Out With The Old…In With The New

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In addition to divorcing Dick, there was another relationship that needed dissolving as well.

I had to find a new attorney.

When it was clear that I had no option but to file for divorce, I hired the first attorney that was recommended to me.

At the time, I knew nothing about family lawyers, and  frankly I didn’t have any interest in learning a great deal about them.

I assumed that if the domestic violence organization that I was receiving counseling from endorsed this legal professional, he was good, solid and would do his best to make sure I was well protected and represented.

*And you know what they say about assuming… “Assume makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’

Also, I didn’t have the luxury of shopping around. I needed to take action swiftly to protect the funds that Dick had liquidated from our joint account.

Plus, I was in major denial and scared beyond belief.

Had Dick not pulled what he did with our finances, I would have honored our vows and stayed married for the duration.

You know:

for better or worse…

for richer or poorer…

in sickness and in health…

till death do us part…

The major problem was that I was the one getting worse, becoming poorer and sicker and had I stayed much longer in that situation, it would have killed me.

I definitely got the raw end of the deal.

But, even with the writing on the wall, I didn’t dare think of rocking the boat.

The fear of the unknown kept me obediently and complacently in place.

While at the time I filed for divorce, I was receiving guidance, support and therapy from an agency that provided help to  women living with domestic abuse and their goal was to get me to file for divorce and move on with my life, I never thought in my heart of hearts that I would actually take the plunge and end my marriage.

I was great at talking about the plans I was GOING to make, the steps I would take and the timeframe it would transpire. I was excellent at telling the counselor what I thought she would want to hear, but I never had any intention of carrying out.

In my mind, it was never the right time. Something always seemed to come up that took precedence over ending my marriage.

Let’s face it: I was not looking forward to uprooting my life (as painful as it was, it was what I knew) for the unknown.

Where would I live?

Would I be able to make it on my own financially?

What would happen to my kids?

Would I be alone the rest of my life?

But when push came to shove, and that’s what it took for me to take action, I had to put my faith in the system and trust that my attorney would take care of me, protect me and work to make my outcome a successful one.

However, over time I began to question whose side was my lawyer really on.

In the beginning, he was Johnny on the Spot.

At our initial meeting, he was kind, caring supportive and promised me that he would take care of everything.

He started out very strongly and carried out what he initially vowed that he would.

We went to court immediately to file for dissolution of marriage and to put a restraining order on the money that Dick  had taken over as his.

After that, things went downhill quickly. He made promises that he didn’t keep. He botched up the temporary financial support that I was to receive while the divorce process was going on. Instead of having Dick put funds in an account  in my name, we shared a joint checkbook. Let me tell you, that didn’t work at all!!!

I was getting screwed over not only from Dick, but from my lawyer as well. It seemed that he was doing a wonderful job helping Dick’s cause. Mine — not so much.

The writing was on the wall that I needed new counsel. The problem was that I had no access to our finances. Attorneys won’t work under the promise of , ” I will pay you when the divorce is over and I can access our funds. ” Aside from the initial free session to determine if the arrangement is a good fit, as soon as you say, “I do,” the clock starts ticking and the fees start adding up. A retainer must be paid before anything will be done.

Where was I going to get several thousands of dollars???

AS much as I hated to do this, I asked friends and family for help. Everyone politely refused.

I didn’t know where to turn.

Finally, I was able to get an interest free loan from the domestic agency where I was a client.

I researched and found an attorney who a former high school classmate used and highly recommended.  My male classmate assured me that his counsel got him what he wanted and played hard with his ex-wife.

I needed someone tough who would stand up for me and fight for what I deserved. As much as I didn’t like hearing what his ex went through, I needed a bull-dog on my side.

My strategy had to change. No more Mrs. Nice Gal.

When I made the switch, things started happening swiftly.

He secured a trial date in case we weren’t able to come up with a settlement on our own, set up depositions, and subpoenaed Dick’s financial information.

Finally, things were moving forward instead of staying stagnant.

But with change, came a new set of issues…

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October Is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month

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If you are being abused, here’s what you should do:

  • Trust your instincts and believe in yourself
  • Call 911 if you are in immediate danger
  • Call a 24 hour crisis hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233)
  • Call a local shelter and go there for safety. When you call, they will tell you the location of the nearest shelter with an opening for you.

Living In A House Divided

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If we couldn’t live together in peace as a married couple, why would it be expected that we should cohabitate harmoniously  while going through the divorce process?

Honestly, sometimes I wondered who created the laws and whom they were designed to protect.

I didn’t need a jurisprudence  degree to ascertain that the abused wife and impressionable, innocent offspring who were put in the middle of all the tension, fighting and mayhem on a daily basis were not at the top of the list.

Crazily, the statutes seemed to safeguard those that others needed protection from.

