Here is the actual truth about divorce: while both parties come out of it poorer than before, the party with a conscience will walk away totally screwed. Divorce does not turn out the way our media portrays it.
My brother likens my divorce to the movie 127 Hours. Based on a real story, this movie portrays a rock climber who gets his arm caught between 2 boulders at the bottom of a ravine. As the hours tick on it becomes clear to him that he only has 2 choices: die or cut off his arm. He cuts off his arm to save himself. That is how my divorce is playing out. I am cutting off my arm to get out of this situation.
Here’s the math: Because my stbx is selling our business he is being assigned an “earning capacity”. This is the amount the court thinks he can/should be making. When we add that earning capacity to my disability we come up with a number allegedly representative of our ‘families’ monthly income. My son and I are “generously”, according to my attorney, being offered 43% of that monthly income. My stbx will retain 57%, even though it is just he, and he is living with his girlfriend, rent free. When my son graduates high school and disability for him stops, it will get worse. Even though it will still be my son and I together, our income will drop to about 30% of our total “family” income.
The court feels they are doing me a favor because they are granting me 2/3 of the cash assets (i.e. sale of business & house & retirement accounts). This would be great, if there was much of an estate, but there is not. The expectation of the court is that I will use that cash to supplement our monthly living expenses. I will, because there is no way for me to live in our school district on the monthly amount I’ll be getting, but it won’t last long.
And, in a remarkably outrageous twist, it is up to my stbx to “accept” this. He could decide this is supremely unfair to him, and reject it. If he does, the eventual outcome of alimony will remain the same; he will still end up paying me $1,000/month for 10 years. The only thing that will change is that our “estate” will be taken by attorney’s fees.
As I go through this process, the financial aspect is only 1 part of the situation that I find distressing. The 2nd part is the responses of my loved ones. Here’s what they keep saying:
- get a job writing
- write a book
- become a public speaker
- become a yoga teacher
- etc, etc
I can’t seem to impress upon any of them how hurtful this is.
First of all, in saying I should “do something” they are in essence saying “you aren’t disabled”. Unless there actually is a job in which I get unlimited sick time, don’t have any deadlines and don’t have to show up, I am disabled. Permanently. I don’t look like it, and I don’t act like it, but I am. Every time someone suggests one of the many things I could “do” I have to defend my disability, of which I’m totally humiliated to begin with. Good times.
Secondly, let’s suppose there is a job out there that provides unlimited sick time, has no deadlines and does not require me to show up. Are they going to give that job to the 55 year old sick woman who has been home raising kids and helping her stbx live out his dreams for the past 25 years? I’m guessing no but I could be wrong.
Third, me doing anything serves no purpose other than reducing my stbx’s responsibility to me and his son. If I get a job, that money will be added to our “family” income and his alimony will be reduced. So, while he is keeping more of this money, I’m getting little to nothing in return. I’m confused as to how this helps me and my son.
Finally, the long term outcome of this is potentially catastrophic to me. Let’s suppose I write a best seller and earn income from it. Two things definitely happen: I am cut off from Alimony and I lose my disability. There is 1 thing I am 100% sure of in my life and that is this: I will get sick. Repeatedly. It might be bronchitis, or pneumonia or cancer, but it will happen. And, when it does, I will be bedridden. Now that I’ve written a best seller I have no disability and no insurance. This is not a happy ending for me.
To make matters worse, let’s say I write this “best seller” and earn lots of money. My stbx can come after me for part of that income. Yes, this is a true fact. Assuming he “accepts” the deal currently being offered by the court and accepted by me, the alimony he is liable for for the next 10 years is modifiable. That clause is there to protect me in the event that he has some business scheme in the wings that will make him rich; I will be able to go back to court and revisit the monthly alimony. But that works both ways. He can go back to court and say “Hey, she just wrote a best seller, she owes me $” and the court would agree!
This, my friends, is what I believe is the definition of a clusterfuck.
What have I learned from this? I have learned 3 things:
- My mother was right. Never be dependent on a man.
- Listen to your gut. If your gut is shouting “No, he can not take all of our savings and throw it into his ‘dream'” Say No. Just Say No. If your marriage can not withstand one of you saying no to the other, your marriage needs to end. And, you are better off ending it before all of your savings are gone then waiting for some future date in which you are totally screwed.
- If it seems to good to be true, it is. If the relationship seems like the best one ever, it is not. If he seems like he was born just for you, he agrees with everything say, he wants all of the same things and yearns for a life exactly as you describe it, Walk Away. It is an illusion. It is a lie.
I think the terminology ought to be changed. Instead of calling all of this “divorce proceedings” I think it should be called “The Great ClusterFuck: May the One with A Conscience Please Give Up”.