My Life Full of Divorce Mistakes

"My Life Full of Divorce Mistakes"

Mail Call!

The raspberry planting in my yard was mostly complete so I took that overdue break to cool off inside and go through the mail I had just retrieved from next to the street. It was about ten years into my marriage with a family of four kids we adopted locally that came from some bad situations. I had married a childhood friend that lived across the street from us. Three generations of our family’s had farmed next to one another in a small rural community.

You would never consider, not for a moment, that a divorce could sprout from playing in a creek with your friend from next door. But, that day as I was thumbing through the mail, I found an attorney’s bill. I confronted her with it and received her casual answer: “…if something were to happen to our marriage, how would I be protected?”

Okay, fair enough I thought, but damn… What do you mean, “If something…”. Well, I thought, “if something” then it’d probably be a hassle-free and quick divorce because we really cared for one another. “If” it ever came to that, as I brushed the thoughts off.

Most likely I had overlooked many red flags during our time together, and even some stories of our neighbors’ three-generations deep. We had obviously drifted apart even if it all had been oblivious to me before this. I simply didn’t want to deal with them, the red flags, and continued to ‘want’ a happy family life so that’s where I put my focus.

happy marriage and family bonding

But, you can’t just go blind to the situation… Could this be the start of the relationship crashing down?

I don’t think that I ever looked for problems — why would I as a twenty-something in love be wondering if anything odd was going on? The relationship kept growing through the years, as, I believed would, any normal relationship.

Life went on with the rather normal chaos of parenting and being adults.

Imagine Everything Going From Bad to Worse

We had a large suburban lot, double or more the average size of others around us, enough to even plant a raspberry garden to share with the kids and neighbors. It carried a beautiful large home on the corner. Let’s just say life was “comfortable”.

One summer afternoon, I had planted tall grasses in one of the far corners. It absolutely tired me out that day so I went to bed earlier than usual. 

When I got up the next day and gazed out our upstairs bedroom window to enjoy seeing my day’s worth of work, everything had been ripped out. Literally, everything used to landscape that spot was missing. It was like I had only dreamed of doing all of that work, and done nothing the day prior.

I was absolutely puzzled, very bewildered, and I asked her about it right away. She answered: “I took it out.” She did it all in the middle of the night, while everyone around was asleep. Imagine that. The whole neighborhood was dark, and kids tucked in their beds while she ripped the earth apart.

The distance between us as a couple grew even wider. Things like this occurring and remembering that bill from the lawyer years earlier. But, this may have been the first BIG red-flag that I really paid attention to.

In the evenings, after the kids went to bed, we’d sit on opposite sides of our cozy living room. She would stare at me with a look that I describe as ‘evil’. I could only stomach it for half-an-hour at most. It was a very uncomfortable feeling and if I had asked anything it was usually a one or two-word response. I headed to bed early every night to avoid any more time with her.

As time passed that year or so, I found myself, as she found me also, spending more time with my friends having a drink at the tavern up the street. Anything I could do to minimize my time with her.

In a last-ditch attempt for our marriage, we saw a family therapist. She was a no-nonsense older lady who got right to the tender questions. In our second meeting, she asked for the kids to remain in the hallway and looked at both of us once we were in her sterilized feeling chairs, asking: “Is this even necessary? Do you guys still want to be together?”

That very morning, I had lived through yet another of her puzzling behaviors. I was getting more upset and frustrated with everything, every passing day. At that moment, I burst forth my answer: “No. I’m done.” 

I suppose like a lot of us, I just needed somebody else to help me verbalize where I was at in the whole process of marriage, counseling, and finding a good way ‘out’. 

We quickly agreed upon a very amicable divorce. One that involved a great understanding and an even better co-parenting plan most couples dream of. Together we talked with our kids. It wasn’t great but everyone understood. 

Can you imagine going through your own divorce now? It’s stressful and complicated but…you’re ok! 

You’re ok because, right from the start, you’ve figured out what to do, what *not* to do, how to get support, which type of support to get, who to talk to, when to speak, and when to *not* say another word.

Imagine Your Divorce Being Hassle-Free, Quick, and Cheap!

I was lost and I wasn’t prepared at all. I was constantly trying to do “the right thing,” like filing amicably, like allowing mom to stay in the house with the kids while I “sucked it up” and moved to a campground a few miles up the road…

I came back to the house every afternoon to spend time with the kids while she was at work. I  would make dinner and put them to bed for the night. I’d sit there in the living room, the same place as before, but now without the evil glares waiting for her to get off work for the night.  At first she would get home around 11, then it became midnight. In a month or two it was beginning to be 1 or 2 the next morning.

frustrated over money

As it turned out, she did not understand certain things about divorce. And, why would she. Why would any of us understand this complex system where everyone is seeming to grab for your next paycheck.

For instance, she expected me to continue making home and property tax payments, while she stayed in the house. Some day in the future when the kids were grown she would sell it, and give me half of it all.

