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Chasing The American Dream

January 15, 2005

LIFE IS A COM-PRO-MISE OLD CHUM

I should have been happy, I suppose, sitting in that courtroom listening intently as my lawyer tore holes through her story and, most likely, her heart. I mean, after all, I had been waiting and waiting for this moment to finally arrive…

For the past 11 months, I’d been put through the emotional ringer as, I’m sure, she had been. But she had been aggravating me and disappointing me with her need for greed, her need to control my life, and her need to talk to me about my son like I was, myself, an eight-year-old. Initially, I handled this very poorly. I lost my cool, cursed her out on the phone, and was flat out rude. Perhaps, I was letting it all out after keeping it all inside for all those years. It felt good. But it wasn’t right. It took me three months to get my emotions back in check. Sure medication and therapy helped, but I realized this was not the image I wanted to portray, especially in a court setting. So I’ve just been taking it, internalizing it once again, and waiting for ‘my day in court.’

You see, my friends, the very notion of divorce sucks, plain and simple. And when you throw kids into the mix it makes it even more unbearable. In a perfect world, two perfectly reasonable and intelligent people who have lived together, shared lives, love, happiness, heartbreak, success, and failure, for the better part of 12 years should be able to come to an agreement. More times than not, they can’t. We couldn’t either. And so divorce gets nasty. We divorcees turn our cases over to the experts, the professionals, the lawyers.

And so as I listened to my lawyer on the attack, I got close to crying. I felt the tears welling up, but I had to focus, listen, and write comments on my legal pad. I had to concentrate on the task at hand. So I sat in my chair and wrote all the inconsistencies and falsehoods I’d heard. And when I took the stand, I’d sneak peeks over to her side of the courtroom, and she was doing the same.

Same facts. How can the same facts be turned into two completely different cases in which there is little if no resemblance? I mean think about it. Here you have two lawyers with essentially the same facts to work with, the same legal rules to work with, yet the cases presented to the judge are so completely and unequivocally different. Amazing. I’m making it a point not to divulge the private courtroom drama that unfolded. See? I am learning, aren’t I? But I do have to give you one ‘for instance’ that is sticking in my mind. Her lawyer proposed a stunning question to me. The issue at hand was reducing housing expenses. We had contended that my ex should not be able to live in a 4 bedroom, 2 bath, 2,000 square-foot house with a pool if she couldn’t afford to do so. This has been a major issue. I live in a crappy 1 bed 1 bath 800 square-foot apartment filled with hand-me-down furniture. I’m humbled and somewhat embarrassed enough as it is. My rent’s $840 a month. Yet I was on the recipient end of this mind-boggling question. Had I ever considered getting a roommate so I could cut my rent expense down?

I guess court rules say that I was supposed to answer that question with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ only. I knew I’d eventually get around to saying no, but I had to get my thoughts out first. I told her lawyer that I’m no longer a 21 year-old college senior, but that I’m 42 and feel deserving of having my own place, be it ever so humble. “No, I’ve never considered getting a roommate.” See what I mean? Same case facts, different interpretation. Her lawyer comes up with that unbelievable and unbearable scenario. And I guess the scary thing is, the judge could actually agree with that scenario. Lord have mercy.

On a separate note, I thought it was interesting that my ex knows precisely what I’ve been up to for the past year. It’s all there or should I say, it’s all here in the blog. In contrast, I have no idea what she’s been up to in her personal life. I don’t even know how she feels about meeting men or getting back into the dating arena as I have done. Obviously she’s got a child to care for which inhibits her time. Personally, I hope she finds someone. I hope she finds happiness. I’ve said previously that I don’t have time for anger and hatred anymore. This is the perfect opportunity to challenge the ‘new me.’ But I think I’m OK. Sure her lawyer beat me up, but that’s her job in this ugly process. Sure my ex wants seemingly every penny I have left after expenses. She feels in her heart that she’s right, just as I feel I’m right. And this inability to compromise and settle leads to the inevitable date in court and the personal attacks that come with it. Happily, we did reach a compromise on most of the issues concerning our son.

I’d like to thank my lawyer who I did a fantastic job for me. He worked hard, studied the case hard, knew the facts, the law, and all that kind of stuff. Sure he billed me for it, but I think he did so fairly. True, we may not ‘win’ the case, but more importantly, I think the true test is that I can call him my lawyer and I can also call him my friend.

Who won, who won already, you ask? It’s an old cliché, but no one really wins in divorce, do they? I think the answer is the lawyers won. Between the two of us, we’ve probably racked up over $25,000 in legal fees. Money that neither one of us has. Money that both of us will have to borrow in order to pay them off. Sure it’s conceivable that the judge will rule that I have to pay for her fees as well, but I really don’t think that’s reasonable. Why on earth should I have to pay for fees her lawyer ran up, in my opinion, unnecessarily? I think she created a paper chase; she thinks I didn’t supply her with answers. I say Tuh-MAY-toe, she says Tuh-MAH-toe. But for that and all the other divorce issues at hand, the judge will ultimately rule.

How will she rule? I think if you ask my lawyer and her lawyer, like the cases presented, you’ll get two completely different answers. Sure, I know how I want her to rule. I think my facts and how they were presented were the correct ones. I think, for example, the amount and duration of alimony we presented was reasonable. But I know the same feelings are shared by the other side. So how does the judge rule?

