Shopping for a Divorce Lawyer? Consider Mediation

Two hours after Bob told me he was leaving our marriage, the numbness I felt disappeared and the pain began. One of the last things Bob had told me before going to work that day was that he would attend marriage counseling but "Not if you contact a lawyer."After a long talk with my parents, who urged me to seek legal counsel, I started calling friends.

I first talked to a friend who had been an attorney. She advised me to take out as much money as I could from our joint account, max out my credit cards, and open a new account. I ended the call horrified, knowing such actions would set Bob off. My second call resulted in the name and number of a divorce attorney. He'd been voted Richmond's best two years in a row. I called his office and made an appointment to see him the following week.

During my free one hour, this man gave me much sound advice, but I left feeling a sense of disquiet. His attitude had been cold and unwelcoming. Oh, he'd been friendly enough at the start, but when he sized up our meager assets, his friendliness disappeared. We were clearly not worth his time or effort. Coldly he told me my marriage was over. My husband had left the house, rented a new apartment, and taken half the furniture. "Those are not the actions of a man intending to come back." He also told me to take advantage of Bob's guilty feelings and to negotiate quickly and cleanly for 50% of the assets.

I was still in a state of disbelief. Combined with my hope of saving my marriage and my immediate dislike of this cold man, I decided to look for representation elsewhere. Besides, I calculated that his services would be expensive, and I wanted to preserve as much money as I could.

The second divorce attorney I consulted was more welcoming and seemed sincerely interested in me as a person. Unlike the first attorney, she encouraged me to talk about my feelings and emotions. At the end of an hour, she handed me 10 blank sheets of paper and gave me instructions to list every asset Bob and I had. She was going to go after him with all her cannons standing at the ready.

"But all I want is 50% and a fair share," I told her, bewildered. "I still love and respect my husband. I don't want to fight him for every nickel and dime." She, too, gave me sound advice, cautioning me not to date while we were dividing our possessions. But I felt that her position was too adversarial. Her parting words to me were that from her experience he would be hiding his assets from me and that I would never get my fair share. (It turned out she was right. Bob did indeed hide the money he'd inherited from his mother's estate, and he temporarily stopped his consulting business, which represented 50% of his income).

A good friend of mine, a defense lawyer, told me of the minefields to look out for as Bob and I hammered out our financial agreement. My friend had recently represented a client in a divorce. He was her second lawyer. Her first lawyer had eaten up $100,000 in legal fees in two years. Both sides had hunkered down and wouldn't give an inch. In fact, they had been fighting over a $5,000 item which prevented them from settling. Those legal fees represented her pension, investments, and college money for the kids. Her ex had spent a similar amount on lawyer's fees as well. This couple had spent $200,000 in two years and weren't even divorced!

I learned from that lesson. Bob and I consulted a mediator who helped to arbitrate our financial agreement. Even as my heart was breaking, I fought hard for my security. Bob wanted to pay to send me to graduate school and give me 5 years of alimony, making sure I would spend the money wisely. Somehow he had gotten it in his head (despite his buying a boat, $5,000 bike, and a motorcycle, that I was extravagant.) I held out for 50% of our divided assets, no more and no less. I did not want Bob to hold any sway over me in any way after the divorce. If he was so foolish as to let me go, then I wanted a clean break.

I learned to read legal mumbo jumbo, and although one or two things escaped me, we hammered out an agreement that I still find acceptable to this day. Towards the end of the process, both Bob and I consulted different attorneys to write up our divorce document. Each time I made a correction, the document had to be retyped (and I made quite a few corrections.) A lawyer I hired for the occasion read over the final settlement and made a few suggestions.

In rereading the final document he had approved, I caught a few more mistakes and missing items. I recall this lawyer saying to me, "You did well for yourself. Most women wouldn't have gotten half of what you're getting."

Even in my miserable state, I was haughty. "I'm not most women," I answered, feeling that I got exactly what I deserved. My point is this (and I've made it several times in this blog): shop around for a lawyer. If you don't like the first one you meet, keep looking. Cut your losses early and find one that is sympathetic towards the way you want to handle your case. Yes, you'll need legal advice, but in a "friendly" divorce, a mediator might be the best solution.

