A Virginia Divorce Attorney’s Advice to Anna Duggar

The internet is a cruel place, particularly for the scorned and shamed. These days, Josh Duggar (along with Jared from Subway) is pretty much at the top of that list. As far as the internet is concerned, he is persona non grata.
So, who the heck is Josh Duggar? He is, as you probably already know, the son of the famous (or infamous, depending on your feelings) parents from the popular TLC show 19 Kids and Counting. If you know anything about the show (and, probably if you didn’t before last week, you certainly do now), you know that they family is pretty devoutly and conservatively Christian.
A couple of months ago, Josh’s name was in the news when it came out that, several years prior, he had sexually abused five minor girls—four of whom are his sisters. It was a shock to everyone who thought the family was as pure as they portrayed themselves to be. Josh issued a public apology, saying that he was young but that his mistakes had brought him closer to God and put him on the right path. Or something like that; I’m paraphrasing.
Then, now, we find out that Josh Duggar didn’t stop there. He was a paid member of the Ashley Madison site, and now admits to having an affair and viewing porn. He apologizes again, of course, very publicly, but that doesn’t stop everyone on the internet from bashing him.
I’m not here to bash Josh Duggar. Frankly, regardless of the decisions he has made, I’m not going to stoop to internet bullying. I don’t need to add extra negative comments that will only discourage him and hurt the innocent people involved—his wife and children. I like to think that I’m better than that.
I think that’s what people tend to forget when scandals like these break. Though it’s sensational and it’s interesting, it’s also incredibly public and deeply shameful for the people who are going through the experience. And life for Josh’s wife, Anna Duggar, can’t have been easy recently. I don’t know her, and never expect to meet her, but I certainly wouldn’t want to add anything to the internet that would increase the pain that she (or anyone else who found her husband’s name in all this muck) is experiencing.
Anna (if you read this, I hope you don’t mind that I call you Anna) says publicly that she’s going to stand by her man. The internet is shocked. I’m not surprised, though, because, as a culture, we’re pretty quick to grab our torches and pitchforks. When we’re outraged (and this Ashley Madison scandal has many people pretty outraged), we act quickly, impulsively, and, often, cruelly.
As a divorce attorney, I’m more or less in the business of dissolving unhappy, abusive, unfulfilling, and unsatisfying marriages, so you might think that I’d be here to push divorce. Still, I know that millions and millions of people choose to make it work instead, and, regardless of my personal opinion (or the internet’s, for that matter), they have the right to make that choice.
Anna, my advice to you is simple. Like I’d tell any woman who comes into my office, you should listen to your gut and make the best decision you can with the information you have. If your decision is to save your family, even at great personal cost, that’s a decision you should feel comfortable making. If, on the other hand, you decide, whether now or later, to pursue something different, that should be your choice, too. All any of us can do is make the best decision possible for us and our children, and no one else should feel like they can make a decision on our behalf about what’s best for us. You know Josh, as a husband and a father, and it’s true that, sometimes, mistakes (even really big and embarrassing ones) can be forgiven. Sometimes, they can’t. Either way, it’s okay. But you’re a big girl, and you’re capable of making decisions.
Until a woman decides to pursue a divorce, I don’t push them in that direction. When I started working here, it was something that was really emphasized. We’re here to educate, to present options, to talk about alternatives, but not to assume or to push our judgments on others. I like to think that I (and my firm) provide a lot of benefit to Virginia women facing divorce and custody cases. We talk about the law and how it works. We talk about options and alternatives and give examples. We even refer out—to therapists and marriage counselors and others who can help, when women tell us that they need more options.
Anna, divorce isn’t your only option. It is an option, of course. It always will be. But if you choose to love him anyway, that’s a choice, too. It’s certainly one you’re qualified to make. And it’s also one you should never apologize for making.
Take it from a divorce attorney: whether you divorce or stay together, it’s not easy. Didn’t your mother tell you that, too? Life isn’t easy. Being a grown up isn’t easy. There’s no road map, either. Whatever you decide, own it. Be you. Do the best you can. Provide the best life possible for you children.
We often tell our clients that they should take care of themselves first, and we use the example of the air masks in airplanes. Those safety videos always tell you to put your own mask on before you help people around you—even your children. That’s not something that most of us think about on a day to day basis; we help our kids first, because it just comes naturally. But why should you fix your own mask? Because, if you don’t, you risk passing out before you can even secure your child’s mask. If you’re passed out, not only can you not help yourself, but you can’t continue to help your kids.
So, Anna, you, like everyone else I talk to, should put your mask on first. Make sure you’ve got enough oxygen, so you can continue to protect your children and your family. Make the decisions you need to make, whether you divorce or stay together. Trust your instincts. Maybe I don’t even need to tell you this, because it sounds like you’ve already made your decision.
We can all learn a lot from Anna. With any luck, over the course of our lives, very few of us (if any) will be in as difficult and as public a crisis as the one she now finds herself in. It’s sad, and she deserves support, whatever her decision. Whether it’s the one you would have made or not, she, and other women like her, deserve support and understanding.
Divorce is never a decision that is undertaken lightly. Given the circumstances, I’m fairly certain that Anna hasn’t entered into her own decisions lightly, but with much thought, deliberation, and, in her case, prayer.
If you’re thinking about divorce, you should know that you’re not alone. You should know that there is lots of information out there to help you make your decision. And, whether you decide to divorce or reconcile, you should know that your true friends and family will stand by you and support your decision, whether or not they agree with it.
My advice? Get as much information as you can, so you make an informed and well-considered judgment. Get a copy of our free divorce book (or this one if you’re military. Attend a seminar. Talk to an attorney by scheduling a confidential one hour appointment by calling 757-425-5200. But make your own decisions, and then hold your head high.

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