My guess? I’ve been thinking about it. I know we had a good case. I know my lawyer presented it well. I know in my heart that I can’t afford what the other side proposed in terms of alimony. The numbers just don’t add up. I’m a numbers guy. It’s what I do for a living. I’ve been charting every penny I’ve spent for the past year. There is no way I can afford sending $3,800 a month out West for alimony and child support. I think the judge will see that. I hope the judge will rule in favor of me, but realistically life after all is indeed a compromise, and I think her ruling will be no different. She’ll award me some things, and she’ll award the ex some concessions. Yes, I believe the ruling will involve some sort of compromise. A concept that had both of us had embraced, we’d might never have been awaiting this very ruling. Compromise. Another lesson learned and be put to good use as the chase continues.



10 Comments:

  • $3800?? I could live fat and happy on $3800. Currently, in the 2nd most expensive place to live in the US (Silicon Valley) ~ I'm getting $800/mo child support for THREE children and no alimoney. I wanted to make a statement, that I could take care of myself. So I didn't ask for any. I was also afraid that, due to my ex's new found 'profession' (dog washing - er, ummm, 'pet grooming'), I would be the one having to pay HIM spousal support. *ugh*

    My ex actually *snored* the the courtroom. Not during ours, but while we were waiting our turn. I had to play wife *one more time* and shake him because people were staring. I guess it was poetic justice that he was as present for our divorce as he was for our marriage.

    Your new life starts today, Plantation...enjoy your son to the fullest!

    btw, this is the maureen that emailed....I figured out how to create a blog :)

    ttfn ~ maureen

    By Blogger mo, at 12:30 PM, January 15, 2005  

  • Alimony and child support in Arizona, as in most states, are based on strict mathematical formula based on the earnings of BOTH parties. Statistically, women and children get shafted in income and lifestyle post divorce.

    Hey Todd, now that you've outed your ex as a money grubbing privacy freak (how dare she not disclose her personal dating habits as you have) why don't you tell the whole story of how much you make, she makes and how these numbers were calculated.

    Your current living situation is immaterial, as is the request for a 4-bedroom home, allegedly requested by her.

    I do wish you all well. I have no time for negativity. But I always try to make time for the facts.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:37 PM, January 15, 2005  

  • Anon, tks for wishing us well. You sound like a lawyer. I'm no lawyer, but you are incorrect regarding Alimony and child support in Arizona. Yes, child support is based on a strict mathematical formula based on the earnings AND expenses of BOTH parties. However, there are only 'guidelines' for alimony based on income and expenses. If alimony was based on a strict formula, we wouldn't be fighting over it. The calculations based on long and involved worksheets.

    I was merely making an observation about her privacy, I wasn't faulting it. I certainly don't expect anyone to be as open as I am these days. You gotta be nuts to do so. Yes, I qualify.

    You could call me greedy as well for not wanting to give her what she wants.

    If you read the post. I'm trying not to invade privacy although perhaps I have once again. I make $82k. I'm not disclosing what she makes.

    Please don't bill me for your comments. Take care...PT

    By Blogger Plantation, at 4:08 PM, January 15, 2005  

  • Well sure child support is based upon strict mathematical calculations. What one forgets sometimes, however, are the factors that give us the 'hard, true numbers'.

    I know no more details than what you have planted here, plantation (ooo a diddy, lol) - but, at least you haven't 'downgraded' your income just to spite your ex.

    In 2003, my ex made 90K, I made 26K. Jan 2004 he got laid off. He lost no pride in laying around doing nearly nothing (cept a 1/2 hearted attempt at breaking into real estate) for 11 months. He lived off my income and my inheritance.

    Now, he makes 20K. And that's the 'hard, true numbers' that calculated my child support. Not what he's capable of - but all he chooses do to. Wash dogs.

    Even in my 'court ordered' parenting class, the teacher commented at how high the *unemployment* rate was amongst those going through divorce. Makes one go 'hmmmmm'.

    So at least you haven't done that......you too could be washing dogs and shirking your obligation to your child.

    By Blogger mo, at 5:13 PM, January 15, 2005  

  • "Hate, the only thing that lasts"
    -Charles Bukowski

    By Blogger Bubbles, Ink., at 5:52 PM, January 15, 2005  

  • you indicated how much she wants per month. curious as to what you and you attorney proposed to pay per month. good luck.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:22 PM, January 15, 2005  

  • I actually couldn't even read this... it's too painful for me. But I applaud you for taking the tough steps toward a hopeful future. You're closer.

    By Blogger StephanieKlein, at 11:19 AM, January 16, 2005  

  • I have a solution for her oversized house and lawyer bills- give the house to the lawyer as payment.

    :)

    By Blogger Lyss, at 2:44 PM, January 16, 2005  

  • Why don't you tell that to his son. Would you have the nerve then?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:00 PM, January 16, 2005  

  • I have the nerve, sure. (And I have the nerve to leave my name).
    I am the child of divorced parents. I think that gives me a bit of insight....parents may move and even (gasp!) remarry. It does not mean that they love you (the child) any less. Unless of course we're talking Jerry Springer style here, which (although I don't knwo Todd very well), I am almost certain is not the case.

    By Blogger Lyss, at 10:14 PM, January 25, 2005  

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