I might have mentioned that our mediation was a complete failure. In fact, that was the last straw for me to end up firing my attorney at the time.
The whole mediation was a fiasco. I was so disappointed because other people who had been through a divorce had told me to try to get as many issues as possible to be solved during mediation and, what we couldn’t agree upon, would be left to the court. Unfortunately, my attorney didn’t prepare me for mediation at all. In fact, both my attorney and my husband’s decided to have it rescheduled from the original day due to some conflict.
I remember sending several notes to my attorney, asking if the new date had already been arranged and whether we needed to talk about the different issues. I also wanted him to prepare me. Instead, my attorney not only kept telling me that we were fine and that he would help me on the day itself, but he also kept on telling me that he already had everything he needed every time I would ask if there was anything else I needed to bring or prepare apart from all the papers I had already submitted for interrogatories.
But the worst happened on mediation day itself. He called me that very same morning and asked me to bring my latest bank statement. I asked him if he needed me to drop it at his office or if I could just send it to him via e-mail. When he said, “Oh, no. Bring it today at 1:00.” I was perplexed. Hearing my confusion over the phone, he asked me, “Have you forgotten? Mediation is today, at 1:00.”
I was baffled. I told him that nobody had said anything about it to me. He asked me whether I got an e-mail message from his office. Negative. He started to apologize. But the damage was made and it would only get worse.
I scrambled at work to get things done and get to mediation on time. My attorney got there late. Then I realized he had not looked at my paperwork in all those weeks he had had the big binders. Those were my medical and living expenses, bills, credit cards and bank statements, car loan, job contract, income, Etc. The mediator would ask a question and he would be searching for the papers in a way that clearly told me that it was the first time he was even browsing through the binder.
I started to get very nervous. I was paying this man to protect the most precious thing in my life and he didn’t even know whether my original mortgage loan was in that binder or not or what was my current employment situation. Furthermore, I started to think that perhaps he had not even provided the answers to interrogatories. Because had he done so, he should have been familiar with the contents of that gigantic binder I spent almost two weeks putting together. (In case you were wondering, he failed to do so and I would only find out through my current attorney.)
I kept on trying to stay calm and comfort myself in the shared knowledge that everybody who knew the mediator had said that I was very fortunate to have gotten the best mediator in the county.
My newfound source of comfort would soon enough be shattered by trying to keep my sanity as I tried to answer the ever-jumping questions from the mediator.
I don’t know how it is done in general, if that’s the way they do these mediation meetings or what. But the man would ask about one thing, only to go to the other room where my husband and his attorney were and come back to ask a completely unrelated question.
Time kept going by and nothing was getting resolved. All of a sudden, he told me what my husband wanted to offer for custody. It was ridiculous, most especially for a 2-year old. My heart started to pound inside my chest. Everybody I had spoken to, including my attorney, had told me that both my county and state were a mother’s state when it came to children’s custody. However, here I was, looming at the most ridiculous scheduling and visitation plan being offered to a mom. Worst of all, my own attorney seemed to agreed with it when I clearly didn’t.
The mediator started to push me for an answer and insisted that, what we agreed upon on that day could not be changed. I told him that what I was being offered was not good enough for me. He left the room and came back offering the same thing, but $40,000 on top of it.
I started to feel awful, thinking that was the price tag my husband was putting on our daughter, as if she were something on sale. But that feeling was still nothing when compared to the feeling that not even my attorney seemed to be looking for my best interest.
I couldn’t hold the tears anymore at that point. I looked at my attorney and asked if that was the best I could get and why he had said something different early on in our counselor-client relationship. He advised me to take it, saying that was the best I was going to get. (Let me clarify that I was basically being asked to let my husband have full custody of my daughter.) Then the mediator started to say to me, “Look at it this way: Do you want to put your child through college, or his?,” while pointing at my attorney.
“Look at it this way: Do you want to put your child through college, or your attorney’s child? Take it. This is the best you’re going to get.”
That enraged me. All of a sudden, I remember a friend of mine who went through a bad divorce telling me a few days earlier: “Do not accept, sign, or commit yourself to anything that doesn’t feel right.”
Between my own convictions and beliefs about sending kids to college and the fury that I started to feel boiling inside me towards the whole situation, but most especially towards my own attorney, I found my voice and said that it was unacceptable.
My friend had said to me “Do not commit yourself to anything that doesn’t feel right. Do not sign anything unless you’re fully convinced and sure. If not, walk out and let God.”
The mediator kept pressing, using the college argument, as well as telling me how expensive the psychological evaluations were going to be. Now that those are around the corner while I write this, I still feel that I made the right decision at the time and told them that I was out of there.
