Grab a Coffee – let’s talk about DIVORCE
I managed to live the first half of my life without ever setting foot in a court house or ever needing the services of an attorney, a lawyer or a barrister (I still don’t know the difference)
Something that we Brit’s talk about with embarrassment and feeling of abject failure is divorce. So, I’m going to blog about my divorce experience to see how (a) uncomfortable I can make myself and (b) if it might be cathartic. 🙂
note: I’ve read and re-read this blog trying to decide whether to click PUBLISH or delete. Seems a little like oversharing. Definitely nothing to do with programming. LOL. But it feels therapeutic at the same time. After the initial rounds of divorce court I needed help. I found it. Maybe my story will help someone else out there! So lets publish and be damned….Me.
Let’s talk about Marriage and Happy Families
Back in the early 90’s, I was working in America for the first time and started dating the cocktail waitress in my hotel:
After dating for a year I returned home to England, she dropped out of college and came with me.
We married six years later.
Over the next decade we had three kids and enjoyed a happy home. Mostly. But as we both matured, sadly, she and I slowly grew apart. I don’t want to bad mouth the
Grinch ex-wife so let’s just say I discovered that “we no longer shared the same life focuses”.
In 2008 with the global Recession in full force, financially upside down, sick of drowning in debt, I sold my business at a huge loss and we chose to emigrate to the USA to reboot.
We moved, I was extremely lucky and found work very quickly but it meant I was working away from home five days a week. This put a further strain on our relationship, and the emotional distance in our relationship showed more than ever.
I gradually realized that a sense of unhappiness clouded every aspect of my relationship with her, overflowing onto those around us. One of the saddest times of my life.
The d-word started to come into focus.
Let’s talk about Divorce
She was the first one to utter the dreaded “its not you its me” and “trial seperation”.
We agreed divorce terms, essentially giving her custody and me moving out to concentrate on working and supporting her and the children.
After nearly twenty years of married life, finding oneself alone in a hotel is depressing situation. I handled it by burying it and trying to focus on rebooting my career Stateside and spending epic weekends with my kids.
My freelance business was doing well, with a solid cashflow and I was candidly positive about this new future I found myself looking at. I financed her starting her own business, a Beauty Salon, hoping this would let her support herself in the future.
I expected we would navigate the divorce waters amicably.
After watching American Lawyers on TV and seeing the *cough* crooked nature of divorce attorneys playing with peoples emotions, causing family warfare in court, I didn’t want to use a lawyer.
Over the next few months, my freelance work was booming and I was making great money.
Back on the home front, it didn’t take a lot of interested parties to whisper “you could get much more money from him” for that idea to germinate.
Greed is an ugly beast.
Blissfully unaware, I naively thought we were continuing to navigate an amicable split.
During weekends, my only interaction with my soon to be ex-wife, I blindly missed the obvious clues.
A few months later, after constant delays from she-who-shall-not-be-named finding excuses not to notarize our separation agreement — I was surprised to be served divorce papers when I picked up the kids.
“Oh well,” I thought “this seems like unnecessary drama but I expect it will be a formal thing and simply signing our agreement”.
But, as with most things that you look back on with the power of hindsight, I should have seen many obvious warning signs. I didn’t.
In any divorce, unseen motives will inevitably turn the event into War of the Roses. It’s a problem. A problem that many couples soon find morphing into a horrible legal problem.
*Spoiler Alert 1* Don’t think you can navigate court on your own
*Spoiler Alert 2* Mutual Separation Agreements are just worthless words
If you are facing a divorce:
- Do not be as naïve as me
- Do not go to court on your own
- Cover yourself — Get a Lawyer!
D-Day in Court
This was not what I expected!
I had naively gone to the first court divorce hearing, expecting to sign some paperwork to ratify our separation agreement.
Instead, discovered myself facing her divorce lawyer who launched an all-out attack on me! I’m guessing she had chosen this horrible rude lawyer on recommendation from one of her new horrible rude divorced girl-friends.
I sat on my own, totally bewildered, while this twat stood up vomiting lies and telling the Judge I was:
- a dead-beat Dad who avoided his children
- a philanderer with an eye for the ladies
- a rich English businessman hiding $millions in offshore accounts
- a tax evader running from Her Majesties Custom & Excise (England’s IRS)
- and insinuating that I had physically bullied my ex-wife
I was so shocked, flustered, clearly out of my depth I didn’t defend myself. I have never had another man say such blatant lies about me.
I just sat… open mouthed.
I remember looking at my Ex and expecting her to stand up and say “That’s not true!”. But it didn’t happen.
I suddenly realized this was all part of the script.
Her guilt was palpable.
