Planet Haolewood

A toolbox, a change of underwear, and a surfboard.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The D-word

One year ago today a judge in Alameda County declared me officially divorced. Divorce sucks. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Getting married is easy: a few papers at the courthouse, a small fee and your hitched. Anything else you do to mark the occasion is what you choose. Weddings can become huge projects but they are (hopefully) joyfully chosen. Divorce may be chosen, but there’s sure nothing joyous about it. There’s just no quick fix to a broken marriage. The quickest the state of California will give you a divorce is six months from the day you file which was four months after my separation.

In the midst of my marriage ending, moving out on my own and selling our house I realized that I knew almost nothing about how divorce works and I had to start learning right away. I knew plenty of divorced people but it’s not something people often talk about. How do you file for divorce? How do you divide property? Do you need a lawyer? How much is this going to cost and who’s going to pay for it? How do you manage finances while separated but not yet divorced? What happens if you don’t agree on how to proceed or what the final terms of the divorce should be? I read books. I asked questions from people who knew. I got professional help in filling out and filing legal documents and I paid a lawyer $300 and hour to answer my questions. That was some of the best money I’ve ever spent.

What I learned was that you either come to an agreement on the terms of your divorce or you fight it out in court and let a judge decide. Everything I read and everyone I spoke to emphasized how undesirable the second option was for everyone. So what was left was to hash things out with the one person with whom I had realized I couldn’t hash things out. But that’s what we did. It was no fun. It was probably the most unfun thing I’ve ever had to do. There was so much bad feeling and the good will had been exhausted. All that was left was self-interest and a shared desire to get it over with.

As divorces go it could have been much worse. We had no children and since we both had similar incomes there was no question of spousal support. It pretty much just came down to money and the law was pretty clear on how it would be divided. But there were still hard feelings and angry words. At times it seemed like we could get through it and still be friends but I’m sorry to say that that didn’t happen. The best thing about the divorce process was that it eventually ended and there was no unfinished business.

Having said all that divorce was the best thing that could have possibly happened. It’s a great irony that what I feared so much and tried so hard to avoid may have been the best thing that has ever happened to me. Letting go is hard to do but I found that everything I needed to make the changes in my life was there for me. There were people to support me and there were answers for me when I didn’t know what to do. When I got married I felt CERTAIN mine would not be among the fifty percent of marriages that end in divorce but I learned that even when things turn out drastically different from how they were planned a lot of good can come out of it.


At 3/02/2007, Blogger Matt said...

You know, after all that I can certainly see how a "simple life" could have such strong allure...

At 3/03/2007, Blogger nora said...

the bad and the ugly, yet you still see the good that comes of it all in the end.

At 3/05/2007, Anonymous Judy lawrence said...

I am just glad that Hawaii has been so kind to you. I'd never seen you so sad, as those last months in California. I miss having you closer, but it is worth it when I see you smiling in your blog photos.
I am still sorry that you ended up on the other side of that 50%, but I am glad that you've ended up where you are :-)

At 3/07/2007, Anonymous Dirk said...

That is a thoughtful and moving piece of writing. I respect and admire its forthrightness and exposition.

At 3/07/2007, Anonymous Whitney said...

It's horrible to see your baby going through so much pain, but I'm awfully proud of you for facing it and taking such good care of yourself. I love you.



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