How much should the kids know about your divorce?

by singlemomseeking on July 7, 2008

No matter which way you turn, it’s hard to ignore the messy details of Christie Brinkley and Peter Cook’s divorce.

Is this drama confusing you as much as it’s confusing me? Thank goodness that single mom expert Dr. Leah Klungness is here today to straighten me — and you — out when it comes to the details. I’ve been getting lost.

“The Christie Brinkley/ Peter Cook divorce trial is a scorcher,” says Dr. Leah, co-author of The Complete Single Mother: Reassuring Answers to Your Most Challenging Concerns.

“At stake is the custody of the couple’s two children: Jack Paris, 13, whom she had with third hubby Richard Taubman and was adopted by Peter Cook; and their child Sailor Lee, 10. Christie also has a daughter, Alexa Ray, 22, with pop star Billy Joel.”

The first day of their divorce trial, according to the New York Post, Cook was said “to have a $3,000-a-month online porn habit.” Cook, 49, also had an affair with a then 18-year-old.

[Update: Christie Brinkley and Peter Cook  have reached a settlement. According to recent AP news, She'll "give Cook $2.1 million but keep 18 properties in the Hamptons that were at dispute. Cook will get parenting time with the children, under an agreement mutually satisfactory to both."]

But when is enough enough?

“What about the kids?” asks Dr. Leah.

I’ve always advised against badmouthing the other parent since kids quickly figure out that they are biologically half the other parent. Do we really want our kids questioning themselves, thinking they might be half a liar or half a cheat or — or worse, if one of their parents is labeled as such?”

“Our kids’ relationship with the other parent is separate from our relationship with this person who has probably keenly disappointed us. What is gained by destroying the love or trust that our kids hold for a “forever’ person in their lives?”

“Most importantly, what effect, if any, do you think all this information going public will have on Jack and Sailor?”

Let’s hear it from you, single parents out there on the front lines. Speak up.

Photo of Christie and her son, Jack, from PRphotos.com

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori July 7, 2008 at 4:43 pm

In my case, I never badmouthed the boys father. Sure I may have called him a jerk…but then realized what I did and felt bad for it. The poor kids have NOTHING to do with what went on with their parents marriage failing.
In this case though…those children can ‘google’ their parents and find out anything they want to know. It’s the downfall of being a celebrity. So maybe Christie is doing it to ensure her children are with her and doing what is best for them right now.

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Single Dad with daughter July 7, 2008 at 8:55 pm

Tough call on this one. I can see both sides of the issue.

Having said that… Peter Cook is a scumbag. A $3k a month porn habit is a far cry from a bachelor party at the local “ballet”. And having an affair with an 18 year old kid (yes, kid…) and paying her 300k to keep her silent isn’t the kind of person I’d want my kids around either.

I’d be lying if I said some of this wasn’t out of spite on Christie’s part (I’m divorced too…so let’s be truthful) but if I were a judge, Peter Cook would be getting some supervised visits with his kids for at least a year.

He really deserves nothing, despite the fact he may love his kids…he’s really exercised some terrible judgement. Calling him Unfit wouldn’t be descriptive enough a word.

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Amy Nathan July 8, 2008 at 3:54 am

I didn’t badmouth my kids’ dad – ever. I may have disagreed with a decision, or something he did – and if the kids also disagreed with him I would say, “Grown ups get to make their own decisions.” I wanted them to realize that what their dad did was his choice. I also made sure they knew he loved them – and found myself always defending him. Because the last thing you want is to be the person who points out the flaws in the other parent — because your child will undoubtedly see some of that parent in him or herself. I also point out anything good that I can attribute to their dad. I know that it’s right for them, no matter how hard it is for me.

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Legal Editor Mom July 8, 2008 at 5:04 am

I’ve never badmouthed my ex either, despite the hurt and pain he caused me, and the fact that he’s been quite sporadic in our daughter’s life. He has a lot of problems that he’s working on, and one of them, supposedly, is being a better father and person.

Now that our daughter is four and quite sensible for her age, she asks about him all the time and craves his attention. He is coming around a lot more, and while he walks on eggshells around me, he has noticed that I never badmouth him to her. He even gave me credit, remarking that he wouldn’t be able to do it!

