It’s Over. Now What?

 

This is part 2 of my drama series.  I will call it drama – because there’s no Joy in this.  I created this series of posts in an effort to help those who aren’t where I am yet, and to remind them they aren’t alone.  It’s a scary road, once you step outside your “safe place,” but – although I can’t tell you how long it will take – I can promise you that you will find Joy again somewhere at the end of the journey.  And now for my religious interjection:  God doesn’t want you to be miserable.  God doesn’t want you to suffer.  He will take you higher.  Have faith.
 
So your marriage is over.  Now what?
 
Speak to a lawyer immediately.  Again, it doesn’t matter who started it – it matters that at least one of you had the guts to say out loud, and act on it – that you don’t want to be married anymore.  All bets are off after this.  I don’t care what you say – there is no turning back.  A good attorney will offer you a consultation – many do charge a nominal fee for their valuable time –  where you explain your situation and they advise you that of course they can take your case.  He/she will tell you what their fees are,  what their retainer is, and what you have to do next.  This is the part that scared me most – and what kept me from speaking to an attorney in the first place – money.  I was a stay-at-home mom with very little income of my own – how the hell was I going to pay a lawyer??  I don’t really have an answer for this one – other than I am a proud person who does not like to ask for help – but found that my family stepped up and offered some financial support to move forward legally when hiring a lawyer became unavoidable.  And guess what?  I have an astronomical bill that I will be paying monthly on until the kids graduate college, but it was worth every single dollar.  All it is, is a number.  Get a grip on it.  You WILL pay it off.  Everyone’s situation is different.  All I can say is please please PLEASE don’t let money prevent you from legal advice ASAP.   You need to know what your rights are, and how to get what you need.  Don’t assume, no matter what he says, that your significant other hasn’t already seen an attorney.  Oh yeah – and just in case he comes back and says he’s sorry and doesn’t want to break up – please don’t give up a consultation.  Go find out what you need to know – don’t, like me, let him convince you that you don’t need a lawyer.


Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, agree to live under the same roof.  Once you’ve (or he has) decided to separate/divorce, you need the physical separation.  It doesn’t matter if you’re broke, the mortgage is in his name, you agree to be “amicable” (we’ll address this later),  you’re a stay-at-home mom with no income, or even if you are the breadwinner and he’s the one who’s broke.  Nothing good can come of this arrangement.  


With regard to the aforementioned living situation – he should leave the house.  You are the mother of his children and, particularly if you’ve been their primary caretaker, you should not be expected to leave the house.  The children deserve to stay in their home.  Displacement for them is just WRONG.  I left the home because he adamantly refused, because he was walking around after the divorce was final behaving like I was still his wife, badgering me daily about child support and other material things, and because a certain late night incident brought the state police to the house.  


And since I’ve already touched on this…This is a risky thing for me to say, but I have to say it.  If there has been any abuse of any kind, by your spouse, either to you or to your children, consider filing a PFA.  Yesterday.  That shit has to stop immediately, and he needs to know you are serious.  A friend of mine who once worked for Domestic Relations quoted me the statistic that it takes 7 times before a victim of abuse will actually go forward with legal action.  There IS a certain fear of the repercussions of doing so, I understand.  Sometimes it’s threat of more serious harm, sometimes it’s just a misplaced sympathy and sometimes not wanting your children to see their father hauled away in handcuffs.  However, your allegations, if not backed up by documentation, are just allegations.  And you can bet your fat lip he will deny it and accuse you of trying to destroy him.  **Again, I need to point out that I am not a legal expert, this is simply opinion – nothing more.  Always seek legal counsel on these matters. **  


If you don’t already keep a journal, start one.  Today.  I have been keeping journals for over 25 years, so this was easy for me.  Not only did it provide legally-recognized documentation of the “unfortunate” events in our marriage over 13 years, it also provided an ongoing commentary on what was happening during this entire legal process.  My attorney advised me at our first meeting to keep one.  Document.  Memorialize.  This would become a constant refrain from him.  I wrote about anything my ex said to me, anything the kids said to me, what occurred during custody exchanges and where they were done, text messages I received from him and email communications, and anything else he did that I found relevant (like changing the locks on the house I still own  before I moved my things out).  You do not want to be trying to remember every last detail of the previous six months, trust me.


