How to navigate a potential divorce?
June 24, 2015 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Hi. This is me. I have been thinking for a couple weeks and am leaning towards divorce. I have multiple questions about this.

1. We stupidly just bought a house together in March. If we agree between the two of us that one of us should keep the house, would we still be forced to sell it anyway as part of the divorce? There's no way we wouldn't take a huge loss if we had to sell it now and this worries me a lot.

2. I start a new job in a month that pays a little bit more and I would want to wait and see how the job goes before asking for a divorce. How can I maintain my sanity during this time while continuing to live with my husband? (I am already in therapy, but I started therapy originally because I thought I was going crazy from my husband's gaslighting, and now that I know I am actually awesome and smart and perceptive and not crazy, I kind of feel like I don't need therapy anymore).

3. How do I overcome the feeling that any choice I make will be the wrong one? If I stay, it must mean I have no self-respect at all, but if I leave, I must be giving up too soon on a relationship that could potentially be good again in the future. (We are in marriage counseling and he says he is willing to try to make it work but he has lost all passion for me and is "in love" with my former friend. Vomit). My therapist keeps advising me to give it more time and not make any rash decisions, but to me this just feels like delaying the inevitable. My husband and I no longer agree on a lot of fundamental things--for example, we used to both never want kids, but now he's interested in the possibility of having kids while I am still very much opposed.

4. Do I HAVE to get a lawyer? I don't know how I could possibly afford one since the house purchase essentially wiped out my savings.

I have no family in Maryland and all my friends here are also friends of my husband, but I love Maryland and don't want to leave. So I would be going through a hard time with a limited support network. This makes the decision more difficult but by itself doesn't seem like a compelling reason to stay in an unhappy marriage.

I have read the oft-recommended "Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay" but it didn't bring me much clarity unfortunately.
posted by a strong female character to Human Relations (41 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have a friend with a recent and difficult divorce under her belt. I assume that things vary by state, but also that there are some generalities likely to be true.

Note - you DO need a lawyer, and you need a SHARK. You don't know how your husband is going to react when actually faced with your departure - but a LOT of people get really nasty. My friend said that getting a really good woman lawyer was the best thing that she did in the whole process and made everything much, much easier. Her ex made a lot of stupid requests - some just financially unfair, some intended to hurt her - and the lawyer just bulldozed on through. Also, your ex may lawyer up.

1. You can arrange things so that one person keeps the house as their "share". This is what my friend did.

3. Everyone I know who got a divorce after a big wrong was done to them (like this one - I remember your other question, and "vomit" is the precise word for your husband) is much happier now. Everything you have said in this and the other question suggests a divorce to me.

This does not seem like a question of "self respect"; it seems like a question of practicalities - this sounds like a deteriorating situation to me.

My bet is that what your husband wants is for you to dance attendance on him so that he can keep the living and financial arrangements as they are while he sees his new love on the side, or at least conducts an emotional affair with her - because that way he gets the best of both worlds. A grown-up would have started the divorce first with no gaslighting or emotional cheating, and that would be very sad and wrenching but the decent thing to do. Someone who is emotionally lazy just keeps things as they are for himself while hoping that the women in his life will just give him what he wants.
posted by Frowner at 8:40 AM on June 24, 2015 [44 favorites]


Especially because of points 1-3, the answer to question 4 is:

You ABSOLUTELY have to get a lawyer.
posted by lydhre at 8:41 AM on June 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


If I stay, it must mean I have no self-respect at all, but if I leave, I must be giving up too soon on a relationship that could potentially be good again in the future.

This relationship will not potentially get good again. There is no gold star you get for staying in an awful marriage with a terrible human just to prove your goodwill. There is nobody to prove this to.

I have no family in Maryland and all my friends here are also friends of my husband, but I love Maryland and don't want to leave. So I would be going through a hard time with a limited support network.

Keep the therapist. Or a therapist, if not the one you have now. You will need the support.

Do I HAVE to get a lawyer? I don't know how I could possibly afford one since the house purchase essentially wiped out my savings.

No, you don't have to be represented by a lawyer for divorce in MD. However, since you have a house, and since one or both of you may have other assets like pension funds, savings stock that can impact on what you do with the house, you should consult a divorce attorney in your state.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:42 AM on June 24, 2015 [10 favorites]


You can choose to enter mediation rather than having a court hearing. You can also work with an attorney that specializes in collaborative divorce rather than an adversarial process. Either of these options would let the two of you have more collaborative input with one another about how you would like to split your assets. You don't have to sell your house if you don't want to, but you will want to clearly work out who owns the title and how the value of the house will be equitably divided.
posted by goggie at 8:46 AM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


You should absolutely get a lawyer.