I’m a firm believer that her relationship with her dad is separate from his relationship with me, and she doesn’t deserve to be dragged in the middle of our issues. I was raised with my father in my life and I want the same for her. So I bite my tongue and pray that he continues to make her a priority in his life.

P.S. Rachel, I’m surprised that you didn’t blog about Denise Richards taking her children for counseling! ;-)

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littlemansmom July 8, 2008 at 5:19 am

Badmouthing the other parent in front of the kids is NEVER a good idea, and will potentially turn around and bite you in the a$$!

As much as my X leaves little to be desired, and is NOT turned out to be a very decent father, I still avoid bad mouthing him in front/around my littleman. That vent is usually reserved for my private journal (with the exception on the occasional blurb in my blog LOL). Kids are smart. They will figure things out for themselves eventually and make their own assessments.

Unfortunately, when you are a celebrity, sometimes it’s better to just have things in the open because rumor and speculation can do more damage than the truth. Perhaps that’s what the intention is here in the Brinkley/Cook divorce.

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singlemomseeking July 8, 2008 at 6:57 am

Mamas, all of your are so articulate and mature, I really hope these celebrities can take your advice. They could really use it. Thanks!

LEM: I hang my head down as I admit that I haven’t been following the Denise Richards’ saga recently. Maybe it’s the fact that she has a pet pig, but I have a hard time taking her seriously.

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Dan July 8, 2008 at 7:29 am

I’m so over the whole celebrity divorce thing…those people live in a world completely devoid of reason and self-control. Armchair quarterbacking their divorce for some sort of validation just gives me that “I need a shower” feeling.

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Vinnie Sorce July 8, 2008 at 7:34 am

I never bad mouth either of my deceased spouses to my kids but I do tell them the truth.

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Dr. Leah July 8, 2008 at 8:10 am

I’m with Rachel. Your responses do show the maturity and sound judgment so often lacking . . .

Littlemansmom: You are so right. Kids do figure things out and make their own assessments. Long term, it is so much healthier emotionally, if our kids are allowed to come to their own conclusions without our badmouthing.

It’s really hard sometimes not to just blurt something out.

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Julianna Winkler July 8, 2008 at 8:44 am

Though his actions were horrible, they dont need to be further compounded by Christie Brinkley taking center stage. The children will eventually find out for themselves what happened and make their own judgements. In this case, shame on Christie Brinkley.

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judy July 8, 2008 at 9:38 am

Honestly I knew nothing about this ordeal till I read this blog.

If I were on hubby 4 I would hope that by now my friends had done an intervention with me and my issues.

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mc July 8, 2008 at 10:51 am

I don’t “badmouth” my ex to my kids.

But as my kids get older, I think they do have a right to factual answers about why we split up.

It was a very important event in their lives. They want to know why and they ask questions, and they expect more nuanced and detailed answers as they get older.

And I’m not going to lie to them or make up something more palatable just to sugarcoat what a jerk their Dad was.

When my kids asked (they are both 9 years old), I tell them that their Dad had a GF even though he also had a wife (me), and that this is not ever OK.

And I told them that he chose to live with the GF instead of with me, so that’s why we got divorced and their Dad and Mom live in different houses now.

To those who are complaining that Brinkley is damaging her children–why don’t you complain about her husband’s actions instead?

If her husband hadn’t been such a jerk they’d probably still be married and the kids wouldn’t be traumatized, obviously.

Is it Brinkley’s fault for calling him on his actions and suing him for divorce? That’s a pretty anti-feminist statement, in my opinion.

I think it would be far more damaging for their children, such as the 13 year old girl, to instead learn that women should just shut up and let their husbands cheat on them and steal from them, just to save a lame-ass marriage.

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mc July 8, 2008 at 10:57 am

BTW, the divorce proceeding certainly isn’t in the media because Christie “wanted to take center stage”.

That is a totally unfair criticism of anyone involved in a divorce!

I’m sure both of them would prefer to do this out of the public eye.

