Today I give you another excerpt from the book. I had to rewrite the prologue based upon shifting paradigms in my personal life. Before I do, I’d like to give you a peek inside my “Divorce by Design” mediation and consulting process.
To say I am nothing like your typical divorce lawyer is an understatement comparable to noting that this election year is “unusual.”
The following is a general description of what happens when a couple comes to me for help. I’ll address how I work for just one spouse in another post.
- I have a sliding-scale initial couples consult fee that is unlimited in time and serves each spouse. In other words, most lawyers will charge you around $300-550 each for a one-time, one-hour consult. For far less I meet with each spouse (or speak on the phone if that is better for them) to describe how I work, my philosophy on divorce, learn about the pending issues, etc. Our conversations will help the parties decide whether I am the right option for them, and also tell me whether they are the right clients for my approach to dissolution. I do not work with anyone who seeks the destruction of the other spouse.
- If a couple hires me, that consult fee is deducted from their total fee. I charge a sliding scale flat fee on a quarterly basis, depending upon the issues presented, household income, whether I will be drafting the final documents, and the general complexity. For comparison purposes, my fee is almost always less for three months than most couples pay simply in retainers, which are usually depleted within less than a month and often a week or two.
- For that flat fee my clients get as much of my time and effort as is needed for three months. Divorce lawyers bill a minimum of 12-18 minutes for things that can take less than two minutes. That is how couples get the Chinese Water Torture of legal billing in a divorce, and end up broke – they get dinged over and over again and it adds up – fast. Thus far, I’ve never had a case in which I worked for both sides that went longer than a month, so unless things go sideways my clients will almost certainly be paying that one-time flat fee.
Divorce by Design and the Autopsy of a Dream: A How-to Guide and Memoir of Divorce
There is no remedy for love but to love more.
-Henry David Thoreau
This book is a long time coming. What I mean is (besides the fact that the world needs this information): it took me a long time to write it. I stalled and I procrastinated and even as I felt it was good, I never believed it was my best.
It was missing something but I couldn’t put my finger on what.
My managers, readers, family, and friends couldn’t understand the weeks and months that passed without my completion of a final draft, and neither could I. While I regularly knock out over 1,000 words a day for my advice blog in under three hours, I just couldn’t finish this damn thing. For perspective, the average book length is 64,000 words, meaning I should have been able to finish this work in 64 days.
But I didn’t.
And then the unthinkable happened: my second marriage came to a grinding halt and overnight I was faced with the reality of a life turned upside-down, backward, and on its head.
After I picked myself up from the floor, which took about a week, I had an epiphany: this was supposed to happen. This event was years in the making and as terrible and painful as it would be, the divorce also provided me exactly what I needed to complete this book and make it as good as it could possibly be.
As you can see, I am very good at denial and rationalization. When you are faced with the shock of a seemingly-sudden pending divorce, you have to be. The initial grief is too much to handle without healthy doses of denial and rationalization, not to mention vodka, Kleenex, and Netflix.
So what was the problem with the book? As I went back and re-read my earlier drafts, I could see the chapters were good, but not great. They did not possess the requisite amount of honesty and pain needed to truly connect with readers in a way that will allow them to both trust me and identify with me.
I am generally regarded as many things,* including a giant pain in the ass, but certainly as someone who shares my own experiences in order to elevate my writing and my accessibility to readers. This tendency towards TMI has been praised by many and hated by some (ahem), but it’s something I can’t help but do. I’ve done some really dumb stuff in my life, and it’s entertaining to read about!
I believe when people can relate to a writer and know they have shared the same struggles the words are more impactful, which translates into truly helping people. Oh, and book sales. Don’t forget about book sales, because I am now in a position in which book sales (and clients) will make the difference between remaining solidly middle-class or moving in with my parents.**
At the time my husband changed his mind about the whole “until death do us part” thing, the book did have some stories of my divorce from my first husband. However, I glossed over the pain, mainly because I did not remember it well enough. Thankfully, if we are happy and healthy human beings, we forget the anguish of losing love. If we didn’t, we could never love again.
A sharp memory is the enemy of happiness.
You can quote me on that!
Today, I cannot imagine ever kissing anyone else, or going on a date, or being happy. But yesterday, there was a glimmer of hope between 2:15 and 2:28 AM during which I thought that someday, I might be OK.
Not next month.
Maybe not even this year.***
But someday, I will be OK.
Today, let me share my story of Divorce #2 with you as you face your own heart-wrenching end of a dream. Perhaps by the time we finish this journey together, we will both be OK.
-July 4th, 2016
*And funny. Don’t tell me I’m not funny!
**Which of you want us? One kid, one grown-ass woman, and two dogs. Don’t all line up at once!
***As it turns out, I was wrong about all that. I wrote this one week after the split during an especially difficult day. Thankfully, I could not have been more incorrect about how I would survive, thrive, and find joy in a short period of time. Sometimes the wheels are up before we even know we are heading to the airport.
PS: Coming up later this week, see how I address sexism and condescension in a letter I received from an attorney. Don’t tell me I’m not funny!