Rule #1 for getting a divorce: Get a lawyer, get a lawyer, get a lawyer.
Rule #2: Get a lawyer.
Rule #3: Get a lawyer.
Do not do a mediated divorce. A mediated divorce is when a lawyer says, "I'll draw up the papers once you two reasonable adults who both want a divorce agree on what you want." The lawyer will not advise you in any way. The lawyer will not look out for your interests. Will not say, "By statute, this is how much alimony your ex-wife should get. This is how the assets should be split."
Get a lawyer. Get the meanest lawyer you can find. Do not try to be nice.
There is no such thing as "two reasonable adults" in a divorce. No such thing.
One of you wants a divorce, the other one does not.
If only one of you (Primo) wants a divorce, the other one (Bertha) has nothing to gain by agreeing to the divorce.
See the problem?
Primo files for divorce. He moves out three years before I meet him. I am not a homewrecker thankyouverymuch.
Bertha ignores him. She doesn't want this divorce. Primo is ruiningherlife. And she wants to stay on his health insurance. She would have to pay for health insurance* ($150/month for a $5,000 deductible) if she agreed to divorce. Or get a job.
Rule #4 for getting a divorce: No wxyz until he has actually finalized the divorce because otherwise he is not at all motivated to get it done. Really. I tell him no divorce, no wxyz.
I think, "This will motivate him to get this divorce done."
I also think, "How can I wxyz with a married man? That goes against all my morals!"
Yes, my morals are already shot to heck with pre-marital wxyz with other men (two), but I have to draw the line somewhere.
Apparently, my line can be erased, because Primo is a really good kisser and hey, he has filed and he has been separated for three years and it's not like they're living together or have kids together or anything.
A year after we meet, Primo and Bertha are still not divorced. Bertha is "not ready." I bite my tongue. I remind myself that this is Noneofmydamnbusiness. And really, it is not. Primo and I have not yet decided to marry. Sure, we have talked about it. He told me within six weeks of meeting me that he was in love with me and was Serious About Me.
I wasn't so sure. I was not ready to give up my independence. I like my space. I had to be convinced. But I do have that effect on men, you know.
So I stay out of it. It's not until spring of 2007 that Primo really starts to push Bertha. He and I are serious marriage talking and we need to get this done, especially as we have discovered that we will have to wait six months after the divorce is final to marry. Stupid stupid state law. No, there is no way around it. We have looked.
Bertha has no reason to sign. He has already given her their house. He is sending her money. He has been paying for her health insurance. He flies to where she lives and pretty much stands over her until she agrees to sign the papers. "I'll do it, I'll do it!" she says.
And then she says - cough! cough! - "I don't feel well!"
She goes to the doctor. "I can't sign papers and go to the doctor at the same time!"
Wants to wait for some labwork. "I can't sign papers and wait for labwork at the same time!"
She has cancer.
This weird cancer. A cancer that is not staged, will not put her in the hospital at all, and if you can call a cancer a mild cancer,** then this is it.
Now she really doesn't want to sign. So Primo re-works the agreement and offers her more money because why on earth would she sign a divorce agreement when she has cancer?
Sure, Primo could re-file, get a lawyer and take her to court, but how would that look? A man divorcing his cancer-stricken wife? Can you say John Edwards but without the hair, the illegitimate baby and the used-car salesman sleaziness? Did you know there are lawyers who specialize in cancer divorces? We couldn't take that chance.
So we're stuck. We're stuck paying way more alimony than we ever would have had to pay by statute. We have a bitter ex-wife who asks for more money at tax time*** and when her cat is sick.****
All for the want of a good lawyer. And an interfering, nagging girlfriend.
* Kind of like what I am doing.
** I know I am coming off as an unsympathetic you know what here, but my dad died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It was eight months from diagnosis to death and I was with him most of that time. I saw what a painful in-hospital, on morphine drip, spread to the lungs and spine, lose half your weight, wearing diapers cancer death looks like. Bertha has had her cancer since 2007. She has not been hospitalized once. She pitched a fit, played the cancer card and kept Primo from walking Claudia down the aisle at Claudia's wedding - from even attending the wedding. She has to wear a wig. Sue me.
*** We say no, honey, you're an honors grad from a top university that Primo paid for. Read the divorce decree
**** Primo is a sucker for that one because it's his cat, too. Bertha got custody. I say Bertha can get a job.