As you negotiate and pour over the list of your possessions, let go of the picky things. If there had been children involved, I would have definitely consulted a lawyer from the start, but I found that a mediator was the best solution for me. You aren't necessarily saving money, but you are saving yourself a lot of grief and anger. When the last paper was signed and initialed, I was ready to let Bob go. I'd found a full time job with benefits and had been paying the bills for 11 months. One nagging doubt had been silenced: I knew I could go it alone.

In the end, Bob and I had achieved what my lawyer friend said we would feel: That the other spouse had walked away with a slightly better deal.

Divorce Mediation

Mediation: Why Consider Mediation?

Directory of Divorce Mediators


Signs of Depression

As I drove into the driveway I knew something was amiss. The lawn had not been mown. A tree lay on its side, broken in half and blocking half the side yard. Dead shrubs, overgrown bushes, an unswept walkway and porch, and mold growing on the wood siding told me that maintaining the house had grown beyond my friend's control.

As I entered the house and the dog greeted me, I noted that all the doors to the living areas were closed. I entered the kitchen and saw dark spots splattered on the floor. The dog was in heat and my friend had not bothered to clean up the evidence. Dust lay thick on the kitchen counters. Wallpaper that the dog had torn of the walls lay in strips; Christmas decorations were still evident in July. As my friend answered the phone, I walked onto the deck. The chairs were dirty, the hot tub was empty, and an awning was ripped and faded.

I was reminded of Miss Havinsham's rotting wedding banquet. The jilted bride was unable to move on in her life. My dear friend, I realized, was as depressed as this character. He had 'disappeared' a few months ago. His emails had stopped suddenly, and all I could get out of him was that he was busy.

Single, divorced, a caretaker of his aged father, worried about the fluctuating stock market, getting his oldest child ready for college, and struggling to maintain his lifestyle while living in a house much too large for him, I finally saw with my own eyes how far life's events had spun out of his control. Seeing his house made me realize how far into depression he'd sunk.

I have a few occasional days like that. At times life seems overwhelming and all I want to do is sleep. In a blink of an eye my house will start to reflect my state of mind, with dishes lingering in the sink, my bed remaining unmade, and my grass growing too tall. Sometimes it is a struggle to remain happy and sane, especially when funds are tight and the old house needs lots of TLC. In addition, I loved being married. I loved coming home to my mate and sharing my day with him.These days my house is eerily silent.

So, yeah, at times I can relate to my male friend. Seeing his house made me feel strangely better. I'd been hurt because I hadn't heard from him in a while. When I saw his house I knew he meant what he said: he was busy, busy, busy. Knowing him, he'll snap out of this stage soon. At least, I hope so. All I can do is be there for him and support him whenever he needs me, and to keep a careful eye on him.

Links About Depression and Divorce

Men more prone to depression after divorce

After Divorce, Men Are Twice More Likely to Experience Depression

Overcoming Depression After Divorce

Divorce Recovery


Sex as a Single 50-Something

I have no significant other in my life at present. Interestingly, I like my solitary state except in this area: No sex or infrequent sex. Being fastidious, and after having been with only one man for 26 years, the prospect of meeting men and having sex with virtual strangers is offputting.

A number of my single divorced female friends don't care if they never have sex again. In talking to them I found that they settled into a contented single life much faster than me. I, on the other hand, am not willing to give up that aspect of my life. What's a single woman with few prospects of meeting eligible men to do in such a situation?

Find a friend who is single, attractive, and willing to, er, scratch a certain itch when it needs to be scratched. Thankfully, I found such a lovely friend about two years ago. After a failed marriage and a long-term relationship that led nowhere, this man has decided not to marry again. His children are his number one priority, then his job, then his immediate family, and then, far down the list, women.

I would be a fool to want him or to hope for anything else. (Oh, I did for three short months, but he made it clear that there would be no future in our relationship and I am no dummy.) Over time we've settled on an Alan-Alda-Ellen-Burstyn-Same-Time-Next-Year relationship. Only in my case it's Same Time Next Quarter.

