Friday, March 30, 2012

First divorce expo in U.S. aims to ‘empower’ attendees

Exhibitors will showcase services to help people dealing with the divorce process 

By contributor
updated 3/30/2012 10:04:51 AM ET
Bridal expos have long provided attendees with knowledge about what’s hot for the wedding process; but what’s out there for those dealing with the harrowing situation of divorce? 

The “Start Over Smart” expo, the first divorce expo in the U.S., promises to put a friendly face on the process. The two-day event, held in New York City this weekend, will draw industry professionals together to offer information and services to those going through a divorce.

Francine Baras and her daughter Nicole Baras Feuer are launching “Start Over Smart” with hopes that it will be a hit and enable them to host the event in other cities. And with half of all marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce, there’s a need for this expo, the pair tell TODAY’s Amy Robach in a segment that aired Friday. 

“Divorce is still in the closet,” said Baras. “We think we talk about it, but when you’re facing it yourself, you are facing it alone.”

Cities throughout Europe have been putting on such expos for years, and Baras and Feuer were actually inspired to bring the event to the U.S. after heading to one in Paris. “[We] fell in love with the idea,” Baras said.

The mother-daughter team brings relevant experience to the table. Baras is married and a family therapist. Feuer, a recent divorcĂ©e and single mom, is a divorce mediator. Calling her own divorce “isolating,” she set out to put everything into the expo that she wished she’d had when she was going through her divorce.

The event, which costs $75 for a one-day ticket and $125 for both days, includes over 100 professionals that deal with divorce, with vendors hawking everything that one would expect, like counseling, legal services and financial expertise (TODAY money expert Jean Chatzky is a keynote speaker at the event). More surprising exhibitors include a business that arranges ceremonies providing reconciliation for couples embroiled in divorce proceedings, plastic surgery professionals, a matchmaker and beauty experts.

“Besides having all this information that’s very important to demystify divorce,” Baras said, “we have the other side…how to put your makeup on again; how to feel sexual, how to start dating.”
Randi Lambert, a mother of two, is ending a 14-year marriage and says she plans to attend the expo.
“I want to make sure I know anything and everything,” she said. “(So) I won’t have to look back and say I should’ve, I could’ve.”

Baras and Feuer say they’re not proponents of divorce; instead, they are in the business of supporting the people going through the process. Feuer calls the expo “empowering and uplifting,” and says that people shouldn’t look at divorce as something negative, but as a necessary transition in people’s lives when the dream of happily ever after doesn’t quite last for forever.