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How to Handle a Complex Divorce

Divorce is never fun.  It’s usually never easy.  However, some divorces are very complex.  A complex divorce can create stress, frustration, anxiety and even depression.  Understanding that there is no simple fix that addresses every divorce can help set expectations.  Here is a story of a woman whose entire life was turned upside down overnight.  Her story has been altered to protect confidentiality, however the issues are the same.

Jean’s Story:

My husband and I have been married for nearly 30 years.  We were both in the military.  After serving, he worked for the government and I stayed in the military for awhile longer.   After we had children,  he and I agreed that I would give up my career in the military so I only worked part time in the local school system to raise our family.  He has always been the main bread winner in our home.

Our children have all grown and moved out now.  The last one just finished college last year.  Throughout their college years, I had my own business and worked full time but still never made the type of money my husband makes.  Our home, cars and everything are in both of our names.  We had a good life, a good marriage.  A loving family with good communication.

One day I went to visit my sister.  I stayed longer than usual with my husband calling two times to see what time I would be home.  I thought that was odd but chalked it up that maybe he was hungry.  I got home around 5 pm and found most of my house empty.  Had the house not been so clean I would have thought I had been robbed.  And at first, that is what I thought.  My heart raced, I grabbed my phone and called my husband.  It went immediately to voicemail.  I panicked.  What if something has happened to him?  But then I saw that my laptop and other things were still there.  What type of burglar leaves a tv and laptop?  And then, I saw a large note on my desk.  I walked over to it, saw it was my husband’s handwriting and froze.  5 words: “I only took what was mine.”   I thought I would pass out.  What kind of joke was this?  Surely someone kidnapped him?  Drugged him?  We had stayed up late the night before watching our favorite movies and laughing like children.  How could this man walk out after 29 years – 1 week before our 30th anniversary which, by the way, had a huge party planned by our kids?

I called his phone again.  Voicemail.  I called my oldest daughter.  She answered on the first ring.  “Mom, are you ok?” I wondered why she would ask that.  It dawned on me.  They all knew.  Everyone knew but me.  “So, you know that he left?” I asked.  She answered “Yes and please don’t be angry.  He was just unhappy and has been for awhile.  He needed a change”.  A change?  What does that mean? What was I going to do?

Over the next few months, I struggled.  I had a couple of heated exchanges with my husband, who stated that he did not want a divorce because it would jeopardize our military benefits.  He had stated that he would pay his share of the bills although he was no longer here.  I had received a small part of the bills but could not reach my husband.  I had the house with a mortgage, the car payments, credit cards bills piling up.  My emotions were all over the map.  Finally, I realized that I needed to find a way to fight this.   I contacted a lawyer to learn my rights.

Jean contacted our office to find out if there was any way she could compel her husband to pay his full share of their bills as a married couple.  We discussed a couple of options.  First, we discussed the possibility of divorce and alimony.  In the event that divorce was not something she wanted at this time, we discussed the reality of her financial situation and that keeping the home may be something she is unable to do.  We can offer for him to buy out her half of the equity if he would like to keep the home or they could agree to sell the home outright and split the proceeds.  Her financial situation was far more pressing on her than her marital one.  She really wanted to avoid foreclosure and bankruptcy at this time.

Jean’s situation is an unusually complex one.  It involves the longevity of a marriage, multiple benefit plans on both sides, parties each wanting something different and the inability to reach one of the spouses.  While there is no “average” divorce case, this one does illustrate how things can become difficult, requiring the need for an experienced attorney in family law and divorce procedures.

If you need help with your domestic relationship, a divorce, partnership, custody arrangement or other family matter, contact our office.  Christine has over 20 years experience working in and out of trial court with these matters.  She is compassionate and experienced in family law matters.

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