If you are broke, there are lawyers who will work with you on that. For instance, a friend of mine would work for her lawyer on preparing materials/researching stuff for the divorce case, which helped keep the costs down.
posted by suelac at 8:52 AM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Congrats on getting some clarity about this situation, I am sorry the outcome is crappy. I am glad you're holding on to your self esteem.

1. The reason houses are so often sold in divorces is mostly because the arrangements involve money that can't be generated without the sale of the house. There are many arrangements about the house that could be made but they may involve some money flexibility. It's really important to do this legally and not have some sort of "friendly agreement" because as you've learned, this guy is not your friend.

2. Congrats on the job. If at all possible I'd just work on "phoning it in" to you relationship for a while. Stay out of the house a lot, sleep in a separate room if you need to. Create solid boundaries for yourself so that you can go to work and do a good job. Also I'd stick with a therapist, and good on you for getting one who has been useful to you. They can help you work on #3

3. My take is that any choice will be BETTER THAN WHERE YOU ARE NOW which is important. Sometimes you can't optimize a solution that works for everyone, so you have to think about your own life goals and what you want for you and look out for you only for a while. Also he wants kids and you don't? (oh man I have been there) That seems like a good way to focus your energies on "Bad fit" explanations and a little less on the "I married a sociopath" angle.

4. I really would suggest this, yes. It's really important to hammer this out in a legal way and not just rely on the good will of a person who has not shown themselves to be really good at keeping their word and all the rest.

My last piece of advice is that once you make the decision, don't be shy about what you're doing and the reasons for it. Don't turn it into some secret shame or decide "it's his story to tell" Learning to do things as separate people is one of the challenges of this new life for yourself but being open about why you want out of your marriage and what you want for you going forward will be a part of this. Sorry about the jerk, congrats on deciding to be rid of his nonsense.
posted by jessamyn at 9:00 AM on June 24, 2015 [17 favorites]


3. How do I overcome the feeling that any choice I make will be the wrong one? If I stay, it must mean I have no self-respect at all, but if I leave, I must be giving up too soon on a relationship that could potentially be good again in the future.

It's probably not going to get better. I mean, you can maybe get it to a semi-tolerable but probably ultimately unsatisfying middling state, with a lot of time and pain and sweat and tears, and still never forget that he preferred that you think you were crazy than know the truth, plus whatever else is in your shared history. Mutual respect, gone. Goodwill, communication, gone.

Or, you can start fresh, live on your own for a while to recalibrate and figure things out for yourself, maybe create room for another person who is not going to psychologically abuse you through gaslighting. There is just no reason to waste more of your time on someone whom you know for a fact is happy to do that to protect himself. Life is short, and there are better people out there for you.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:06 AM on June 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


In most states you don't really need a lawyer to get divorced, but when you add a mortgage into the mix, it's usually helpful. If there are any substantial assets (like a retirement account) or debts, a lawyer will probably be necessary. If there is any good reason for maintenance (a disability, one party having supported the other through school, for instance), you will certainly want legal advice from an attorney on your side, rather than a mediator or attorney who is preparing the divorce agreement without representing either party (I don't even know if that's allowed in MD, but it is in many states).

Divorce in an of itself won't require you to sell the house. HOWEVER, if your current mortgage and deed are in both your names, you will absolutely want that changed concurrently with your divorce. If neither of you can afford to buy the other out of their ownership in the house and/or neither of you can refinance the mortgage in her/his name only, you will pretty much have to sell the house. Or what jessamyn said.

The rest of it really does get better with time and/or therapy. Relationships change and relationships end. Although it feels like a bigger deal when it's "marriage" instead of "dating", in the end, it's not really. It's just another change. You can second-guess yourself all you like, but you should not. You have good reasons for wanting to leave a relationship that's not working, even if leaving is complicated and hard and looks like a failure. Commit to changing your life for the better and your life will change for the better. Be prepared, though, even incredibly simple divorces (like mine--no assets, no house, just $2500 in credit card debt) are exhausting. Be kind to yourself during it and don't let anyone tell you you're wrong.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:06 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Your husband has been acting fairly smarmy. Chances are good that if you admit to your mutual friends how awful he's been acting, they might choose to spend less time around him, and there won't be as much "battle for friend group" as you anticipate. I'm not advocating that you become a fountain of vitriol, because that's not pleasant to be around and won't win you support. I just mean that people in general - and it sounds like you in particular - tend to try to act strong and mature, and like you've got things under control, and this is turbulent but not a huge deal, and no we're handling this like responsible adults who don't need a lawyer to solve our problems for us, and yes, I'm angry with him but the decision is mutual, we'll both be happier apart, etc. No. He fucked up. He treated you badly. He continues to treat you badly and shows no signs of having learned anything from the experience. Don't shield your friends from the truth of why you're leaving, and trust them with your true emotions, and there's a good chance they'll step up and be the support network you need.
posted by aimedwander at 9:09 AM on June 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


