Divorce Lessons from the Real Housewives Franchise

Carrie Sue Doxsee, J.D.
5 min readOct 19, 2022


Leave Ashley Darby alone about her divorce!

Ashley Darby/ Instagram

When you are going through a divorce, everyone has an opinion and most of the time their advice is WRONG (yes, even Gizelle Bryant).

Don’t take your friends advice as gospel… talk to your attorney AND a mortgage specialist.

Dealing with real property issues can be tricky especially if you have been a stay at home parent. Even if a Spouse has been working, sometimes they don’t have the pay history or sufficient credit to get a mortgage loan. Plus, attorneys don’t always have the best solution to make sure they are structuring a settlement to qualify the Spouse to get a loan.

Mortgage underwriting has changed a bunch since COVID.

So, if you are going through a divorce, you should not only work with your attorney but a mortgage specialist as well. There are certain time requirements that a person must be receiving maintenance before it will meet the standard. Just having a pile of cash is not enough.

I think Gizelle Bryant was coming from a good place. After all, when one Spouse is the money maker, they tend to exert their power over the other in ways that are not fair or beneficial. The conversations with Ashley Darby sound like she is naive and unprotected and just doing what Michael Darby suggested. So what should have been asked is… “Did you talk to an attorney about that strategy? Are you represented?” or even asking if they talked to a mortgage specialist to find out that was the way they needed to do it. If Ashely had received advice and you are criticizing her actions, then you are taking away the empowerment she is feeling in the divorce.

Another interesting thing about Ashley’s generation is that they do want to work things out and maintain a very integrated relationship even though the romantic part is gone. Everyone’s kids deserve to have parents who are comfortable with each other and working together.

It is also pretty obvious that that this couple never had any balance of power in their relationship and it appears that this is continuing in the divorce negotiations. So I do understand that Ashley’s friends are concerned about her decisions. They could be 100% right!

BUT… I don’t think that criticizing anyone for this type of Peaceful Parenting is fair at all. The Parenting side might be where Ashley has more power and it makes her feel good to have a bigger say in what happens in that arena. The problem is that she might then make unreasonable concessions on the assets side of the divorce.

You need to have some balance on BOTH sides- parenting and assets.

What I see in my legal practice all the time is that one Spouse does not see that the way their partner is treating them is not the same anymore. The kind person they were married to who always had their back is not who they are negotiating with going forward. If you find yourself negotiating to be nice and just to keep the peace, then you are going to regret the decisions you make and resent the person later on down the line. Resentment will implode the peaceful environment you are trying to create.

What else causes a person to offer more than they should? Guilt.

When someone files for divorce, often they may feel a bit of guilt even if they are justified. The guilt could be directed at their children and they don’t want them to pay the price for the parents not being able to make the marriage work. It could be directed at the Spouse due to their own bad behavior. Sometimes the best settlement you can get is at the beginning of the negotiations. When a Spouse feels like it is their idea, they are often more generous. Once they feel you are fighting them, they back off and start focusing on what is fair to them and not what is fair to everyone.

Watch out at mediation.

Another thing I see at mediation is that one Party tends to cave to the whims of the other. So while mediation is a good way to find your own solutions, if there is a major imbalance of power in the relationship, go to mediation with your attorney. The reason you hire an attorney is so you can let them be the bad guy and take the pressure off your future relationship with your Co-Parent. Believe me- I tell my clients all the time to let me be the bad guy and then you can sit back and say “I was only doing what my attorney told me to do”.

If I have a friend going through a divorce, how can I help them?

Housewife fans have seen plenty of cast members go through a divorce. Noella Bergener is a great example too.

Look, everyone has to go through a process. It is not your cycle of grief, but theirs. Noella was completely broken up about her divorce and that is OK! However, as you can see on the show, people got tired of hearing about it. So the best thing you can do to help your friend is to tell them to get into counseling. If they can’t afford it or think counseling is not for them, then have them find another support group — even online. They get someone who is going through the same thing to talk to and don’t need to continually throw up” their divorce drama on their friends.

Some law firms even have their own support Facebook Private Groups! I know I do.

Calling your friend to check on them is perfect.

Giving your friend a fun activity (especially if it does not involve you all talking so you don’t have to hear about the divorce drama) is also a win for your friend and your friendship.

Compliments and encouragement is key.

I have a free eBook: “The Ultimate Breakup Playbook” which might also help them walk through their divorce with confidence and support. If you want a copy of it, just comment to this post and provide an email. I will send it to you or directly to your friend. You can also DM me on Facebook for a copy.

Housewives fans… whether you are on Ashley’s side or Gizelle’s side, you are on the right side! We all want to see Ashely end up doing great and getting the best start possible on the next chapter of her life.