Wisconsin divorce camp helps women navigate the split

Wisconsin divorce camp helps women navigate the split

March 3, 2018 Off By Delia Keith

EDINA, Minn. (AP) — The life of Barbara Klas seemed perfect — a 21-year marriage, two children, a posh home in Woodbury and a career as an attorney.

Then came the perfect disaster. Her husband announced he was moving to Duluth, buying a company and dating a new girlfriend “half his age,” recalled Klas.

It felt like being pushed out of an airplane.

But she was able to find a parachute — Daisy Camp. The Edina nonprofit group runs a series of divorce camps for women enduring one of the worst periods of their lives.

Klas has been to several of the camps, which range from two hours to two days in length. The sessions have different themes, such as child custody, finances or legal rights. But each one addresses the fundamental need for women going through divorce — dealing with their emotions.

“Divorce is 70 percent emotional, 30 percent legal,” said Angela Heart, divorce attorney and a presenter at a Daisy Camp in January.

There is a long list of legal concerns for any divorced woman to navigate, she told the group. But those are all secondary.

“The No. 1 thing you need to do,” Heart said, “is take care of yourself.”

Daisy Camp was formed in 2006 by Jennifer Morris, 48, of Excelsior, who was going through a divorce of her own.

She found herself conducting an autopsy on her marriage, dealing with all the separate pieces — children, money, the house, cars and divorce law. She felt powerless, foolish, depressed.

She designed Daisy Camp to be what she never had — an affordable one-stop shop for women facing divorce. For a low cost, it serves as an ongoing divorce academy and support group for women — whether they or their spouse initiated the divorce.

“They support one another, educate themselves and make wise choices,” said Morris. “We aren’t sitting in a circle singing ‘Kumbaya.'”

The cost is $25 for the two-hour evening meetings, and $60 for all-day sessions. Scholarships are available for those who can’t afford the fees.

That’s when she happened to glance at her husband’s computer screen — and instantly knew her marriage was over. Staring back at her was a series of messages from his new girlfriend.

“I was blown away. I was scared. It still makes me emotional,” she said, her voice cracking.

At her first Daisy Camp session, she found the information and camaraderie she needed.

Jessica Benson, 37, felt besieged when living in Lino Lakes in 2011. She was going through the death of her sister, and was adopting her niece in a bitter legal battle. On top of it all, her husband began to drift away from her.

“When things got tough, it was too much for him,” she said. “I was terrified. I had no job, no income. Part of me felt like a failure. I could not make this work.”

“That was super-huge for me,” said Benson. “Daisy Camp is the best thing I ever did.”

At a meeting Jan. 24 in Woodbury, divorced mom Klas wore a “Warrior” T-shirt as she took a seat at a table laden with Kleenex and cookies.

Attorney Heart patiently explained the legal aspects of divorce — the deadlines, the options, the obligations. She acknowledged their ongoing pain and confusion.

“You might look at this as negative and terrible,” Heart told them, “but we are here to reframe it.”

Attorney Klas said advice from lawyers was a lifesaver for her. She said that often women are so emotionally paralyzed that they can’t think clearly.

“They sometimes don’t even appreciate the need to get a lawyer,” said Klas. “When women are stunned, their spouses can sometimes get them to sign their rights away, just to be done with it. Women need to know their rights. You are responsible for finding your own joy.”

As she walked out at the end of the meeting, Klas grabbed Daisy Camp founder Morris by the arm.

“I just want to tell you,” said Klas, “there is a huge amount that you have done for me.”

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