that couples' counselor sucks. that's probably a huge reason why you feel like you might be giving up on something huge and like it would be bad to stop trying. no. FUCK. THAT. he stopped trying when he fell in love with your friend and started bullshitting you about it. that is basic "marriage over" behavior. you deserve way, way better.

You say "you" don't have any savings. What about him? This is the kind of thing a lawyer can help you with. You may be entitled to some of "his" money for a divorce attorney.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:10 AM on June 24, 2015 [18 favorites]


Keep your therapist, if only to help you manage the daily overwhelm that will come with this. I stayed with the one my former wife and I started going to in couples therapy which was good for me. But, finding someone new for the new start could give you fresh energy and insight as well. Sometimes it just helped to have someone say "Last time you were in you mentioned a need to do X, have you taken care of that yet?"

You need a lawyer. My divorce was ridiculously amicable. We still needed a lawyer that we used together to make sure it was all done right and didn't take longer or get messier than necessary. In any situation where there may be a disagreement you need a lawyer not only to defend your rights but to tell you what to expect, how long it might take and the potential costs of fighting versus compromising on any given issue.

You don't need to sell the house. If it is highly leveraged it isn't much of an asset, if any. In that case in could go to whoever is willing to take on the payments. You will need/want to refinance so it isn't in both your names. Depending on incomes that may be challenging with the banks. Your new job might help.

You will have doubts about having made the right choice. Sometimes intensely painful and overwhelming ones. That's okay. It's normal. See the reference to the therapist above. You will need to go through some days of just putting one foot in front of the other to keep going. That doesn't mean the choice was a bad one. It just means certain things take effort.

It's only your choice to make, but it sounds to me like you've already made the right one for you.
posted by meinvt at 9:12 AM on June 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


1. We stupidly just bought a house together in March. If we agree between the two of us that one of us should keep the house, would we still be forced to sell it anyway as part of the divorce?

A consultation with an attorney in Maryland can help explain how assets and debts are generally divided in a divorce, and what the possible outcomes may be due to your particular circumstances. No attorney can promise an outcome, but an attorney can help you determine what may be reasonable to expect in a settlement or a contested hearing.

2. I start a new job in a month that pays a little bit more and I would want to wait and see how the job goes before asking for a divorce. How can I maintain my sanity during this time while continuing to live with my husband?

A consultation with an attorney as soon as possible might help address some of your concerns and make the time before you file for divorce a little easier. At minimum, a lawyer can answer some basic questions about the process and how to generally prepare for it.

3. How do I overcome the feeling that any choice I make will be the wrong one?

You can always get remarried, but for now, you can make the best decisions you can for a situation that has no perfect solution.

4. Do I HAVE to get a lawyer? I don't know how I could possibly afford one since the house purchase essentially wiped out my savings.

An attorney in Maryland can help you figure out the financial risks that may exist in your case, to help you determine the cost/benefits of hiring an attorney. Attorneys can also help buffer the emotional impact of a divorce and make it easier to deal with the legal process - your therapist may have perspective to offer about whether it is wise to attempt to navigate an unfamiliar legal process without an attorney while you are also dealing with the typical stress and grief from the end of your relationship.

You can also consult with a lawyer about how they can be helpful at an affordable price, be it through representation at a mediation session, or in negotiations to draft a settlement agreement - hiring an attorney does not have to be extraordinarily expensive, especially if the level of conflict between the parties is fairly low.

The MeFi Wiki Get a lawyer page offers general information about finding an attorney and low-cost options for resolving legal issues, including unbundled legal services and mediation.
posted by Little Dawn at 9:12 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


GET A LAWYER. From both personal and professional experience, I really believe this is the best course of action. Of course, you don't have to have a lawyer who plays nasty but you want to protect your interest.

Also, keep seeing your therapist. You're right that you're awesome and insightful but during this process, you might forget that and you'll need a good reminder.

