I’ve recently gotten to know a man “Ted” who is divorcing and I’ve found myself today doing some thinking about his situation on his behalf.
Ted has been separated six or seven months. He left the marital home even though his work space is there, so this was no small concession. He is an intelligent and highly creative modestly employed professional and has a daughter of late elementary school age.
Ted and his wife both have attorneys but are planning to go through mediation. He currently has custody about 25-30% of the week but would definitely like to get that to 50/50. The mother went into nurture mode after birth and hasn’t worked since, despite having a purportedly solid work ethic prior to that.
She’s apparently only communicating via text or attorney at this point and is refusing to discuss any common goals until they enter mediation, and I’m not sure when that’s planned to begin.
We’ve already had a few great conversations about god, religion, death, family, divorce, parenting, work, etc., so it’s not out of line to think he may want to verbally mull over his situation again. I certainly don’t want to get involved unless he wants to talk about it, but I like him well enough to want to have the most helpful advice available at hand, in case the conversation goes there.
Thoughts? And any suggestions for other helpful resources a divorcing dad might benefit from reading?
Dear Darling Darla:
Thank you for your letter. I was in a really cheerful mood this morning and your words knocked me back into the deep and dark depression in which I am most creative.
My depression is based upon the fact that I know Ted’s wife. To clarify: I “know” her in the figurative sense.
Oops – that could be misconstrued so let me further clarify: I know women just like poor Ted’s wife. Ted has my deepest sympathies, because I suspect he is about to be dragged kicking and screaming into the vortex of doom I call the Divorce Industrial Complex.
If Ted is especially unlucky, his wife has hired a “family law” attorney whose goals are to churn the file, manufacture discontent, and bill unconscionable hours that will render Ted’s wallet as empty as that attorney’s soul.
I call this type of divorce lawyer a Divorce Industrial Complex Kingpin, or DICK. The average DICK won’t rest until she has Ted’s balls in her pocket and the deed to the marital home in her purse.
In her Bentley.
In the driveway of her palace at the coast.
The reason I think Ted’s wife may have hired this type of lawyer is because she has cut off any meaningful communication with her husband. That’s a red flag – a big one. They have a child to raise together and a divorce to accomplish as efficiently as possible. This behavior is reprehensible.
The other red flag waving in Ted’s face and slapping him silly is that his wife will not divulge her demands until the day of the mediation.
This type of approach is not only profoundly stupid, it is also incredibly wasteful and needlessly aggressive and shady. Who is idiotic enough to play hide-the-ball with a negotiation as important as a divorce mediation? Shouldn’t both sides go in knowing what the other want?
The other thing that concerns me is that Ted’s wife has chosen not to work for all these years, despite that her one and only child is almost in middle school. This is not “nurture mode,” this is laziness and a rejection of autonomy and personal responsibility, especially now when the family is dividing and she knows there will be roughly double the household expenses from here on out.
What the wife’s DICK is almost certainly telling her is that her unemployment status is a precious commodity which should be clung to as fiercely as a DICK clings to cash.
Without a job she has a much better chance of winning the majority of custody, she has no income to count against her in the child support calculations, and she will reap the barnacle’s wet dream of a winning lottery ticket: permanent (or “indefinite” here in Oregon) alimony, also known as “all the money.”
Advice I would give Ted includes being extremely judicious when it comes to how he interacts with his attorney and in reviewing his bills. Ted should time each conversation and make certain the bills reflect the same amount of time.
He should ask his attorney whether he or she uses a “minimum billing requirement” and if so, insist they waive it or he will find a lawyer who only charges for time actually spent on a file.
I would also tell Ted he might send his wife the Ask DesCamp litigation control letter which I wrote about here: Ugly Divorce! It goes like this:
1 paragraph of Fond Memories
3 paragraphs of Our Kid is Wonderful and you Are a Great Mom
2 short declarative statements of Regret
2-3 paragraphs of We are Running out of Money, Let’s Not Make the Lawyers Rich (include specific financial data)
1-2 paragraphs of I Want us to be OK, and
1 closing paragraph of Let’s Not Fight Anymore, it’s Hurting Us and our Child
As for books, I suggest: Well Now You’re Screwed: What to do When you Marry a Woman Who Refuses to Work and the Marriage is Over.
Oh wait, I haven’t written that book yet.
I found this article referencing several books that could be helpful to Ted: 5 Great Reads for Divorced Men. I personally haven’t found anything I would highly recommend but that’s mainly because I spend all my time writing these days and not enough reading. That’s something I hope to improve upon by the 15th of Someday.
Finally I’ll give you a little advice that you may not be looking for but you’re going to get anyway: be very careful with your heart, Darla. Dating a man who is going through a divorce is a very tricky proposition and one that statistically does not usually work out into a longterm relationship.
Now, you didn’t tell me you were looking for your next husband, so take my admonitions with a giant pinch of kosher salt and my deepest apologies if I have misjudged your intentions.
But if you are falling for Ted, you are doing so during a dark, precarious, and unpredictable time in his life and you may end up wishing you had waited until he had completed and fully processed his divorce.
You are being a good friend and I suggest you continue to do what you are doing: listening, letting him lean on you, and offering proactive and thoughtful approaches and resources to help him during this difficult time. If you can, focus on being an amazing friend and companion and put the romantic stuff on ice until his divorce is complete.