I still don’t know if it will backfire and I should have tried to get more out of that mediation. Only once this is over I’ll find the answer to that question. Nonetheless, that mediation was the worst planned meeting I had to go through so far. I was not impressed with the mediator. I kept on thinking if that was supposed to be the best of the best in the county, then I didn’t want to even think how the judge, the court in general, and my own attorney were.
My new attorney tried to have a new mediation scheduled, with a new mediator and everything and considering the mess my previous attorney had made. Because failing to prepare me for the mediation was not the only thing he did. There were a lot of other things he had not done and that I would only find out once I had hired my current attorney. However, my husband didn’t agree and we headed to court a few weeks later with zero agreements. When the judge asked, my attorney explained what had happened. The judge didn’t seem please that my husband didn’t want to cooperate when I was offering to try to solve it between us before the Court would take over. But it is what it is and courts are over-committed. The Judge ordered the psychological evaluations and here we are today.
Either way, if you ever find yourself cornered like I did (I hope it won’t happen) and your gut feeling tells you not to sign, then listen to your gut and do not sign anything. I am not a legal expert, but if there’s something I have learnt out of my marriage to my husband the narc is that I should have paid more attention to my gut feeling all those years.
Lastly, why did I get so upset about them telling me that I was going to put the attorney’s kid through college and, by doing so, denied my own child of such thing and possibly a better future? It may be a cultural difference.
In the almost 17 years I have been living in the United States, I have yet to understand why parents insist in putting their children through college when they cannot even afford to retire. The way I see it, they’re doing a disservice to their children. And I’m speaking by experience when I say that.
You see, first of all, not all people are meant to go to college. In fact, many of them are and will be better off not going to college. There are other alternatives.
Second, when you don’t work for something and it is basically handed it to you on a silver platter, you tend not to appreciate it the way you would, had you paid for it yourself. I put myself through college. Granted, it was in another country with socialized education where I could have chosen to go to a public university and not pay a dime. But for my chosen career, I had to attend a private university and pay for it myself since my mother couldn’t afford to help me in that aspect.
My mother had lost her job when she turned 40. I had to start to work to cover some of my needs and I was still in Secondary School at the time. These are the main reasons why I came to the United States. Because I needed to cover both my mother’s retirement, as well as mine. But with the high cost of tuition in the United States, many parents are emptying their retirement accounts in order to put their children through college, or they are not even saving for their own retirement, without realizing that they don’t have time to save again and letting the money mature. Time is against them. But not so much so for the children. They have more time, they have the years to let their savings mature, and they should be given the opportunity to become resourceful and creative on how they are going to put themselves through college or any other dream they may want to pursue. And let’s be honest. Do you really, as a parent, want to have to depend on your adult child to take care of you because you can’t retire? And hope that your child doesn’t grow up to be entitled, ungrateful, or both: He or she will throw you at a retirement community, if you’re lucky, several states in between and maybe visit you in a blue moon.
Maybe, I’m taking it to an extreme. But it wouldn’t be the first time something like that happens and it won’t be the last.
There’s no written rule that says that you as a parent have to send your child to college. Maybe society expects you to. But let me tell you that society does not want to deal with homeless people, either. The choice is yours.
On the other hand, I’ll be forever grateful that my mom taught me to be resourceful. And that has been more valuable to me than a degree.
I remember telling some of this to the mediator. He looked at me as if I had popped out of a cake completely naked. I also added to him to be real. I was already paying my attorney’s child’s education one way or another.
I’m not a young parent. At my age, some women are already grandmothers. In honesty, I plan to be selfish and put money into my retirement account and not into tuition for my daughter. Why? Because I don’t want her stuck taking care of me. I feel I owe it to her to have the choice I never had. Don’t get me wrong. I do not regret making the decision I made and I don’t resent taking care of my mom. On the contrary, she sacrificed so much for me that I am more than happy to do something for her in return. I feel responsible towards her and I don’t care if I don’t have enough money for retirement if I can just make her last years on this planet more comfortable and enjoy a life she might have never had otherwise.
She was a young woman when my father left us both (I was just a newborn.) And she gave up everything for me, including her future, so I could have a better education and future than her. And it wasn’t her choice to be out of a job by 40. It happened. Millions of people lost their jobs back then. And then nobody wanted to hire someone who was not able to stay current for almost a decade.
This post is already a long one. Once again, trust your gut when it comes to divorcing your narc. And do not hesitate to fire your attorney if you feel he or she does not have your best interest at heart. It’s better to lose money and have to start over than losing your child. I might have played a gamble, but ultimately I have to sleep at night and I’m already struggling in that sense as it is. No need to make it more difficult by hesitating and not trusting my instincts. Better to make a bad decision than not make any decision at all and, as a consequence, keep letting the narc continue to trample over you. At least that’s my take on what happened to me.