Good luck.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 9:13 AM on June 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


--staying doesn't mean you have no self-respect. it means you have made the decision to stay and work on the marriage. You can do that despite his terrible behavior. His terrible behavior is NO REFLECTION ON YOU. Period. Whether you stay or you go, he is the one who needs to be accountable for this because his behavior is abysmal. And there's no way of knowing this kind of thing before marriage, unfortunately.

--RE: FRIENDS: Think of at least a few mutual friends who are sensitive and kind, and who are good at being discreet. Talk to them about this situation and tell them how much they mean to you and how much their support means to you. Keep them informed. At the same time, make sure you acknowledge their issues/lives and contact them about happier things, as well. This will help you shore up your support while you transition.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:14 AM on June 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, in my experience, making the actual decision to divorce was by far the hardest part, emotionally. Once the decision was made and announced everything sort of sucked for a while but it was nowhere near as stressful and nervewracking as the decision-making process.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:16 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


IAAL IANYL TINLA. I think you should consult a lawyer literally tomorrow. Preferably try to do consults with at least two or three lawyers. Many matrimonial lawyers (at least in my jurisdiction) will do a free initial consultation.

I don't know if you need 'a shark'. You need someone whose knowledge and judgment you feel confident in, whom you feel listens to you and is responsive to your particular needs and questions.

If you talk to a couple of lawyers, you should have:
a) some basic information for figuring out your strategy (move out now versus wait for the new job, etc.)
b) some basic information for figuring out reasonable expectations for the divorce process
c) a realistic idea of how the finances of divorce could work, including paying for the lawyer (as IFDS#9 pointed out, your lawyer may be able to work on the expectation of being paid from your husband's assets)
d) a head start on retaining a lawyer if and when you need to.

I think that even the most amicable divorces where both parties agree on everything benefit from having a lawyer involved to keep people's expectations reality-based, provide some external buffer for loaded negotiations and conversations, and make sure that the final agreement has all i's dotted and t's crossed so that it is an effective resolution that will not be susceptible to being opened up later.

Seriously, start talking to lawyers. It doesn't commit you to anything but it will put you in a much more informed position to start making decisions with long term consequences.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:19 AM on June 24, 2015 [17 favorites]


Not every divorce requires a lawyer and a therapist.

In your situation, I'd nearly INSIST on a kick-ass lawyer and a kick-ass therapist to help your kick-ass self kick his sorry ass to the curb. It's going to get nasty and you need folks on your side.
posted by barnone at 9:20 AM on June 24, 2015 [19 favorites]


When I got divorced, I was a lawyer. I did not hire a lawyer. That was the biggest mistake I ever made, aside from getting married in the first place. Get a lawyer. You need an advocate who has no emotions around the issues.

I would divorce sooner rather than later. I tried to stay until a couple of things had settled down, and that was a mistake. As soon as I knew I was going to divorce him, I should have just started the process.

Your attorney can advise you as to the property division laws in your state, but as someone who lost a lot AND paid alimony for longer than I was married, let me tell you that no amount of money is worth staying in a bad marriage. I would have paid more to be rid of him and gaining my sanity back.

I knew I was making the right decision and I still felt guilty. I have waffled over whether or not to end relationships in the past, and I just want to affirm to you that you can't expect to be completely clear about what you're doing. Your mind is going to create thoughts that you don't need to pay any attention to. Start a list (a real list, not just one in your head) of all the reasons you will be happy to be out of the relationship. When your mind creates thoughts about how you "should" stay, get the list out and read it. Add to the list any time you think of anything, no matter how small, that will be a relief for you. "Don't have to share the bathroom." or "Can eat cereal for dinner." or "Can decorate home without regard for anyone else's taste." Anything. And then tell your judging mind to shut up because you've been "should" on enough already.

Therapy is great. It's fantastic to have someone to vent to, who will affirm your sanity, especially after you've been gaslighted by a spouse. But on your own, also just practice "don't know mind" -- when you start feeling overwhelmed by whether you're making the right decision, remember that you don't need to decide anything in that very second, so put thoughts on the back burner and practice sitting with what is true now, which is indecisiveness or doubt or fear, without having to do anything about it.

I wish you well. Sister Mary Angela would have said "Don't throw good money after bad," meaning if the relationship is irreparably broken, don't waste time trying to fix it. It's not your responsibility to fix something that can't be fixed.
posted by janey47 at 9:23 AM on June 24, 2015 [15 favorites]


The lawyers don't bill you immediately. They generally offer a free consult brief chat up front and then when you agree to a lawyer, they set up a reasonable retainer and outline what it would cost - the pricier lawyer of the ones I spoke to would mean doing the divorce over a longer period so I could pay the fees as money was paid through, but they all pretty much gave me a list and said go do this prep work so we don't have to do it and bill you for it. If you get a lawyer to do the legal stuff only, not the therapy or organising paperwork side, then it's not much in actual billable hours if you're neither rich or have custody issues.

