That hardy 5-figure sum is the amount I owe my attorney for the past two months of his work. Granted, January was busy with discovery and a deposition and I’m pretty sure there was a court appearance in there somewhere, but frankly, things have gotten a little blurry.
When I wrote the check this morning, visions of what might have been danced through my head: new Corian counter-tops and Mission cabinets! A fresh coat of exterior paint on our 100-year-old house! A beefy deposit to our piddly retirement account! The Costa Rican honeymoon my second husband and I didn’t get to take because all our money goes to legal fees!
A few things about Husband #2. His name is Atticus Eastwood. Not really, but that’s how I’ll refer to him since he is truly a blend of Mr. Finch and Clint. Like Gregory Peck’s character in To Kill a Mockingbird, he exudes integrity and does the jobs few men want to do–namely take on me and my baggage. And like Clint, he is a triple-alpha man of few words. He has a way of calming things down just by entering a room. Plus, he has my name tattooed on his arm. Love him.
In my first post I promised to explain how I got the bucks to fund my custody battle. So here’s how: Atticus and I sold some stuff–his vintage car and the engagement ring from my first marriage. I must pay Prince his due, he’s a stickler for quality; that 1.25-carat Princess-cut was worth even more than I hoped. Then there was divine intervention: Atticus and I both came into inheritances–unfortunate (people we loved died), modest, yet miraculous. Because if we hadn’t inherited that money, we’d probably be living in my Prius by now; like so many others, despite a standard 30-year mortgage and no careless equity line of credit, we’re underwater on our house and would probably lose every penny we put into it if we tried to sell now. But that’s a story for another post.
At least once a week I slump over the breakfast nook table, head in my hands, and moan that maybe we should just give Prince what he wants: full custody of Luca, 50-50 with Francesca, my 9-year-old. But then Atticus reminds me that Prince also wants me to sign off on 50-50 shared “mutually agreed upon expenses” even when I don’t agree to them and can’t afford them. Some of those items have included the mandatory extras (MacBook Pro, $500-a-semester Hot Lunch, field trip to another continent) at Luca’s private school, the school I told Prince I did not feel was appropriate for Luca and that I could not afford. My lawyer wrote a letter explaining that I would consent to this school only on the condition that Prince pay every cent.
Ever one to attempt extracting blood from a stone, Prince sued me for half the extras. And then there was the letter from his attorney suggesting that I voluntarily stop taking child support. I don’t make this stuff up.
“He won’t stop fighting,” Atticus says to me. “He won’t stop until the custody evaluator and the Judge tell him he has to. That’s our only hope.”
Atticus is right. That’s why the $22,000 that January and February have cost us, on top of the previous year’s legal fees that I haven’t calculated because my head might explode if I did, is worth the gamble that a custody battle always is.
On the bright side, the $22,000 would have been a whole lot more had my attorney not reduced his heart-stopping $650-an-hour fee to a mere blood-pressure-spiking $500 an hour. Could I not have found a less expensive attorney, you ask? Sure. I had one. She was a fine attorney, but she was a woman and she didn’t have a snazzy office. Prince is a misogynist and a snob. No female lawyer in a middle-brow part of town would suffice. The only way to intimidate Prince was to pit him against a King.
Which is what my lawyer is. His name is “Sidney” and he is a King among family law attorneys. He has a great sense of humor and is utterly unflappable with the exception of turning tomato-red and screaming obscenities at Prince’s weaselly attorney during a deposition. He wears beautiful ties and the halls of his swanky suite are lined with framed photos he’s taken himself, images of sleek cars and cityscapes. He runs a boutique family law firm, and everyone in it is nice. My favorite, besides Sidney, is “Clarice,” the receptionist who beams and greets me with “Hi, Doll!” every time I stagger into the office, ashen and barely breathing.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into despair and irritable bowel syndrome.
I want to make it crystal clear that I am crediting the eloquent part of that line to F. Scott Fitzgerald. The last thing I need is for his estate to sue me.