When we're together things go well. The relationship is what it is. Nothing more and nothing less. Knowing he is as fastidious as I am gives me peace of mind. My close girlfriend (who has never met him) has inelegantly dubbed him my "f-buddy." For me, his infrequent visits work like a charm. It doesn't hurt that this man is funny, intelligent, and kind. I'm not saying that finding a lover will solve everyone's problems, but it certainly did mine. So far, despite busy schedules and living in different cities, we have managed to see each other about four times this year.

What will I do when I meet someone I'm interested in? I'm a one-man-at-a-time woman, and this lovely man will be the first one to understand when I call things off.

Other links:

Third Age

Fifty and Furthermore: Articles about sex over fifty

Fifty Great Things About Women Over Fifty


Living Alone: Mechanical Skills 101

I just assembled a small table I bought at Ikea. Last week I put two bookcases from Target together. Yesterday I connected my new high definition t.v. and followed the set up instructions to select my cable channels. I'm able to transfer photos from my digital camera, add new peripherals to my computer and CD player, and am about to connect my new DVD player to my new t.v. I've also figured out how to reformat my computer and save my files to an external hard drive.

When I was married I did none of these things. These days, necessity has become the mother of invention. I cannot always depend on the kindness of strangers to help my with ordinary household tasks, so I learned to observe, ask questions, and read the instruction manual.

I ask for help only for the tasks that require strength. It's a brand new world, and frankly, I take pride in these small but essential accomplishments. It hasn't been easy though, and I thank my lucky stars for Henry, the young helpful geek who moved in next door.

Here are some other tips for handling life alone:

Learning to live alone

Making living alone rewarding


Single or divorced? Where am I now?

I’ve been divorced for 6 ½ years. Do I consider myself divorced or single? Both. It depends on who asks.

These days my 26-year-long marriage seems like a distant dream. I still know my ex intimately as I remember him during our marriage, but I wouldn’t recognize him easily today if I saw him walking down the street. I’ve only seen him twice since 2001. He’s aged, gained weight, and looks at me coldly. More than anything it’s those cold eyes that make him a stranger. (Believe me, I still wonder what I’ve done to deserve such censure.)

I've lived alone long enough to know that sharing my house with a new mate would take some mental adjustments. I like doing precisely what I want, when I want, and how I wamt. It would be hard to give up all my space and freedom. Then again, it would be nice to wake up with someone I love in my bed.

I doubt I’ll get married again unless I totally, completely fall for someone who's equally besotted with me. But what are the chances of this happening at my age? I’m 58 years old, though most of my young coworkers place me in my early 40’s. I know my worth, both as an intelligent, talented, and self-sufficient woman, and as a sexy, bright, fun-loving, and inventive lover. I refuse to dumb myself down, and I do not need a man to complete me. This attitude alone turns a lot of men off, and believe me, there aren't many eligible choices lying around.

To complicate matters, I am looking for someone who has been married, loved being married, adores women, and didn’t leave his wife for some obscure reason like “I want something more, Vic” – only to get married to an exact but younger duplicate of me. I want to find someone who has been married before and who values women, and who will love me for my mind, body, and soul. In turn, I will adore such a wonderful and beautiful partner. I have done so fervently before.

I love men. I love their minds, their bodies, and their uncomplicated way of tackling difficult tasks. I love the way they are always available to help me with a hard physical chore. I loved being someone’s mate. So where does this leave me? I don’t know. But I do know this: I intend to live my life to the fullest, love who I am, and be content with what fate has in store for me. Sound simple? No. It’s been a tough battle every step of the way.


Why dating during divorce isn't wise

One of the biggest surprises I had as I went through divorce was when I consulted a lawyer about my legal rights. I assumed that since my husband had abandoned our marriage six months before, I would be free to date. Wrong. The lawyer told me to stay away from any romantic entanglements, or else my husband could accuse me of adultery. Such an action could also affect my final settlement.

There are so many legal pitfalls to be wary of as you go through this painful process. These links leads to important advice, including a previous post I wrote on this subject.