I also have a list on my phone of reasons he's an ex, from mundane and small to big and giant. I add to it every now and then, and it helps to have it there when I am wavering. I don't re-read it, I just have it there.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:28 AM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just want to nth the lawyer thing. I've known so many people who tried to be amicable, used a mediator, and then later feel like they got screwed (and this usually hit them later on, well after the divorce). Especially since it's not unreasonable for you to question his good faith, if at all possible, a lawyer will ideally give you peace of mind.

Also, regarding number 3, leaving right away isn't giving up. I guess it's possible he's just temporarily being a jerk and could recover. But even if that's the case, you sure as hell don't ever have to forgive him. He's telling you he's "in love" with somebody else but "willing to work on it." That is not someone actually looking out for you, and that means you have to look out for yourself. He's the one who's abdicated his responsibilities to the relationship. He could still be honest about "losing the passion" without rubbing it in that he's fallen for your friend.

And if you decide to stay, that's not a lack of self-respect, as long as you feel it's the right thing for you. It sounds like you have your eyes open and are seeing fairly clearly. Despite his gaslighting, it sounds like you're starting to trust yourself again, so you'll know when/if it's the right time (for you) to go. (Sidenote: I think almost everyone I know whose gone through a divorce feels like they held on too long. If that happens to you, don't be hard on yourself. It's a difficult decision to make, and it's OK to take your time making it.)
posted by ghost phoneme at 9:44 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Right now, start listing any and all assets and liabilities. All debts, from the the gas bill to school loans and all assets, including the deposit on the water account, stuff you've purchased for the house, etc. Equitable divorce requires a good picture of assets / liabilities.

Go into serious savings mode, but do spend on things that you will need post-divorce. So, if you need clothes or education for work, okay, but really limit ant other spending. yes, you need a lawyer, and they are expensive.

Start planning for what you want and need. Do you *want* the house? Can you afford it on just your income? with a roommate? Will he want the house? Buying a house incurs expenses, so does selling it, and these may just be the costs of divorce in your case.

You want a lawyer who is really competent and efficient. Unless you have assets or kids to sort out, you want the divorce to be as simple and straightforward as possible. So start getting references.
posted by theora55 at 9:45 AM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can you find out whether your new job has an Employee Assistance Program? Some of them come with a certain amount of free hours of time with a lawyer. I am not sure that an EAP lawyer is the way to go for a difficult divorce, by any means, but it might be a starting point to get some of your basic factual questions about the divorce process sorted out, even if you then go looking for a different lawyer to actually do the divorce.

I do think you really, really need a lawyer in this situation with someone who cannot be trusted to act in good faith like a decent human being.

It really does sound like delaying the inevitable - I think based on this question and your previous one, you've put more than enough of your heart and time into saving this marriage, and you sound like now you are done and ready to move on with your life. I'm sorry it's had to come to this, but it sounds like you have your head on straight, and I'm absolutely certain that you are going to be fine. Good luck to you.
posted by Stacey at 9:51 AM on June 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have no family in Maryland and all my friends here are also friends of my husband, but I love Maryland and don't want to leave. So I would be going through a hard time with a limited support network.

When it comes out that your husband blew up your marriage so he could pursue his feelings for your friend -- and it *will* come out, even if you're not the one who tells people -- you might find that you have more support than you think. There are breakups where mutual friends might feel guilty choosing a side; this isn't one of them.

I'm just saying, if I was a mutual friend in this situation (in fact, I have been a mutual friend in this situation), I'd choose you. Even if I'd been friends with your husband first. Because he hasn't shown himself to be the type of person I would want to keep as a friend.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 10:06 AM on June 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


Lawyer here, and I agree with everyone who says you need a lawyer. I urge you to heed my advice in selecting an attorney. Let me break down the kind of attorneys you may encounter:

1 -- The elite: The top-tier divorce attorneys with Martindale-Hubbell AV ratings who deal primarily with wealthy clients. They do only divorce/family law work. The AV rating means they are very solid, stable, with long experience and have done very good work that has distinguished them among their colleagues. These attorneys, in my experience, tend to compete with their peers (other similarly distinguished divorce attorneys) to represent wealthy people with a lot of assets. These attorneys are very, very good and will not be confronted with a problem they won't know how to handle. They are good at intimidating their opponents, burying them in paperwork, and they will bill you a lot. They will require a significant retainer and will want to bill a lot of hours for sending letters and so forth. (In a mid-sized U.S. city I would expect $5000 retainer minimum, perhaps $10000 or $15000). This lawyer does not advertise.