But unfortunately, divorce filings are always public information, available to any newspaper who wants to publish the lurid details.

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Dr. Leah July 8, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Hi MC, Actually, in New York, the filings (public information) for celebrity cases are typically cited as anonymous v. anonymous or just by the parties initials.

Christie fought a strenuous and ultimately successful legal battle to have all proceedings conducted in open court. This is why the media is seated in the court room and we are hearing all the grim details.

Hope this clears up any confusion.

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mc July 8, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Well OK then, I stand corrected on that 1 point.

But we don’t know her reasons for making it all public.

It’s ridiculous to suggest that she’s doing it solely for the publicity. Who would put themselves through the pain?

Instead, it is likely that she wanted these relatively dry and factual legal proceedings to be the first public discussion of her marital humiliation.

Otherwise, her ex and/or the nanny would write a lurid, one-sided book about it and/or sell the story to a tabloid. Of course, they’ll still do it, but it will all be “old news” by then, and this way she gets to put her side out in the public record too.

The children will hear about it anyway, no matter what. The legal version is probably the best way for them to hear it.

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Vinnie Sorce July 8, 2008 at 2:28 pm

I feel for the children but I need to ask, who really gives a damn about all these celebrities?

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singlemomseeking July 8, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Great question Vinnie!

As a blogger, these celebrities make great fodder for a good conversation, don’t you think?

Every so often, when I see such a blatant drama like this one — a messy celebrity divorce — it makes me pause for a moment and wonder, “Jeesh, I REALLY hope I don’t act the way they do–”

Maybe it’s a good lesson in whom we should NOT model after, yes?

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Veracity July 8, 2008 at 8:49 pm

I don’t see Christie Brinkley’s decision to make this case open as vengeful. I see it as evidence she will do WHATEVER she has to do to KEEP HER KIDS. As an aside, I also wonder how her career was damaged by her hubby’s adultery. Considering her profession is modeling, and modeling is an image business and Christie Brinkley is not YOUNG any more, I can actually see where Peter Cook’s pursuit and bedding of a teenager not only tore the marriage apart but harmed Christie Brinkley’s professional image. The comments Peter Cook has made during this trial baffle me. “never intended to be divorced”, compared Christie to Shrek. And his attorney forever rant about Christie being divorced three times. First marriage was two artists too young in love in France -aren’t they still on friendly terms? Next was marriage to an alcoholic ROCK STAR. Gee, is it any wonder it failed? Still friends and the child Alexa appears to be fine talented self assured young lady. The third was really low – married a man who pretended to have a career. She showed very poor judgement with Ricky T. Now Peter who pretended to be a loving devoted husband and spouse. From where I am sitting, she may be beautifully photogenic but I wouldn’t trade places with her for every dime she and all her husbands have. Jack caught his dad looking at porn BEFORE Christie was told of the adultery. Does anyone really think Jack just walked away from that computer wiping that image from his mind forever? Come on. And just this weekend, Jack was subjected to girlfriend #? during his visitation with his dad. If this “dad” cared anything about his kids, he would have had his latest squeeze gone and concentrated on spending some quality time with Jack. Nope, I see the kids as a means for Peter to try and hold onto Christie’s money. He has become used to a particular life style. I hope the Judge makes him pay support and gives the kids to Christie!

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Jen July 9, 2008 at 10:12 pm

I appreciate Veracity’s response. I also admire Single Dad with Daughter’s response. Peter Cook uses women and displays a lack of decent respect for others. I think the court appt. therapist was right in labeling Peter as a narcissist. It is scary how manipulative he is and what little remorse he displays. It is “terrible judgement” but goes beyond that too. I wonder how this mind set created?

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Karen July 10, 2008 at 10:18 am

I was glad to hear that Christie got full custody of her kids; she deserves that. I do wonder about her choices where men are concerned especially her last 2 husbands who were money grubbers. Could she not see that in them BEFORE she married them. I was hoping that she had finally found lasting happiness. She deserves someone wonderful that treats her and her kids the way they deserve to be treated; not someone only after her money.

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Noneofyourbussiness October 5, 2008 at 5:27 am

Jack Brinkley is aewsome….

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