I now understood why she wasn’t dressed as nice as usual. She had removed expensive jewelry for court and dressed like someone who shopped at charity stores. It was a joke.
Wake Up Time
Six months earlier I had left the family home leaving the
Grinch ex-wife everything because I really only needed clothes. I had packed my car and driven a few hundred miles to live in a cheap (divorced dad) hotel next to my job. I travelled back every weekend to see my kids. I thought this would mitigate distress for my children and her. Until this day at court, I hadn’t seen this side of her personality.
This American Divorce Judge clearly watched many many movies with an English baddy in them. He loved the lawyers concocted story, and decided I was a some kind of James Bond Villain just pretending to be a hardworking programmer.
At one stage he asked me “Mr Litten can you prove you do not own any offshore properties!”
I was flabbergasted at this negative phrased nonsense.
He didn’t like it when I replied “Obviously I can’t prove I DO NOT own something. But I can prove I pay all the rent for the house my ex-wife lives in with her new boyfriend!!”
I must have come across as petulant and sarcastic. Not the best way to talk to a country Judge who is used to “Yes Sir! No Sir! Three bags full Sir!”
I went on to upset the Judge again, by ignoring aforementioned slimy attorney and appealing directly to my ex-wife asking her to tell the Judge it wasn’t true. But she wouldn’t even make eye contact with me.
After a further thirty minutes of being smeared by this lawyer (he was such a douchebag I would name him here but I don’t want to give him the SEO #wanker) I knew that I needed to find someone to help me!
When the Judge ordered that I pay the full charges of my ex-wifes legal fee’s – close to $15k – and ordered contempt of court if I didn’t, I realized I was way out of my depth.
But I’m such a pig-headed fool, it took one more court appearance for me to realize that I needed to pay a lawyer and take part in this legal battle.
Looking back – this was the point in my life where I lost all respect for the US Legal System. It was a joke. Anyone could see the head nodding and winking from the divorce lawyer and legal systems good ole boy network. I hope both those men choke on their own bile.
Facing thirty days in jail (because I couldn’t pay those legal fee’s) I had to face facts – I needed a lawyer and fast.
I chose to look for a lawyer that was competent and a decent human being. One that made me feel good.
I got lucky and found Cerid Lugar – a Roanoke Attorney specializing in all kinds of legal fields she was friendly, helpful and kept me focused.
Lugar Law – Roanoke Law Office
I am so delighted that I found a genuinely nice Lawyer to represent me. Don’t confuse nice with weakness – Cerid Lugar is a diligent, professional and brilliant attorney.
Her law form Lugar Law holds her ideals as foremost.
It’s not very often that I leave a resounding testimonial for someone – but if you are looking for a Lawyer in the Roanoke, VA region of the good Ole USA — call Cerid Lugar on (540) 384-0348
What happened next?
Lot’s of toxic bickering.
She tore up our old agreement, after taking advice from a gaggle of new divorced girlfriends who had all plundered the bank accounts of their ex-husbands. Her new boyfriends restaurant business failed as the recession took grip and the
grinch ex-wife decided that I should be supporting them both.
We embarked on nearly a year of lawyers bickering about what she wanted from me and me defending. Tit for Tat. Anger. Frustration. It was horrible.
People joke about divorces costing $20k.
There’s a reason LOL
But in the end we settled on less than she wanted receive and more than I wanted to pay.
The good news – both my boys wanted to come and live with me but she also fought this in court. “They need their mother” she cried. She won keeping custody, until I finally offered to pay her their child support if she let them live with me! She immediately agreed to it. That speaks volumes.
I signed the cheque(s) and life has been better ever since.
So – Lawyers are not the only people that make bank from a Divorce.
But, it was worth every penny to see my kids every day and don’t need to deal with her anymore 😉
:: UPDATED OCT 2020 ::
I just randomly rediscovered this blog, from nearly 6 years ago. Considered deleting it, because it is definitely firmly in the area of oversharing. But. Then again. This whole blog thing is about oversharing I guess?
Years later – Life is great!
I’ve found a wonderful woman who makes me smile. I make her laugh. Out Loud. She actually ‘LOL’s
My eldest Son has joined the Coast Guard, my eldest daughter has just enrolled at College, both embarking on their own life adventures. My younger son lives with me and is growing into an exceptional young man. I’m lucky enough to be able to fly in to visit my youngest daughter every other month. Add in my new blended step-children and life is a big happy, messy adventure.
I haven’t had to speak to my ex for years now: Since getting a few (presumably drunken) texts gloating about ‘how she beat me’ I clicked *block* on email, telephone and social media. Life improved immensely with immediate effect.
I’m not sure anyone really wins in the Divorce War of the Roses.
But I certainly feel like I did 🙂