2 -- The rising elite: Less experienced, but still good attorneys, many of whom worked as associates to the top-tier divorce lawyers and then struck out on their own. These attorneys also focus solely on family law, may have a BV Martindale-Hubbell rating (which is good), and they will probably take a lower retainer and will be cheaper, but still feel expensive to you. Would probably be looking for a retainer of $2500 to $5000. This lawyer does not advertise, and gets a lot of business by referral from the big elite lawyer that she used to work for. In my experience, attorneys like this are often women who associate with other women lawyers in firms or associations of attorneys.

3 -- The solo practitioner white-collar generalist, inattentive type: This is the type of lawyer who does middle-class legal work for small businesses and individuals; wills and trusts, a little personal injury, a bit of criminal law work, and some divorce. This lawyer is not a shark, generally. This person is not good at divorces and just wants to get your money and get the case over. Knows you don't have much money so will get as much as he thinks you can afford, then his attention to the case will decline precipitously. Will take a lower retainer than the first two classes of attorneys and may have a lower billable hour rate but you will also get correspondingly less attention from this kind of attorney. He is being pulled in too many directions. Probably not Martindale-Hubbell rated. This lawyer may have an ad in the Yellow Pages but probably does not advertise.

4 -- The solo practitioner white-collar generalist, attentive type: This lawyer is just like the preceding attorney but is actually a balanced, competent, ethical attorney who knows his or her stuff and will do a good job on your case for a fairly reasonable fee. May be Martindale-Hubbell rated AV or BV. May have had a much higher-level practice at a big firm or as a Type 1 elite divorce lawyer, but has slowed down as he or she nears retirement but is still a very good lawyer, just with a smaller office, fewer cases, and less staff. This lawyer is a sort of present-day Atticus Finch, a rare breed these days. Doesn't advertise at all. Just a single line in the phone book.

5 -- The high-volume divorce lawyer on the wrong side of the tracks: This is the divorce lawyer you will think you can afford. Will take whatever money you can scrape up. Will likely screw up your case in various ways, forget things you told him or her, prepare paperwork that completely omits stuff that is critically important to you, may not show up for hearings (and the judge will not be surprised by this, because this attorney's habits are well-known), but when you meet with him or her, they talk a good game and make you think they really know what they are doing. You will have a hard time reaching this attorney on the phone. Billing may be erratic. You may end up terribly dissatisfied with the outcome of your case, but you go along with an unsatisfactory result because you are so sick of how things have gone. Not Martindale-Hubbell rated. May have an attorney disciplinary record involving public reprimands, suspensions, etc. This lawyer has billboards, a full-page ad in the Yellow Pages, glossy business cards with his smiling face on it, etc.

Having broken down the various main breeds of divorce attorneys that I have run across, I will encourage you to find a Type 2 or Type 4 attorney. It can be difficult to distinguish between Type 3 and Type 4,which is why getting referrals from friends (especially friends or acquaintances who are lawyers) can be very helpful. The question to ask lawyers is "would you feel comfortable having this person represent you or your family?"

If you have no acquaintances who are attorneys, here's another way to get recommendations. Find ten or twenty attorneys who are Martindale-Hubbell AV rated but are not divorce or family law practitioners. Call their office and say you have heard good things about them and are asking for a referral to a family lawyer. Lawyers ALWAYS have a go-to list of attorneys who practice in other specialties to refer cases to. Lawyers of that quality level will not refer you to a shyster, and they will often refer you to lawyers who have recently opened their own firms so they are hungry for business and may charge lower retainers/hourly fees.

I will also offer my advice about paying for an attorney. I think I've said this before on Metafilter. If you want counsel that will actually solve your problem, you need to pay until it hurts and then you're only getting started. You will probably need to borrow money from family if you don't have it. Skimping on legal fees almost always costs you FAR more in the long run than it saves you in the present.
posted by jayder at 10:06 AM on June 24, 2015 [142 favorites]


Do you completely trust him and are you amicably splitting and staying friends? If the answer to this is not a resounding "Yes, definitely," then you need a lawyer. People can get really bitter and vindictive even when you don't expect it.

jayder is correct, borrow money from somewhere and get the best lawyer possible. She/he will be worth his/her weight in gold. Especially since you bought a house. This is not something that you want to fuck up.

