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Advice to Men

In Memory of Allen Wells

This set of web pages for Allen Wells has been recreated from web pages archived at http://web.archive.org

Key page for Allen Wells

Divorce Post-Mortem

Xref: ads.com soc.men:25948 alt.child-support:297
Path: ads.com!decwrl!uunet!microsoft!allenwe
From: allenwe@microsoft.UUCP (Allen WELLS)
Newsgroups: soc.men,alt.child-support
Subject: Divorce Post-Mortem (long)
Message-ID: <70623@microsoft.UUCP>
Date: 12 Feb 91 03:20:43 GMT
Reply-To: allenwe@microsoft.UUCP (Allen WELLS)
Distribution: usa
Organization: Microsoft Corp., Redmond WA
Lines: 269

Note:  I am posting this to both groups because I (at various times)
publicly agreed in both groups to put out a post-mortem when
my divorce finally finished. Probably a bad promise in
retrospect - this posting hasn't been any fun.

Please edit the Newsgroups line to direct followups to
either soc.men or alt.child-support, not both.


Length: 4 years
Children: 1 son - Steven, age 2 yrs 8 months at filing, age 5 presently
Assets: Marital home, around $10,000 cash and liquid assets, cars, furnishings, collections, etc
Liabilities: Mortgage, $3444 in a delayed payment for the central air conditioning at the house.
Husband: 25 (at marriage), master's degree, 2 years work experience. Earnings of just over $40,000 at time of marriage. Currently near $60,000.
Wife: 33 (at marriage), associate's degree, 14 years work experience as a licensed x-ray technician. Earnings over $30,000 at time of marriage. Spent most of marriage at home milking a fraudulent workman's compensation case. Currently working part-time earning $17/hour. (Child is in full-time daycare - the work is limited to financial need.)

Divorce filing

Plaintiff: Husband (ie: me)
Reason Regular physical abuse over a period of 3.5 years, financial irresponsibility, mental instability. The timing was determined by when I finally confronted the fact that I was becoming increasingly suicidal.
Jurisdiction: NH
Filing: Wife asked me to agree to a filing of simply irretrievable breakdown and promised the use of mediation if the I agreed. I so agreed and so filed. She filed that there was no breakdown, the marriage was healthy, and that I was being irresponsible.  After a year of trial in which she was unwilling to try mediation or come to an amicable settlement, and after repeated incidents of her physically assaulting me on visitations and vandalizing my car, I changed my filing to Cruel and Abusive Treatement. She immediately changed her plea to the same.
Support: I voluntarily paid over half my take-home in 'temporary support' (not expecting how long temporary was). This was codified by the court 6 months later.
Assets: I took only personal posessions, some things that we had multiple of (like TVs), and things I owned before the marriage. The vast bulk of posessions was left with my wife. Cash was split evenly.

Divorce Process

Duration: 2 years, 6 months
Cost: Around $15,000 (on my side), not including 'extra' support from the lengthy temporary orders or the payments required by the settlement.
Location: After the repeated refusal of the court to consider my complaints of physical assault, vandalism,  harassment, and obstruction of visitation, I finally moved across-country - essentially feeling driven out of the area. Anyone who was physically abused and had no success getting protection from the legal system probably understands my reasons.
Problems: The move entailed a substantial cut in pay. The court recognized that I could no longer maintain the previous level of support, and ordered the house sold. In violation of court orders, and despite repeated contempt citations, she refused to ever even allow a broker into the house for an appraisal. I was unable to maintain the mortgage and it fell in arrears. An arrest warrant was issued against me in the state of NH, which my lawyer was unable to remove. All visitation with my son was impossible because of this arrest warrant. Bail was set at the amount of the outstanding arrearage - which I couldn't pay. This warrant is still outstanding, and can be prosecuted in the state of WA at any time she decides.


  I was contesting custody. Originally, this was for two reasons. First, I was advised that my chance of getting custody changed in the future was higher if I had a clear record of wanting custody from the start. Second, I didn't feel that I would be able to ever look my son in the face if I left him in the same abusive environment that I couldn't take without at least trying to save him. In reality, I expected to settle granting my wife custody but having it clearly on the record that I had contested which I could use as a tool as my son got older and the abuse became more obvious. This became moot, since she refused any settlement conference even with custody being granted to her as a precondition. She felt she could 'do better' in court.

The Guardian was quite honest about what I had to do to get custody. I had to 'prove that Steven will be hospitalized' if he was left with his mother. I came close, but not quite far enough. Her psychiactric evaluation was probably 'bad' enough that she can get a 'not guilty by reason of insanity' verdict if she kills me or Steven, but the Guardian still felt she could 'be an adequate custodial parent' 'with sufficient professional help'.


  I can tell you very little about the trial. Since I had the warrant outstanding, my choices were (according to my lawyer):
  1. 1) Try to attend the trial. I would be put in jail before I could reach the trial. My lawyer would then petition the court to request that I be allowed to attend. The court might or might not agree (you have no right to attend a civil case, unlike a criminal case). After the trial (if I was allowed to attend), I would most likely be returned to jail for an indefinite period (given that it was over a month before the court gave its decree - that would likely have been the minimum). I would most likely have lost my job, in addition to any other hardships.
  2. 2) Let my lawyer try to handle things in my absence. Prepare as much material as possible in affidavits.

I chose 2). As it turns out, 2) was a much worse choice than I or my lawyer expected. The judge refused to read any of my affadivits or have them entered into the record. My side was totally unheard.