Here’s how it worked in our abode:

Dick provided for our family financially. Since he was the sole breadwinner and I did nothing with my life except sleep all day and watch Oprah (according to Dick), there wasn’t enough money for him to move out temporarily and provide for my and our kids’ living expenses until the divorce was final. He had every right to stay in HIS house.

And boy did he milk that experience for all that it was worth.

Honestly, I didn’t know how he was able to effectively treat his patients, considering that he must have spent an exorbitant amount of time conjuring up ways to continually torment me (all within the confines of the law, thank you very much).

While living separately under the same roof, Dick and I had a “legal” temporary arrangement set up regarding what days/evenings of the week we would spend with Ashley. Since Josh was of the “age of majority,” he didn’t need to be included in the agreement. However, he just went along with the plan to uncomplicate a complicated situation. Or something like that.

When it was Dick’s turn to be with the kids, he always took them out to eat. On my evenings, I cooked.  Josh, Ashley and I ate at the kitchen table.

Many evenings when I was the custodial parent, Dick would  pick up some fast food, bring it home and coordinate the time he sat down at the kitchen table to when the three of us were about to eat.

Heaven forbid he should let me have alone time with our kids. He had to always be hovering over, keeping watch and putting in his two cents when it wasn’t appropriate, requested or desired.

As if we were all dogs participating in a Pavlovian experiment, as soon as the dinnertime hour rolled around on “Mom’s night,” the kids and I simultaneously lost our appetites.

One evening, things escalated and the sh*t hi the proverbial fan.

As usual, I got the table ready for dinner and put my setting in the place that Dick usually sat at. He came into the kitchen, moved my dish, silverware and glass to another spot and announced that he would be joining us.

Since it was his home too, I technically couldn’t tell him to get lost. Although, if he wasn’t trying to be such a dick, he wouldn’t have pulled what he was about to do. And he wasn’t honoring the agreement of allowing me my time uninterrupted with our kids

I tried to ignore him and completed my meal prep.

That evening I grilled steaks for my kids and myself. As we were starting to enjoy our dinner, compliments came forth from my offspring about how delicious the meal was.

At that point, Dick asked me if I bought him a steak. Without missing a beat, he continued, “You only bought three steaks. This will be documented. You are spending MY money.

Buy him a steak? Make him dinner? We were separated, and going through a divorce. I wasn’t his cook, servant, maid, etc., etc., etc. I wasn’t supposed to be doing a damn thing for him at that point. He knew it. But he was going to try to make me out to be a horrible person anytime he could in the presence of our offspring. 

I tried to be nonchalant and answered, “Whatever. Do what you want.”

Of course, things escalated into a huge argument, tempers flew and appetites were lost.

Of course, this wouldn’t have happened if there were some laws in place stating that the custodial parent would have uncompromised time with the kids or consequences would result for the noncompliant party.

Looking for some peace and quiet, Ashley went down to the basement.  I went to Josh’s room and he joined me. Dick went to get a car wash.

Josh and I had a long discussion.

He told me how uncomfortable it was for him and Ashley when Dick did this.

Duh!!! You think???

Josh went on to say that when he was away at college, Dick would call him up and ask if I yelled in the house. He proceeded to inform  Josh that if he would testify in court against me,  he would fly him in from school.

Of course, Josh refused.

The nerve of that sorry excuse of a man to put his son in that predicament.

My blood pressure was soaring at that point. I tried to remain outwardly calm and rational.

It was a practice that was getting harder and harder to do.

My mind went into self-pity mode.

Why was this happening to me?

I was a good person. I didn’t deserve this treatment.

Life was so unfair.

I didn’t know how much longer I could continue on like that.

And that was exactly what Dick was hoping for and counting on…that I would break and insist that we end the divorce process swiftly and I would agree to his terms and conditions.

Realizing that if I lost it, Dick would be the great benefactor in this sick, twisted game.

I couldn’t let him win.

So I returned swiftly to my survival mode of reasoning:

I don’t think. I don’t feel. I just deal.

 

 

 

 

The Home Stretch

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Somehow we all survived graduation weekend.

It wasn’t the celebration I hoped for and anticipated when Josh was just an infant and I held him in my arms, envisioning the idyllic life he would have.

But, then again,  as it’s been said, We make plans and God laughs. I just couldn’t grasp or comprehend how this Divine comedy would turn out and who would be chuckling when the final scene played out.

Taking an educated guess and basing my assumptions on how life was unfolding, I had a very strong feeling that I wouldn’t be the one rolling on the floor in a fit of uncontrolled hysteria when all was said and done.

Upon returning home from helping Josh move out of his frat, it was time to play another round of Musical Beds.

The only problem was I was the only active participant. The other members of our family, very comfortably and without disrupting their daily routines,  got to stay put in their original slumber rooms.  I felt like Goldilocks maneuvering around  the Three Bears’ humble home, testing out numerous sleeping arrangements until “the one that was just right” became obvious.