Amicable.  A family friend – who also happens to be a lawyer – told me one day before the divorce was final, after I told her we were remaining “amicable” for the children’s sake, that there’s no such thing.  She’s a “tell it like it is” kind of person.  And I, of course, said, “oh no, we are working together and we’re going to share the house until we work out where we each will be living.”  What did she say?  No.  That’s not divorce – that’s marriage.  He needs to move out, she went on to say.  Why didn’t he move out yet?   This is not to say that two sane people can’t amicably decide not to stay married, and file a no-fault divorce and remain in each other’s lives and co-parent their children so they don’t need a lifetime of counseling.  I was told this is a pipe dream; however, I did recently have dinner with a couple that appeared to be doing just that.  BUT – again I will reiterate that once one of you has decided you’re not in love anymore and don’t want to be married (whether you shout it out or he announces it as he’s walking out the door with a loaded suitcase) – somebody’s heart is broken.  No amicability is born of heartbreak.  I won’t say don’t try to be amicable – I certainly have done my best not to be on the attack even in the midst of all the BS he’s pulled – but I am pointedly telling you that you need to lower your expectations.  That is what *Eleanor was saying, essentially:  amicability is married, divorce is not.  If you were amicable, you’d still be married. (*C’mon…You didn’t think I’d use her real name, did you?)


A lawyer will advise you on how to proceed with custody and child support.  There are procedures, and everything takes some degree of time to get resolved.  None of this will be resolved overnight. Or even in two weeks.  Just to give you an idea, I filed for support in September 2011 – a final resolution is expected at the end of August 2012.  Support is important so you can continue to maintain the children’s lives as they are accustomed, and if there is any dispute (as in my case) over the amount of support a temporary support order will be entered  (which means you get money weekly until a final order is entered).  Support hearings occur in a closed office in the Domestic Relations office, and conducted by a DR officer with both attorneys present.  I have also seen people in there with no representation. 


Finally, remember the children.  It doesn’t matter how bad your marriage is/was, how ugly the divorce gets, what an asshole your (ex) husband is, how far the custody battle goes, or how the extended family tries to annihilate your character.   You’ll hear this refrain over and over again:  what’s best for the children… In the children’s best interests…. Etc.  My mom kept asking me, over the last 6 months to consider in everything I do, everything I say as – “how does this benefit the children?”  It did give me pause long enough to think through my decisions, rather than react  (which is sooooo easy to do when you’re up against the “dullest” tool in the shed).  My lawyer said, “the children come first.”  I’m sure he was relieved that I made his job easier by agreeing with him.  It’s not easy to look past the bs.  Especially when your ex is telling the children inappropriate things.  The key is for you not to get sucked into it, no matter what.  You’ve got to dig deep.   My sense of justice was just too strong to just “let it go” when my children came home asking me if it was true that I left dad for Todd.  I felt because they had asked, I could answer, “that’s not true.”  However, the psychologist that evaluated all of us felt differently about how I handled it.  Apparently I was wrong – because I, in my response, indicated to the children in a roundabout sort of way that their dad is a liar.  Well, if the shoe fits….   Ok, sorry.  I will always stand by my actions – I believe I did nothing wrong.  I never, EVER, said anything negative to the children about their dad.  However, the psychologist’s perspective caused me to consider what I say before I say it –regardless of how the children present it to me.  I think about how they might be affected by my answer.  I think about how my response might color their picture of who their father is and, while there is no love lost for me, they deserve to have only the best image of him – for their sake.  They will see who he is – or isn’t – in time.  
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One thought on “It’s Over. Now What?

  1. Wow Tara, this really comes deep from your soul, such a truthful and honest sharing, kudos to you!! Finality is good and the support you have around you, from family and friends, great advice from Mom concerning the children, really helps during these intense times but as I recently have been sharing with a friend it feels alone at times when we are in a major “life change”, as it really is our responsibility for the final decisions. I really liked your title, “It's Over, Now What” as I am going thru my own version of this! Forward Movement, One Moment At A Time! Conscious Movement combined with Vigilant Awareness! Best Of Luck Tara! Much Love Surrounds You! Another turn on the Merry Go Round!

    Like

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