Last night I went to the Pro Se Divorce Clinic sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center. I was nervous. I don’t know why. I guess I don’t have much faith in the court system, having seen a lot of friends go through legal agony and eventually losing. Even though Rooferman and I never actually took the vows, I figured it was free information, so what the hell.
The Divorce Clinic was presented by Colorado Legal Aide, who informed the group that the reason they put on Pro Se Clinics is that they have a 3-year waiting list for people wanting a divorce. 3 Year Waiting List. Christ, that probably means half of La Plata County wants a divorce! Sadly, I’ve already applied for Legal Aide, and do not qualify.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I walked into that room. I think I was waiting to be discouraged and intimidated by the court system, and my lack of legal knowledge. What did I leave with? Gratitude. Thankfulness. Even a tiny bit of confidence.
For the first time, I was glad Rooferman ditched me with the engagement ring still on my finger. I was the only person at the clinic who didn’t need to go through a divorce before filing for custody. After sitting through an hour and a half of explaining dissolution of marriage, financial assets, filing fees, due process, summons, certificate of service, freezing accounts, my head was spinning. I was totally overwhelmed. There was no WAY I would have remembered all that stuff, had I wanted to file for Divorce.
I looked across the table. There were three couples: one White, one Latino and one Navajo. The Latino couple didn’t say a word the entire 2 1/2 hours. The Native couple was on the ball. They knew their rights, they knew what questions they wanted to ask, they even knew how to work the high-tech coffee maker, while the rest of us balked at the single serving filters.
The White couple totally baffled me. They laughed and joked with each other the entire time. They asked if they had to file all the same paperwork if they agreed on most issues and if they had to serve each other if they were still living together. I looked at them and thought: These people want a divorce? Why? They get along! They are civil. They look like they actually LIKE each other. The husband even gave his wife his coat when the temperature of the room dropped to 50 degrees.
I really should have been applauding them. They are going to have a great divorce. They probably won’t use the kids against each other. They may even remain friends. Maybe the fact that I can’t even have a phone conversation with my ex was pricking my ego. Maybe I assumed that all failed relationships end like mine, with pain, abandonment and bitterness.
I looked at this couple and my evil internal voice screamed “You get along! You treat each other with respect! Work it out! Don’t get divorced! Don’t you understand how much I wish I could have that?!”
I was judging them. I don’t know the details of their marriage. I don’t know what happened to make them think they couldn’t save their relationship. The pain and suffering of my life was like a black spot on their silky white marriage. After living with a man who would routinely tell me I was a half-ass, that I “didn’t take any pride in my daily work,” the fact that this man put his coat on his wife’s shoulders, triggered such an insane emotional response in me, that I really don’t know how to explain it. It was almost like they were obligated to me (just for treating each other like normal human beings) to work out their marriage.
In the end, I talked to the attorney who had so graciously volunteered her evening to heap information on us poor saps. She was very smart, very reassuring, and actually made me feel like I could do this on my own. I’ve been researching custody in Colorado for almost a year now. I’ve filled out the paperwork about 10 times, but never had the guts to submit them.
But you know what? I think I’m almost ready. I have perspective now, that my life could be a hell of a lot worse. I could be legally attached to this deadbeat. I could be financially responsible for the hot check he wrote last week. I’m not, and I’m grateful. And I really don’t have anything to be scared of.
P.S. The update on the hot check is nothing really. Poor Ruby went over to his house like I suggested, knocked on his door about 10 times, and waited. After a few minutes of no response, she left him a note in his truck, informing him of the situation. Wouldn’t even answer the door for his own mother.
I’m starting to think the day I pawned that ring was the best day of my life.