Today I’m starting a new series which is an update for one of my recent guests, an exciting update. When I posted Marjorie’s story in late January/early February, you may recall that she had been separated from her husband for some fifteen months then, he’d had her arrested for domestic violence, got a restraining order against her barring her access to their home and he’d been granted temporary primary custody of their one minor child.
Since her husband had cut-off access to all the marital financial assets, she had very limited financial resources with which to fight him for custody but being a very determined and resourceful woman, Marjorie was able to get pro bono legal help and with that help she when to court. Marjorie’s attorney expected the hearing to last two days – it went for a day and a half and at the end of the hearing, the judge issued his orders for child custody and the division of financial assets. It was all good news for Marjorie. Let’s start by hearing how Marjorie prepared for the hearing. Here’s Marjorie:
What we really did was try to prepare for who they were going to bring to testify. From the very beginning, we thought this was going to be a two day trial because he had twenty people on his witness list. So I had to prepare what I knew about these people for my attorney, so he could either discredit them or whatever. Then of course he needed to speak with the people on my witness list, but we didn’t do any major prepping to be honest with you.
The people my ex called were people that I didn’t even expect to come. The therapist was called, which at the beginning, my attorney, told me there’s a statue to which you can’t call the child’s psychiatrist or therapist. We felt that even though they listed her on there, for some reason, my attorney chose not to challenge it before court, which is what he should have done. He felt like it was just there to intimidate me, but then we found out the morning of the hearing, she was coming, she was subpoenaed, and when he tried to argue in court, the judge told him “you had four months to argue this with the other counsel,” so we could have had her stricken, but nothing she said made a bit of difference because of the age of my child.
My attorney said there are certain things he’s not going to bring up in questioning me, because it would open the door for my ex’s attorney to come after me. So, he just focused on my role as a mother, raising my daughter, what I did with her, that sort of thing. That was where his focus was and then also the lifestyle change of how my life was when I was with my husband, how it is now, the disparity in income. That’s what he said he wanted to focus on, and that’s what we did.
I’m going to tell you the hearing, that was the worst experience I have ever had in my life, because it’s like sitting through a character assassination. It’s probably even with having to spend the night in jail. I had to sit there and listen to my husband accuse me of these disgusting things. I was crying in court.
We actually had a witness show up that I thought was a friend and ended up turning on me and making their testimony to help my husband. That was really hard to swallow. All through this they were so friendly with me, and then they just turned it to come and be a character witness on his behalf. That was really hurtful.
But, this is what divorce does. You’re going to lose some friends and people are going to sometimes take sides when they don’t want to. I’ve had friends who came on my behalf who knew both of us, but they know who I am as a mother, and they felt that it was important for them to be here and let the judge know that. Of course that meant that their friendship with my ex-husband was over. That’s just what these things do.
The fact that financially the judge gave me the alimony, the child support, half the retirement, my husband walked away with all the debts and the liability, so I don’t have any debts and he has to carry 75 percent of all expenses for our child’s school activities, extracurricular activities, insurance, all of that, I feel very happy with the way things turned out.
The Divorce Coach Says
I always want couples to resolve their divorce without having to go to court. The whole process is so adversarial and it makes it very challenging, if not impossible to work together as co-parents on an on-going basis. You have to go in knowing that your ex or his attorney is going to do their best to discredit you and for that you need a very thick skin. Visioning can help you figure out what you think an equitable divorce settlement might look like but if your spouse is not willing to talk to with you or negotiate with you, not willing to compromise then you have two choices: walk away or fight. If you don’t have money to cover legal fees, fighting may not be an option and that underscores some of the inequities in our family law system. If you have money for legal fees or can get pro bono help as Marjorie did, then you fight.
Even then, it’s important not to get consumed into fighting for the sake of winning but rather to be focused on fighting for what you believe is right, equitable and fair. Bitterness and vindictiveness don’t help the emotional healing. And as Marjoire will attest, being a biological parent isn’t sufficient justification for custody.
Are you headed to court with your ex? What are you doing to prepare? Have you tried other resolution methods? What is standing in the way of you and your ex agreeing?
Photo credit: lewisha1990