Doing the math on that equation makes entirely no sense. All this time I was actually struggling to pay for a second-place to live as well.

Things Were ‘OK’… Until They Weren’t

I probably felt the smallest of any person during these times. I would get the nastiest text messages or emails from her belittling me, my family, my thoughts, my feelings. They’ve all been saved and I’d love to share some with you along our journey together.

There was so much she didn’t understand, that she finally broke the amicable divorce agreement and hired herself an attorney. A vicious dog, who obviously smelled money. The divorce lasted years between filing and the final decree being issued by the judge.

There shouldn’t be any problem with a divorce lasting two or three years as long as you don’t need to eat or sleep well during that time.

Without having an attorney representing me, there was no negotiation, no communication, nothing from her or her attorney. There was a standstill for many months. Obviously, the conspiracy was beginning and there seemed to be this “new narrative” about the years of marriage and family.

The kids would all come to live with me, in a place I got outside their school district but affordable, every other weekend. She also “allowed me” to take them out to dinner every Thursday.

So many strange things happened during these months it would make my head spin. The kids were returning clothes to my house because “mom doesn’t want me to wear things you bought us….” and other craziness. I just couldn’t understand how much hate a person could have toward me. But, as most things do, it becomes clearer as the days pass along. I came to realize a whole new world about her.

Fire, to Fight the Fire

The ‘mistakes’ I was making kept piling up. Not everything was a ‘mistake’ per se, but rather something that might come back to haunt me later. How are you supposed to know what to do, when you’re going through some of the biggest emotional turmoil of your life? Finding myself all too often on the wrong side of the bar just to kill the pain of what she tossed my way that day.

The time had come where I had to finally hire an attorney. I had to, and there wasn’t any other way around it. If I had to bang my head on the wall in frustration one more time, it may cost me the last little bit of blood I still had inside of me. 

Trying to save $500 to live, it may have proven to be a bigger mistake than just going to trial and representing myself in the divorce. I talked with two local divorce lawyers near me and my first meeting was a great investment of a $50 consultation but I was able to get 3 hours of time and answers. I walked a block and half across the street for my next meeting at a different law firm. It wasn’t with my preferred attorney there but because of other reasons I needed to keep my visit and mind open to what he had to say instead of his partner.

There was $500 separating the retainer between law firms. Neither would budge even a buck. I had to settle with the second firm even though I was more than impressed with my first meeting up the street.

It’s a lot  to learn in a few hours of meetings, and learn the long hard way, the painful way about. Any amount of time I had spent that day or even another $2,500 wouldn’t have prepared me for everything I know now about…

family court circus
  • What makes hiring an attorney — the right one — the key 
  • What law firms can’t offer you today, tomorrow, or ever
  • How to prepare for the real circus – the family court’s 
  • Whoa! There is something called personality disorders
  • Hostile parenting and alienation of child affections can begin innocently
  • Why understanding finances is more true while going through divorce
  • How the secrets you shared with your closest friend will now bury you

But, Hatred and Spite Continued

Even a final divorce hearing in front of a judge, under oath, doesn’t stop the lying from taking place as long as it serves a purpose as I heard it all first-hand. I could never wrap my head around where her attorney went to law school. There isn’t justice, only the law, or loop-holes if you know where to look and find someone { insert bad lawyer joke here 😉 } unscrupulous. 

It would have been reassuring to know that the story “should have” ended here. Both going our separate directions in life but continuing to raise our kids as good parents. There shouldn’t have been all the hard feelings and the nasty messages back and forth. It served no good purpose. 

But, then I learned ‘inconveniently’ about something new to me, that I had known nothing about before: personality disorders. 

After only a year of divorce, the kid’s mom filed for full physical custody, wanting to strip me of every right I had with my kids. As if the one night dinner each week and every other weekend was too much for her to endure with me.

If she succeeded, I’d never see my two daughters again and I would only see both older sons on a very minimal basis (less than now) throughout the year. 

I had to come to realize that although I was divorced, she would make me have to reckon with her for the rest of my life. The worst feeling is that the kids also had to deal with her manipulation in a whole new light now, and wearing clothes I had purchased for them was the least of their problems.

During our separation and divorce, I had reached out to therapists to keep me sane, parenting classes to make sure I was absolutely doing the right things, and even met a lot with a licensed therapist I worked with outside of my home-businesses.

I always find that this part of my story gets crazy because each of them I reached out to for support (none knowing the other) all stopped me mid sentence while I was trying to explain bits and pieces of my life with her. They all told me to, “Stop explaining right now. She sounds like Borderline Personality Disorder.” It was eerie hearing the same words, from three different trained individuals, during three different meetings, and even months of the year.

This was about the first time I had finally realized that I wasn’t the crazy one, although I would make myself feel that way every day and night. At least some professionals are shedding light on an issue I can learn more about.

does divorce therapy help

Judges, Guardian, Lawyers, Therapists, and Doctors

I had never heard of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and most other people haven’t either. More studies and information are coming up about BPD now. It is a mental disorder that affects a percentage of the population and manifests in a variety of ways. Suffice it to say, it is very hard to live with – for the BPD as well as the people around them.