Get all your paperwork together, all your tax returns, credit card statements, every shred of anything related to money. Scan it and or make copies, put it on a thumb drive, put that thumb drive in a safety deposit box or the like. You will be surprised at how important it is to be able to find paperwork is in a divorce.

How do you know you're making the right choice? It was super clear when I finally left and I have noooo regrets. I should have left years before that but I was in your state of mind - maybe it will get better. I think it only gets better if you both really really want to work it out. He should be groveling at your feet for emotionally cheating on you but he says he's not even in love with you anymore. You deserve better.
posted by desjardins at 10:20 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mediation isn't recommended if there's abuse, and since you used the phrase "gaslighting" I just want to gently suggest that you consider whether you think he will negotiate in good faith.

I also think you've gotten a lot of great advice but where the house is concerned, I worked on a story a few years ago about about people's financial mistakes around divorce and keeping the house was one of the biggest ones. (After not getting a lawyer.)

I don't know what your losses would be, but trying to maintain the house on one income is one reason people slid further and further into a financial hole. Sometimes cutting your losses is the best way to go.

Best of luck to you, what a hard time. Here's to new beginnings.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:25 AM on June 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


Even if you trust him and you're splitting amicably, get a lawyer. (Also, don't trust him.)

If you're starting the new job in a month that's probably too soon for this to make a difference, but financially you're probably better off earning less at the time of your divorce.

And divorce is expensive, you should just accept that this is going to suck emotionally, financially, and in every way. Focus on getting out of the situation, rely on your lawyer to make sure it works out as well as it can for you, and take care of yourself.

I'm so sorry this happened to you. I'm so angry after reading your last question.
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:26 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, and being broke is sooooooo much better than being in a relationship with someone who doesn't love you and treat you right. If I had known how awesome it was going to be, I would have paid a million dollars to be out of my marriage. You'll figure it out.
posted by desjardins at 10:35 AM on June 24, 2015 [15 favorites]


+1 stay with the therapist if s/he works well for you. You will need someone on your side.
posted by Jacen at 10:46 AM on June 24, 2015


1. Nope. My partner and his ex came to an agreement over their house, as mediated by their respective attorneys. Ex lives in the house, which partner continues to pay for until their kids finish high school, then ex can either buy partner out or let partner sell the house. No matter what state you're in, you two can come to an agreement, put it in writing, and make it part of the terms of your divorce.

2. You don't have to cohabitate before you divorce, or even before you decide to divorce. My partner and his ex lived separately for a couple of years before officially divorcing. The space that left between them was helpful for both of them--they were less frustrated with one another when they did see each other, so days weren't filled with venom and resentment. Find an apartment, or a friend with a room to spare, or a sublet, or something along those lines.

3. It sounds like you're asking this rhetorically. Your language suggests that you're done with the marriage, but are used to it. Spending some time apart and getting a few new routines might help you feel less enmeshed in the situation and afford you the distance needed for a better sense of perspective. It's also not as final or formal as going right into divorce preceedings.

As an aside, please keep in mind that people change over time. I can't speak to your partner's motivations, but generally people who divorce didn't get there by intention. Circumstance decides how we change as we age, who we meet, and how we cope with those things. I'm speaking here as the "other man" in one of these situations. I met my partner when he was still married to a woman but had realized that he wasn't heterosexual or even predominantly heterosexual. I was his coming out buddy, connected him with a therapist, introduced him to other friends who came out later in life. We fell in love along the way, and I feel no guilt about that (nor should I). While this was all going on, we heard lots of "ugh, vomit" commentary, which I resent to this day. Mind you, none of this was coming from my partner's ex, with whom we have a very good relationship, but from the periphery. People judge, and that's to be expected, but it's hurtful and doesn't change the situation. You and your partner have diverged over time and, regardless of who diverged more, you've ended up in different places.

4. I have no idea who these people are who go through shared assets divorces without a lawyer. The process is complex and you need to understand every aspect of it in detail to be able to assess the arrangement's fairness. If you're worried about cost, you can commit to consulting the attorneys as little as possible. People run up high bills by endlessly negotiating and having attorneys draft and redraft and redraft agreements; if you two can come to an informal agreement cleanly before meeting with attorneys, the attorneys can draft up the necessary paperwork and then you two can agree to them and be done with it at minimum expense.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:14 PM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


You need to live a year apart to divorce in maryland
I am a maryland lawyer, but not your lawyer and this is not legal advice and it does not create an attorney-client relationship.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:23 PM on June 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Seconding the statement that even if it winds up amicable (and given your last question, that seems highly unlikely), yes, you absolutely 100% need a lawyer. You bought a house together. Splitting property = lawyer, full stop. I don't care if you know someone who claims that they divided several houses and a business and did just fine, or what have you. They are not you; hire a lawyer.