Break up and Divorce: Feel the pain and deal with it as it comes

The end of my last truly serious love affair just about killed me. My beau ended our relationship on the 4th anniversary of Bob leaving our marriage. I had met this man only 6 months after Bob left. My separation from my husband was intermingled with my sadness at losing my lifelong mate and the prospect of having this exciting new man in my life.

My new beau's presence masked much of the grieving I should have worked through. Instead of facing utter and total despair, I had a handsome man who was interested in me and wanted to take me out. The moment my divorce papers were signed, we began a full blown relationship. It was the strangest experience. At times I would cry on his chest and he would simply hold me. At other times I experienced the happiest moments of my life, for this man had children and I got a taste of what it was like to be a mother.

But rebound relationships rarely last. My beau was smart enough to notice that I had substituted him for Bob in many ways, especially when I threw parties and entertained friends. The more comfortable I became with him by my side during social get togethers, the more uncomfortable he became.

I should have known the end was near when all of a sudden my beau became "absent," as in no calls during the week and no emails. All of a sudden I saw him only at appointed times, and our dates became rushed because he always had someplace else to go. We spent a beautiful Christmas eve and morning together exchanging packages with his adult son before we separated to spend the holidays with our respective families out of town. I gave him a leather jacket and he gave me a DVD player. No alarm bells went off, just a small feeling of disappointment that there was no ring. When I returned from visiting my family, I saw a note from him in my mailbox. How sweet I thought, until I read the "Dear Vic ..."

I felt I was going to die. All the issues of my break up with Bob that I had been able to lay aside because of this new relationship came rushing at me. Along with having to face the loss of this wonderful man, I had to finally deal with the break up of my marriage, the loss of my father through divorce, and the loss of my son, who I gave up for adoption as an unwed teen mother. Once again I felt the stinging pain of divorce, only this time I was already divorced. Moreover, I felt the pain of all the losses in my life. I was 54 and felt like a useless piece of discarded garbage. One good friend made herself available morning, noon, and night. I called my mother endlessly. Both these loved ones saved me from sinking into a dark and deep depression.

Once again I lost a tremendous amount of weight. Once again I faced a birthday alone, feeling abandoned and discarded. I could not think. I could not work. I feared losing my job. I went to therapy again, only this time my therapist told me I was healed and that my reaction was normal. Feel the pain, she advised. Go with it. Let it all out. Write your feelings down (see post below.)

And I did. It took six months of agonized days and nights, and I had to fight to keep my sense of self-worth, but I emerged strong and healthy and more content than I had been in a long time. My friends had stood at the ready again, but not as intensely. This time I had to take the journey to self recovery largely alone.

In my third relationship, which occured last year, my new beau disappeared around Christmas. On January 3rd I gave him a call and told him what I needed. I could not face a third birthday feeling abandoned, so I asked him to let me go gently. A caring man, he allowed the relationship (a long distance one) to hobble along for another six months, which gave me ample time to get tired of our nonrelationship.

My therapist applauded my strength in taking positive action, although most self help articles will caution you against doing this. My beau was a good and gentle man and he did not play with my emotions. I felt I did what I needed to do to survive. A couple of friends told me I was nuts. Clean breaks are the best, they said. But this is my advice for you: Do what needs to be done for yourself. No one can tell you which actions are right and which ones are wrong. Only you know how you can best recover from a devastating hurt.

I am still friends with the two men I met after my marriage ended. The romance is over but the friendship remains. Of course, I am 58 years old, so this has a lot to do with our joint understanding. I have no connection or relationship with my ex, who has remarried, except for memories and through the objects and photos he left behind. Today I am as much in peace with my situation as I can be, given that I am a woman who loves being with a mate. I am proud of my career and ability to maintain my house, I love my friends and family, and I am often more content than I am not.

One of the best books I read that helped me understand why going through the stages of pain and grief are so important is called Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges. It's a business book, but it really describes what happens when you rush into beginnings and endings without dealing with the in-between transitions where change, acceptance, and recognition happen. William Bridges gives powerful, powerful advice which is applicable to life situations as well as the work place.

Here's a link that will also help you: Healing after Break Up or Divorce