Thursday, June 5, 2008

Well, It Finally Happened

I am divorced.

It happened today at 1:30. The whole thing was a bit anticlimactic, but I knew it would be. You can't spend years working through all this to have it done in 5 minutes and it not be anticlimactic. I think there should be some sort of ritual when you get divorced - there is with weddings and deaths, why not divorces? If it was up to me there would be incense and chanting... and marching bands. Something to indicate that this is a big occurrence. My ex wasn't even there. I am glad I went, however. I am glad it I was there to look the judge in the eye and realize this is a start of a whole new life.

There is a lot happening with me right now, but it feels good - as though I am returning to who I was - except better, stronger and more sure of what I want. Financial freedom is definitely part of it. Finding the way to make these house payments is a struggle, but also a way I am growing into myself.

And now, I feel I need to say a bit about lawyers: I know in some ways this isn't about my goal to get $900 a month, but it is something I feel I need to talk about. As I sat in that room, I could easily pick out those with lawyers and those without. The lawyer people were reading books and relaxed. The non lawyer people were clutching their forms in sweaty palms and looking nervous. I was a lawyer person.

I can't say that everyone should have an attorney - there are plenty of reasons, and money is the biggest one, to do a divorce yourself. It is certainly possible. But I have to say I watched those folks coming in, confused by the terms, not knowing what they were supposed to do and was very grateful for mine. Honestly, I didn't know what I was supposed to do either - but I knew my lawyer would tell me. (And he did.) I would say in any case where there is any kind of disagreement or going to be fighting over anything - talk to a lawyer!

...but not just any lawyer.

Here is the thing - you are paying lawyers to be on your side. I suppose this is true in any circumstance, but especially in the case of divorce. An attorney is not a third party opinion - s/he is yours, to fight for you, to defend you, to steer you in the right direction. They are there to look after your best interests, and if they aren't - then just walk away.

I watched one woman walk up with her lawyer. The judge swore her in, and her attorney asked her some questions: did she file for divorce on such and such a date, did she understand the agreement, was she aware there was no child support on this, and was she pregnant. (That was a biggie - all us ladies got asked that.) The judge then declared that it was in his jurisdiction and he had the authority to grant the divorce. The end. The attorney turned around and headed back to the lawyer corral and started chatting with other attorneys. The poor woman stood there, sort of stunned. A court clerk tried to hand her a copy of her paperwork so she reached limply to take it. Her attorney saw and wheeled around and took the papers herself - then turned her back on her client and went back to chatting. The newly divorced woman looked lost and unsure what to do now. She literally went up and stood behind her attorney (who persisted in standing with her back to her) and tried to get her attention - she was ignored. Not knowing what else to do, she left the courtroom. The woman sitting next to me and I looked at each other in horror.

This should not have happened. Look. you are paying these folks to help you. It is so easy to be overwhelmed by professionals when you don't know the language - whether it be lawyers, doctors, mechanics, roofers or pool boys. I know that attorneys get put on a pedestal, but they are just folks - like you or me.

My attorney talked to me ahead of time about what was going to happen. When we got to the judge, my lawyer noted he had found a problem with the file. He explained what happened to the judge and I and how he would fix it.* After the divorce was degreed, he had me sit and wait while he filed another divorce for one of his other clients that was there that day. When we were both done he took us outside and explained what had happened and what we needed to do - and how he would be following up.

How did I find my attorney? I asked a friend - I got a great referral. And for me that is one of the many lessons I walked away with - there are times you have to hire someone. When you do, get a referral from someone you trust and then make sure you are a 100% comfortable with who you pick - otherwise it is just money down the drain.

* One of the people who did not have a lawyer got asked about some particular form she didn't have. She told the court clerk that she didn't know how to fill it out. The clerk said, "Well it is your job to find out. When you are acting as your own lawyer it is your job to make sure everything is done correctly." Frankly, she was really snotty about it - but ultimately, she was right.


louise said...

there should be some kind of ceremony or ritual for divorce, it's a really big deal!
and paying for legal advice is money well spent.
I'm glad you're seeing it as a whole new start for yourself :)

Dawn said...

Thanks for your kind words Louise!!