I don’t want to point fingers and label anyone. These therapists heard my side of the story. I’m not a therapist, or anywhere near being able to classify someone as challenged, ill or sick.

border line personality disorder

There is no ‘pill’ to take, and if counseling were to help it would probably need to be done daily for years to come according to some. She wouldn’t do anything to help the situation, because she refuted the court order in the beginning for further counseling for her co-parenting problems. Why would she begin to fix this problem when she refuses to see any other problem she could be part of. 

In addition to learning about the personality disorders that could be affecting my ex, I was discovering the terrible state of the legal system, too. 

Through my six-month nightmare of this new child custody hearing and figuring out how to use the court system, I was slowly able to rebuild myself financially, I slowly learned how to manage the tense relationship with an ex suffering from a personality disorder. I learned working with therapists to manage my daily, soul-destroying anxiety of worrying about my children, and my relationship with them. And mostly, I learned that I didn’t have to wait all the time for the other shoe to drop…

Breathing Fresh Air Through the Stench

The custody process was a breath of fresh air and actually breathed a new life into me, and a new belief in the family court circus, huhmmm – system. Even surrounding a terrible family court system, honest people can work their way to the top to help people. 

I won an even better custody arrangement than before with my kids. My ex was basically “found out” and called out for what she had done so negatively surrounding the children in her determination to hate and spite me daily. She was called out by court and mental health officials for her bullying tactics. I found a new sense of self-confidence that day.

[ court ordered image from Custody Assessment Team here ]

From failing court-required mediation to lackluster attorneys, I experienced a system that I have to describe as a three-ring circus. The loudest ringmaster wins. The loser is more than likely to end up cleaning the cages as penance.

Firsthand I realized that…

  • In family court you can win your case by outright lying to the judge. 
  • Coercion of children is used without self-regard to morals we should all have. 
  • Courts are a blunt instrument, and without the right support team, they will grind you into feeling worthless. 
  • Trying to save money on a lawyer is a bad idea. Not getting the right attorney is an even worse idea. But getting only an attorney is insufficient. 

Eventually, the system may right itself. The lying will catch up with the liar, the assets will be separated, custodial times, and rights established. In my case, she has been found in contempt of court more than a few times and required to pay attorney’s fees and even the entire custody evaluation fee or nearly $5,000. The truth never hurts.

A Network to Help

I became determined early on that no-one should have to go through as much pain and tragedy.

That’s how the Divorce Mistakes Network came to be. There is absolutely no reason to go through divorce alone and in the dark like I had to do. There is no reason to cry all day long or toss and turn throughout the night with anxiety and worries that never end.

I had so many terrible days. Days when I didn’t want to even finish the rest of the day. 

I was constantly wondering what else she could possibly hit me with today. Agonizing over whether the decision was the right one. Learning about ‘parental alienation’ and ‘hostile parenting.’ 

Should I have continued to take the hits at home, for my children’s sake? Because post divorce, hearing one of my sons blame himself was one of the absolute worst things I had to deal with. I would never want another parent to hear those words from someone they love.

I had to slowly learn to rewire my thought patterns. There were countless times I had to interrupt the negative stream in my head by yelling “Stop! Stop! Stop!” while driving to work every morning in my car. I had to learn not to allow her to win space in my head rent free. I had to finally come to the understanding with myself that I couldn’t change anything about her, but I could only change my own reaction to her, and move on.

All of my hard work was done — and I lived through it all — so that you don’t have to. 

The whole purpose behind the “network” is connecting you with the support you need, help you acquire knowledge that you’ll need today and tomorrow, and build your team so you can navigate through your divorce with savvy and save yourself years of agony and some money along the way.

I’ve now been divorced for close to ten years. It’s been a constant work in progress and it’s been very hard to rebuild both my professional and personal life and make the divorce a circus side-show. 

But no matter what, even ten years later, there is always something going on with it when you have children. 

During this long and painful divorce, I learned from my mistakes. After talking to countless others about their divorce I have learned even more about mistakes that people make when they are either embroiled in agony and worry, or struggling with finances, or just don’t have the experiences in life to navigate this new world that is sucking the life right out of them.

There are 99 divorces every hour in the United States. That’s about a million divorces a year in our nation alone. I’m determined, one by one if need be, to spare some of you from going through the same agonizing process I’ve experienced. 

No one, especially you my friend, should have to contemplate waking up to that pain tomorrow.

My tragedy lasted more than ten years. It cost me quality of life during that time. I’ll happily take your ticket for the next ride on this emotional roller-coaster because I know how to handle it…. I can’t expect you to suffer the nauseating uncertainty you’re going to be hit with if you do it alone.

That’s the Divorce Mistake Network: A place to learn, build your divorce team and get the support you’re going to need.