So, a few things have aligned this week to inspire this writing. The social media engines have been bugging me to post something. I’ve been really connecting lately… with everyone. I’ve been asked a lot lately “why” I do what I do. I recently had lunch with my mentor who had been encouraging me after a particularly (unnecessarily and stupidly) rough encounter with opposing counsel to change practices (i.e. NOT do family law/divorce). In that lunch, I explained how I feel protective of my clients and how concerned I would be if I left the field… wondering who would care for them as I do.
So, I figured it’s time… time to really put out there “why” I do what I do. It’s no secret that I am divorced. That my divorce litigation was nasty… and that I’ve mentally and emotionally recovered. And that now my ex and I are able to successfully co-parent.
But, the back-story is this: my child was born when I was 42 years old… and was a mere 6-months-old when my ex-husband filed for divorce… the day after my birthday. I was at my mother’s house far away and his pleadings included a request for the return of our very young child and shared (50/50) custody. First, I was pissed… seething, spitting-nails pissed. Then of course I was hurt, crying, in disbelief. Oh, and I was in the middle of post-partum depression, so there’s that. It was two months later that we had a hearing… he asked for “make-up” time with our child. I was assured by my attorney that if I was not held in contempt, make-up time would not be awarded. My attorney was wrong.
My tiny baby – who had never spent a night away from me – was suddenly thrust into my husband’s arms in his new home (he moved out of our marital home, (told me that he put my father’s ashes in the middle of the street), took our furniture, changed the locks, cancelled our credit cards (I had $38 in the bank and needed my Advair only to have my credit card declined when I tried to pick it up)) and SHUT ME OUT. The woman who was essentially my best friend lied in court against me the day before and she was there when I had to drop off my son. She terrorized me on video that would later be used against me in court… video intentionally set up and hidden by my ex… not some security system. The terror premeditated.
The next day I woke without my child; my husband would not answer the phone. I drove from Navy Point to Pace and asked the SRSO to assist with a well check. The SRSO met me there, pointed to my tiny son so far away (about 100 feet), told me to get back in my car and leave. The officers then pointedly asked my husband if he wanted to issue a trespass warrant. He obliged their request and, just like that, I couldn’t even drive down his street. Keep in mind, my kid was 8 months old and my husband had NEVER cared for him alone.
I was suicidal and couldn’t seek help because my ex made it clear he would use that against me to get my kid. I was on Zoloft and Xanax… both prescribed. My dosage of Zoloft was too high and I was consumed with suicidal ideations…. When I took myself off those medications without specific doctor supervision (to save my life), it was used against me.
At the urging of my attorney, I hired a PI. He had evidence of my husband recklessly speeding through construction zones with my kid… smoking cigarettes in a closed vehicle with my kid. Leaving my infant kid in an unattended vehicle.
I begged, BEGGED my attorney to do something.
My husband put my child in daycare and WOULD NOT TELL ME where our child was.
I pleaded with my attorney for relief.
But I got none.
So, I took my future into my own hands. My husband and I were sharing 2/2/3 custody… Monday, Tuesday with Mom, Wednesday, Thursday with Dad, Friday, Saturday, Sunday with Mom: next week reverse. I had never studied family law. Even in law school I knew it was a practice I wanted NO PART of. In the year I took the bar, they all but guaranteed us that a family law question would not be on the exam … oh, but it was (the first essay question at that – and I passed despite).
On the days I didn’t have my child, I pulled out the books… I studied 14-16 hours a day. Dishes piled up, no laundry was done… I barely showered. I learned. In the middle of the war, I taught myself family law.
I fired my attorney and I filed the most ridiculous pleadings and motions… I didn’t know what I was doing, but I fought for myself. I got a new judge on my case, a judge who was patient and persistent. We had hearing after hearing after hearing clearing the docket of all outstanding motions.
THEN, my husband hired a behemoth attorney… and they asked for a FOUR-DAY trial.
If you’re not an attorney, you really don’t know what that means (unless, for some reason, you go to trial a lot). Any trial… even a one-day trial means life. Eating, drinking, sleeping the case. But, there is no sleep. None. You may close your eyes, but you’re sleeping the case. You have to know everything (everything) by Day 1 and then Day 1 happens and you have to know more. My trial days were this: Tuesday 8 hours; Wednesday10 hours; Thursday 9 hours; Friday 11 hours. In the same room as my ex. Fighting for my kid.
It was nothing short of brutal… and it took 2 years of constant and consistent therapy to make myself right again.
I’ve been there… and I know what it means to my clients that I am there for them. I run a boutique firm. I keep a small roster of deserving clients who have my cell phone number and can contact me anytime… because this is serious business. This is your life. This is your family.
I will be here when you need me.