My Divorce (Chapter One, The Decision)
We’re starting a new blog series today … I have a friend in the Northeast who is (finally, according to him) ready to file for divorce. He is sharing his story step-by-step as he goes along in the process, I’ll be commenting where I think it’s relevant/necessary … he’s in his fifties, has been married 28 years (sorta) and has three children, the youngest just went off to college. My comments are in quotes in blue….
Chapter One, The Decision.
I learned that there’s a pretty big difference between deciding it’s time to get a divorce and it’s time to go see an attorney. I mean it’s one thing to realize that there’s no longer any ‘there there’ in a relationship and quite another to take the first step toward severing that relationship permanently.
I’m not sure exactly what it was, but probably a combination of things, that made me decide to take the first step. I knew the original relationship had been moribund for the last three or four years if not very uncomfortable and at times abusive, emotionally anyways. But something always seemed to pop up. Children in school, children with activities, oldest in college, needing to move, new jobs, financial uncertainty while we started those new jobs . . . and the dog.
My wife could be mean, in a cutting, sarcastic nasty kind of way, but that was always pushed aside to deal with it the kids and all that stuff. That’s unhealthy, but what are you going to do, walk out?
But, when my youngest graduated high school in June, then left to work in a camp for an entire summer, then came home for a week and packed up for college, I realized that if ever there was a time to finally pull the trigger and end the relationship this was it. Then the dog died and I cemented it.
So, hey, great I finally decided to get a divorce. I finally listened to friends and family who chimed in over the last five or six years asking, frankly, ”what the hell I was doing still married”.
Sorry to hear about your dog. First off, I’d like to tell you how much I appreciate that you can be open and honest about something as difficult as a divorce. It takes a strong person to do that. None of us want to be judged, admit our failures and shortcomings, and expose our vulnerabilities. But family law is very fact based, and as an attorney, we have to know the accurate facts in order to do our job. I admire you for doing that.
That being said. Don’t beat yourself up about this. We’re talking about a relationship between two people, which requires two people to decide to make it work, and to make that decision each day. It’s not easy. The situation you described is something I have heard many times – we had a goal, a project, a common purpose, to raise our kids successfully and get them out of the house. A couple will sometimes stay in a relationship they know is unhealthy, and sort of sacrifice their own happiness for the perceived happiness of the kids. When the mission is complete, they realize that there is no longer any common purpose in the marriage, and that it’s time to move on. It doesn’t have to be kids, it could be financial goals, other family influence, or any kind of objective that keeps people together temporarily. Remember that just because your marriage may be ending, your life isn’t over. In fact, it’s an opportunity to restart it, in a sense. It’s an opportunity for both of you to reinvent yourself and find the fulfillment you’ve been missing. ~ Evan.
Turns out that was the easy decision. Doing something about it was an entirely different matter. I have a law degree; I understand how the divorce process works in my state; I know that for couples with children over the age of 18 there is a simplified, do-it-yourself, way of obtaining a divorce; I know for a fact I am incapable of sticking up for myself in such a process with my wife on the other side of the table.
If ever Abraham Lincoln’s adage that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client is applicable, it is for me.
About a year ago I had looked at different lawyers and talked to many of my lawyer friends about who to use should I ever decide to finally pull the trigger. It turned out that several of them recommended it woman who I knew casually.
The week after I dropped my son off at college, 400 miles away, I came close to dialing the phone at least five times but allowed myself to get stopped for a variety of reasons – none of them really valid. Finally, I emailed her instead. Just seemed an easier path to take.
She got back to me with a ‘why would you email me, you can call anytime’ and told me to set up an appointment, a free one hour consultation to talk about everything. I called, her receptionist was great, I … finally … scheduled .. .the … appointment.