In my case, it was not “just right,” but it definitely was a no-brainer. For all practical purposes,  I had only one option left. Until the divorce was final and at that point, there was no way of knowing how long that would be, I would be sojourning in the basement, spending my evenings on the aging hide-a-bed sofa with the bulging springs in the mattress.

That final arrangement came as somewhat of a shock to me.

While Josh was still in school, he made it clear that when he moved back home, he wanted to live in the basement. He felt that it would be like having his own “space,” away from the rest of the family. The plan sounded ideal to me. While he was away at college, I took up residence in his room.  I was actually getting quite comfortable and cozy in my teenage-aged sons’ enclave.  Being surrounded by posters of athletic superstars  was the motivating force I needed to fight the fight and fill me up with positive encouragement.

Michael Jordan’s mantras became mine too:

Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.

I’ve failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.

Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.

Yes, I felt driven and on the winning team when I locked the door to “my room” every evening.

Then, in what seemed like a last ditch effort at the end of a crucial game, Josh informed me in no uncertain terms, that he would be returning to his quarters.

What??? I didn’t see that coming. Who called that play?

When I questioned him about it, Josh became very defensive, cold and calculating. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought for sure I was conversing with Dick. They sounded exactly alike. In fact, Josh had Dick’s facial expression, demeanor and stance down pat.

Unfortunately, much to my dismay, the apple was not falling far from the tree.

Where did his sudden change in attitude come from?, I pondered to myself.

Over time, everything became crystal clear.

When Josh shared his plans with Dick for taking over the basement as his “home-within-the home,” Dick became livid and told Josh that he was not going to give up his bedroom for me. Furthermore, Dick informed him that this was Josh’s house and not mine.

Really??? I mean, REALLY???

Dick’s and my home was not mine, but it was my son’s???

Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course we had the documents to prove that the home was in both of our names. Josh was not a co-owner, nor would he become one at any time in the upcoming future.

Dick’s behavior and actions were becoming very frightening. He was no longer rational.

Unfortunately for me, I no longer had any privacy in my home. The basement was used by the family every day.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse and I’ve reached rock bottom, I was taken down to a new lower level…literally and figuratively.

 

Graduation Celebration—Divorce “Family Style”

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Josh had made reservations at two of Bloomington’s nicest restaurants to celebrate graduation weekend with his family.

True to his word, on both evenings, at each of the restaurants, Dick paid for our kids meals along with his and made me pay for my own. On top of that, the second night, he went above and beyond by asking the waitress for separate checks: one for the three of them and one for me.

Josh was mortified. Not only was it totally embarrassing and humiliating, the eatery was beyond busy with celebrating, happy families and didn’t need the stress of providing two checks at one table. Our server looked at us in total shock and disbelief, although she didn’t outwardly question anything and did as she was told. She must have been thinking to herself, Now I’ve really seen it all!

I tried to keep my wits about me and not react to what Dick was pulling. That would have given him so much pleasure to see me devastated. Obviously, he thought he was hurting me and making me suffer. What he didn’t realize was how much he was traumatizing our kids. Unfortunately, those thoughts never crossed his mind.

As if that wasn’t enough fun for one evening, during dinner, Dick announced that he would be throwing Josh a graduation party in a few weeks. Because he was such a nice person, he would “allow” me to attend. He was using HIS money for the shindig and was making all the arrangements.  He then proceeded to tell me that he would be inviting my brother, sister-in-law and niece. When I questioned him about whether my mom, sister, brother-in-law and their kids and grandkids were invited, he told me they weren’t and that it was his decision who was included and not mine.

I was seething at that point.

How dare HE make OUR son a graduation party for family and friends, include one of my siblings and his family,  not the other, and intentionally leave my mom off of the list — Josh’s grandmother??? We were still married at that point. The party should have been from both of us.

He was really pushing things way too far.

On top of that, my mom was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She still knew family and was able to participate in functions. For how much longer, no one knew.

What a low blow on so many accounts. Dick was stooping to levels I didn’t think were even possible.

It was scary to see what an evil, mean-spirited excuse for a human being he had become.

What a celebratory weekend that turned out to be!

Poor Josh. He deserved so much better than that. All he wanted was for his family to be able to put aside all hard feelings for one weekend, call a cease-fire and come together one last time in peace to honor that momentous occasion.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be.

My heart was breaking on so many levels.

Josh should have been feeling on-top-of-the-world about graduating and the wonderful future he had in store, instead of wishing the whole experience would be over as soon as possible.

As the proud mother of her oldest child completing college, I should have been on Cloud 9, instead of praying with all of my heart that I could just keep it all together for the duration of the weekend.

As the daughter who lost one parent to Alzheimer’s and unfortunately was  living through the nightmare again of watching her mom slowly slip away from reality, I was fuming that my not-soon-enough-to-be ex-husband could take away one of the last remaining joyous moments in Josh’s grandma’s life by not inviting her to the graduation party.

What a memorable weekend that turned out to be.

Unfortunately, those weren’t the memories I was hoping we would have been making.