$22,000


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.

This is so me, but with better teeth

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About perilsofdivorcedpauline

I am a survivor of a world-class gnarly divorce. My dastardly ex-husband is suing me for full custody of my son, and more time with my daughter. He’s super-rich and I’m super-not. You get the picture.
This entry was posted in Divorce, Custody, and Parental Alienation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to $22,000

  1. MamaRobinJ says:

    Oh man, what a nightmare! I can’t even imagine what that situation must be like. The heart-stopping legal fees are only the tip of the iceberg, hey?!

    Thanks for sharing your story and linking up with my blog for Fledgling Friday.

  2. This little ditty is eloquently and beautifully written my friend. You have struck an all too familiar nerve with me this morning and I quickly yelled for my “subtly amazing husband” (number two of course) to come and read about a woman who sounds like she’s going through exactly what we are. My only problem is, I made the mistake of giving in all those years ago to my ex.

    I ache for you sister. Keep up the good fight though, however you have to, to protect your little ones. I will be following you closely through your gorgeous writing here.

    Have you started writing the novel yet? I released mine around Thanksgiving this year and I have to say, even though my ex doesn’t even realize his ridiculous antics are floating out there on Amazon.com for all the world to read… it is my own quiet little victory.

    Keep on Keepin on. I am rooting for you every step of the way.

    Sophia

    • Thank you, Sophia! This is quite a compliment coming from a writerly blogstress like you. Haven’t started the book, I just got the blog up last weekend and have been sucked into the social media vortex for the past 7 days! Much fun, but man, you can spend your whole day tweeting and commenting and reading other people’s blogs!

      You feel you made a mistake giving your ex primary custody? I think it’s a lose-lose whether you “give in” or fight. But it’s some conosolation to find a community of divorce survivors out there, isn’t it?

      BTW, do you have an FB page? I posted a link to your blog on my page…you can find me at “Pauline Gaines.”:)

      • I do! I have a Sophia van Buren Facebook page, and also one for Illumination: How One Woman Made Light of the Darkness. I will be sure to ‘friend’ you today.

        I’m so glad we found each other.

  3. mysoulforsale says:

    I am so sorry that you are going through this. Divorce is always hell, even when it’s less hellish in comparison to others, and custody battles must be worse. Hang in there, and treat your new hubby like the treasure he seems to be (based on your post)! 🙂

    • Thanks for your support, mysoulforsale! Checked out your blog, maybe you can get The Office (the tv show) to advertise?? And are you sure you’re on twitter? I couldn’t find you…

      “Pauline”

      • mysoulforsale says:

        I hadn’t previously considered having advertisers on my blog, but that would be kind of fun. Yep, I’m on Twitter: @mysoulforsale.

        Thanks for visiting me!

  4. I was wallowing in self pity this week because part 2 of the child custody hearing sucked. The next day I got a bill from my divorce attorney. The next day a request for an additional retainer from my divorce attorney. The day after that, a bill from my bankruptcy attorney. But put together, they do not come close to $22k and I’m so sorry that you have to go through this. No. 2 sounds like an amazing man and he’s probably right. Your ex won’t stop fighting.

  5. Garnet says:

    Hello Pauline,
    We’ve never met but you found me on Twitter and now I’ve found your blog. I want to thank you for posting your experience. I so get your angst regarding paying out lawyers versus getting things for your children. My kids want new bikes this spring because their mom won’t share the ones that we got together. It’s crazy stuff when one parent chooses a lower road. I started my blog/ website 6 months ago and have found it to be very helpful in my healing. I’ve choose to use my real identity and let the Universe decide if my ex dis-agrees or not. To-date, she has not said anything. Ultimately I want her to find it on her own and hopefully begin to heal herself. I am so glad to have found your blog and will check in. If you see things you like on mine, please just ask and i’m happy to share ideas.
    Garnet

    • Hi Garnet:

      I applaud you for using your real name and for your courage to speak out, unveiled. I too am happy to have found your blog — I hope more divorced people can really get how much high-conflict co-parenting hurts children and begin to heal the wounds from their own childhood that are usually fueling the need to punish their ex.

      See you around the blogosphere!

      Pauline

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