Default: The plaintiff (ie: me) was ruled in default for non-appearance. All affidavits submitted by me to the court were ruled inadmissible.
Judgement: Due to the default of the husband, the wife was granted the divorce on the grounds of 'extreme cruelty'.
Custody: Joint legal custody, with sole physical custody granted to the wife. The husband is not allowed any visitation outside of the state of NH. Phone visitation is allowed up to three times per week by the wife calling the husband collect. I am not allowed to even call my son.
Support: $1356/month - payable to the state of NH.
Alimony: None. She had asked for permanent alimony based on her 'permanent disability' (the same fraud she was pushing while we were married). Luckily, the court found her evidence for the disability not credible.
Assets: The house is granted (in full) to the wife, along with all contents thereof. Both parties keep their own cars and any personal possessions currently owned. Both parties keep their pension plans. (Hers was larger than mine when we filed, so this isn't the obvious win for me that it might appear.) Wife gets timeshare.
Liabilities: I got stuck with the central AC bill, all outstanding bills to the Guardian and Psychiatrist, paying for outstanding medical bills that my wife refused to properly inform my insurance company about, a $4500 payment to her for 'adjustment for past accounts' - apparently to compensate her for taking more than my fair share of marital assets, the mortgage arrearage of $9875, a payment of $2776 to compensate my wife for her portion of some CDs that never existed and which she was never able to document, and arrearage on the maintenance fee for the timeshare which she has been using for the past three years and not paying for. All told, a total of around $25,000. This doesn't include any back fees owed to my lawyer.
Insurance: I am required to maintain $250,000 in life insurance with her as a sole beneficiary. I am required to provide her with proof of that insurance yearly. I am required to provide full medical and dental insurance on my son, and two years of insurance for her. All reasonable uncovered medical expenses on my son are to be divided equally.


  I think this covers the whole thing. It isn't pretty - but it could have been worse - if the alimony had been approved I would be paying over 3/4 of my take-home in support.

I probably suffered from 'inadequate representation', and the outcome is probably partiall a result of that. When shopping for lawyers, I made the fatal mistake of looking for a 'reasonable' lawyer who would try to cut a fair deal. When I finally tried to get another lawyer to take over my case (I couldn't, no-one would touch it at that point) I found out that my ex had hired the 'meanest shark' in the state. Lesson learned, though it's too late for that to be of any use to me.

The child support is distressing. The amount is 40% of my take-home (before any contributions to things like a retirement plan - wishful thinking ...). The amount is equal to the size of the mortgage on the house. The increase in percentage (25% is the guideline for one child) was apparently due to the clause that allows adjustments to child support to 'maintain the marital home for the benefit of the minor child'.

Even more disturbing is the insurance. The amount is far larger than the total amount of child support she will ever get (even discounting the time-value of money). Quite literally, I am now worth more dead that alive to her. To someone who has been physically abused, this is an incredibly scary thought.

Finally, having to keep health insurance on her is more of an issue than it might at first appear. To begin with, the current part-time job she has offers full medical if she works more than 20 hours (which she doesn't plan to), so this is not a matter of keeping her covered, it is a matter of keeping her from having to work 20 hours. Second, in the 2.5 years since I filed for divorce, I've gotten involved with someone and would like to marry. This marriage is probably impossible unless I am willing to shell out for COBRA payments on top of the support. Of course - regardless of whether I remarry - if I change jobs I will have to pay her COBRA payments anyway unless I can somehow convince the new employer to cover her. Basically, I am locked in to my current job for two years. (Luckily, that isn't something that I currently consider a problem. ;)

The miscellaneous payments hurt less than it might appear. I have an appointment with a bankruptcy lawyer arranged for Monday. Unfortunately, it's my only option. At least that should be enough to get rid of that pesky arrest warrant (which is still current).

Of course, none of the things that I was worried about have been addressed. In particular, my ex has already held Steven back from Kindergarten for an extra year to get more support (she told me over two years ago she was going to do this, and there was nothing I could do to stop it). What else will she do to him in the same vein?

But the most disturbing thing of all is the visitation. I was expecting to be denied custody. But I wasn't expecting to not even be allowed to call my son. Given my current residence (WA), only allowing visitation in NH is pathetic. What am I supposed to do? Leave my new family behind, rent a motel room for a week, and spend the week in the motel room? They could have at least allowed me to go to VT (where my parents live) or MA (where my SO's parents live). As it is, it's illegal for me to even bring my son to see his grandparents. The rationale was extremely insulting, as well as disturbing. I shouldn't be allowed out of state visitation until I had established a relationship with my son. WHAT THE FUCK WERE THE PAST FIVE YEARS??? Forgive my language, but I lived for over three extra years in hell trying to shelter my son from his mother (she got pregnant because I told her, after 6 months of marriage, that I was divorcing her because of the beatings - she faked a reconciliation, lied about birth control, and my son was born). I spent the next almost two years begging for whatever time I could get and being limited to a weekend every other week when I was lucky. I've spent the last year calling him once per week (all the court would allow) and having every attempt at a visitation denied. Now I'm supposed to ESTABLISH A RELATIONSHIP before I can be allowed to bring my own son into MY OWN HOME? I'm the guy who would change his diapers every time I got home and treat the diaper rash that was there because my ex hated to change him so much. I'm the one stayed home with him for a week during his worst childhood illness and cleaned up all of his diarrhea and vomit and comforted him, even though I was sick for most of it too - while my ex left us. I'm the one who taught him how not to be scared of lightning and monsters. I'm the one who taught him how to tell jokes, play games, and feed himself. And I'm supposed to ESTABLISH A RELATIONSHIP?

My apologies. I'm clearly not in a good mood to be objective. It could have been much worse. At least I have enough of my income left to live. I should be grateful for what I've got, but I'm not in the mood to feel grateful. I'll sign off now. Sorry for this being so long and emotional.  

Next article by Allen Wells: Re: Divorce Post-Mortem (long)

Posted 2006 09 04