'Divorce Magazine' Offers Practical Advice, Not Gossip

As the former associate publisher of a Canadian bridal magazine called Wedding Bells, Dan Couvrette knew a lot about guiding couples through pre-wedding events. But when his own marriage failed a few years ago and he needed practical information on divorce, he discovered that resources were scattered and scarce.

"I didn't find much," says Mr. Couvrette, who lives in Toronto.

Ever the inventive publisher, he decided to create a first-ever magazine on divorce. Although some doomsayers in the publishing industry "didn't think it was a great idea" and others told him he was "crazy," Couvrette persevered, launching Divorce Magazine in Toronto in March. The first United States edition, Chicago's Divorce Magazine, premired in August.

The quarterly publication features articles on legal, financial, and emotional issues, such as how to find a lawyer, determine a spouse's assets, and meet people to date. Other subjects include mediation, children, and real estate. "At least 50 percent of our readers have to move," says editor Diana Shepherd.

Describing the magazine's serious editorial content, Ms. Shepherd says, "I think some people's expectation is that this is going to be a glossy magazine, with Bert and Loni on the cover, telling all the dirty stories about divorce. It's not a gossip magazine. We don't endorse divorce or glorify it. But a divorce really affects your entire life."

Adds Couvrette, "Our purpose is to make a difference for people who are going through separation and divorce." About 1.2 million couples will divorce this year, he says.

The magazine will add a New York edition in December and a southern California edition in January 1997. Next March, Couvrette will also launch a national edition, then later add eight more city editions. The 64-page national edition will be available in markets that do not offer regional editions. It will also be wrapped around regional editions. Couvrette hopes for a circulation of 200,000 by the end of 1997.

Shepherd, who describes editors as "swamped with mail," is heartened by initial reader response.

"If I had to generalize, most of the letters from women are sad," she says. "Largely, they haven't gotten over their divorce, even if it happened 30 years ago. Most of the letters from men are angry, and they haven't gotten over their divorce either." On child custody and visitation, she says she receives "some really tragic stories from men about what's happening to them."

For divorcing couples with families, the most important concern is their children. To address that need, the Southern California edition expects to incorporate a newsletter for single parents called Solo...With Kids.

"There are 19 million single parents," says Marilyn Facey, publisher of Solo. "Fifty-two percent of American school children do not live in traditional two-parent homes. So we're talking about a huge part of the population that isn't old enough to know about Donna Reed but is still living in the legacy of that setup. We need to cover some new ground, so people understand that in the search for themselves, they're supported, not penalized."

In addition to offering practical help for readers, editors hope they can encourage what Shepherd calls "a paradigm shift in North America in how we view divorce." Lamenting such negative tactics as "finger-pointing and using a child as a football," she says, "If we could change divorce so it's not financially devastating, not emotionally devastating, particularly where there are children, and show people that they can be good co-parents to their children, this is one of our goals."

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