard Stern does not set a good example is simply wrong. Like Stern, understand and appreciate what is appropriate to disclose and what is not. Fight the urge to hurt your former or soon to be former spouse with words and actions that can never be undone. Your children and your conscience will ultimately thank you.