Divorce is both an end and a beginning. It marks the end of a marriage and the beginning of a new life, identity, and existence. For some clients, it’s a process that marks the beginning of their “liberation” and for others, the end of a life they wish they could hold on to. For the client that did not choose the divorce, this end can be very painful, and their hurt, masked as anger, can lead them to act in ways that are self-destructive and sabotaging.
Divorce Court is not a private place, not even close. Indeed, not only is it a public venue, but quite literally a stage for every onlooker who happens to be there. Courts are filled with divorcing husbands and wives, their lawyers, friends, family members, and of course, the court personnel, including the Judges, Clerks, Court Officers, and Cleaning Staff. On a daily basis you can stroll the court halls and find couples shouting at each other, cursing, and pointing fingers.
It seems that the busier the day, the louder the screaming. I see behavior in court that I would never see in any other public place. I always counsel my clients not to engage their spouse in any type of communication that might set off an argument. In some cases where I know there is going to be trouble I even ask my client to wait on a different floor, other wing, or even in the car.
Sometimes however, you find yourself in a moment you least expect!
While settling a case in court the other day, we were just about to sign an agreement when suddenly my client became very upset. My client had always been very quiet and composed in court. Instead of signing her name, she took the pen and pointed it directly into her husband’s face. He stared at her blankly. In a cracking voice she told him, “I gave you the best years of my life!” He said nothing and then she signed. I think she was hoping to get some kind of recognition, apology, or quite frankly…anything. He didn’t flinch.
When it was all over, I said to her, he was a jerk and you didn’t give him the best years of your life. He gave you the worst of yours, and it’s over now. I wanted her to see that at that very moment she was the author of what I like to call “Part 2” of her life. That pen she had used to sign her name and end her marriage had also given her a new life, one that she had co-authored with me, setting forth the terms of where she would live, what assets she received, and what she could expect from him-what was required of him, contractually.
Before that, he called all the shots and she never really knew what was coming next or when. He had always handled all the financials and she had very little involvement. It was certainly overwhelming but at the same time, very liberating.
Now I know and understand that you will never truly be rid of your ex, and that he may in fact be around and continue to haunt you long after the divorce, but the notion that we gave anyone the “best years” of our life is just one that doesn’t sit well with me. It’s almost like saying we have nothing left to enjoy or give or receive. It’s victory for him, a feather in his hat, and why should you, even if you do feel that way, give him that power? Even worse, if you perceive it to be true, he never saw it, never apprecited it, and certainly won’t now.
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