Reflections on Identity

How Divorce Agreements Hurt Women

Is it fair that my ex-husband is allowed to move on in ways that I cannot?

Laura Friedman Williams
5 min readMay 19, 2022


Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash

My divorce papers have been signed and I’m mostly fine with them. The injustice of it all enraged and wounded me during the negotiations, but it’s done now and I feel free — not so much free from my ex-husband, as I already felt disconnected before the papers were signed, but free from the brutality of the divorce process. Am I thrilled? Definitely not. Satisfied? Meh.

What I feel most of all is resigned. To get to the finish line, I had to accept that I would never get as much money as I felt I was entitled to, and he had to accept that he would have to pay more than he felt was fair. At some point, I reflected on the state of my sanity and decided enough was enough and I suppose he did too — that, and the hard, cold reality of mounting legal fees. We paid a dear price for our divorce, with money but also with the fury we lobbed at each other. That’s over now.

There’s this one little detail that rankles me though, and try as I might, I can’t seem to shake it: the clause that addresses my potential remarriage or cohabitation.

When I first read it, my head reared back. It was so antiquated that I was certain my husband would agree to strike it from the contract: if I live with or marry another man, my husband will no longer be required to pay alimony.

We live in a world that often seems intent on going backward. As I watch in horror as what had seemed like the impossibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned becomes a very real prospect, I contemplate the meaning of “my body, my choice.” After divorce, do I not solely own my own body and mind and all decisions related to them? Well, no, not exactly.

Part of the money that my now ex-husband pays to me every month is spousal support. It is not backpayment for services rendered but a legal nod to the fact that for twenty years, I ran our household and did the child-rearing while he financially supported us. The intention of alimony is not to make me a kept woman, but to give me a chance to get on my own two feet. Alimony has an expiration date, so I’m highly motivated to reestablish a career. I have a child at…



Laura Friedman Williams

Author of AVAILABLE: A Very Honest Account of Life After Divorce (Boro/HarperUK June ‘21; Harper360 May ‘21). Mom of three, diehard New Yorker.