(I will also add that husband who lies to you about being in love with your friend and tries to convince you that you're just insecure = lawyer, full stop.)
posted by holborne at 12:32 PM on June 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


1. In my experience, we had a house that was worth less than we owed on it. My ex wanted to keep it, so I bought my way out of it. It sucked because I had to give him a lot of money from my IRA, but it was worth being divorced in the end.

2. He moved out of our apartment as soon as we decided to divorce. There was a 3 month separation period in PA, where we lived at the time, but living together would have been unbearable.

3. It will take time, but you will adjust to being divorced. From reading your previous question, it sounds like you are making the right choice. The process of divorce is tough, but it really does get better every day.

4. Get your own lawyer. We used one lawyer who was supposed to act as a mediator, but it was a mistake. The money you spend will be worth it, since there is a house involved. You need someone to look out for your interests.
posted by elvissa at 1:27 PM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


You are an amicable, reasonable person. He, the manipulative, dishonest, gaslighter extraordinaire, is most certainly not. 100% lawyer.

Much thanks,
Your future self.
posted by Dashy at 2:12 PM on June 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


1. No. Buyouts are common.

2. I moved out. Space helps immensely (and a year apart is a legal prerequisite in my jurisdiction). If you can't or really don't want to, try to establish space and time alone through some other means. Schedule shift, working late, visiting friends, long walks alone, etc.

3. Ambivalence will eventually make the decision for you by draining all your energy for wanting to stay. That's the hard route. But given that he's in love with someone else, wants kids, and you describe remaining in the relationship as a loss of all self-respect, I think you've already decided and carrying through with that decision will make you feel better. Being on your own team after a prolonged feeling of self-conflict is a great relief, even if you're in a tough situation.

4. I ... cautiously recommend seeing a lawyer, at very least to hear an opinion and get some guidance on the process you're about to embark on, but I also suggest getting it straight in your mind what you want or don't want to occur before going, and exercising some firm boundaries around the lawyer's behavior, especially around willingness to escalate, fight, threaten or take things to court.

My experience with divorce lawyers was quite negative, and I overall wish I'd not seen one. They did not help matters for either of us, just relentlessly tried to escalate, disagreed, accused one another of incompetence, damaged our residual goodwill and used up quite a bit of money. My case sounds more amicable than yours and perhaps you really do want to fight, but I also hear a lot of people here projecting more hostility into this divorce than it might require. Treat it like international diplomacy or such: be careful before you declare war, if there might be agreeable terms for a peace treaty.

The actual legal paperwork part of a divorce -- the part about getting the state's sign-off, not the part where you settle any potential claims against one another -- is bureaucratic but overall less fraught, and does not require a lawyer-lawyer, just someone experienced in doing the paperwork. Various services can walk you through it. The settlement part is where the lawyers come, and that can take as much fight as you care to put into it. It can be complex and expensive to hammer out, or relatively simple and direct.
posted by ead at 3:42 PM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


This divorce is way too complicated to navigate without the assistance of an attorney. The house thing alone puts you there, especially if you don't want to sell it.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:24 PM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


he says he is willing to try to make it work

That is what he says, his consistent Behaviour has been to be be selfish, look out for himself, and screw you over. Maybe he has suddenly turned over a new leaf, but you know that isn't true, right? There is a good chance him and his girlfriend are placating you while they get their ducks in a row financially and legally.

Act fast and get a lawyer.
posted by saucysault at 4:40 PM on June 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


good news! not legal advice, but:
starting in October, couples who wish to divorce but do not want to live apart for 12 months will now have the option of claiming mutual consent.
Summary text of the new Maryland law:
Authorizing a court to decree an absolute divorce on the grounds of mutual consent if the parties do not have any minor children in common and the parties execute and submit to the court a written settlement agreement signed by both parties resolving specified issues; authorizing a court to merge or incorporate a specified settlement agreement into a specified divorce decree; authorizing a court to modify or enforce a specified settlement agreement consistent with specified provisions of law; etc.
posted by Little Dawn at 6:48 PM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just finished a very complicated, unfortunately nasty divorce and I love my lawyer with the strength of 10,000 burning suns. Get a lawyer. A good one. You get what you pay for. Best of luck.....
posted by pearlybob at 7:02 PM on June 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


I want to chime in on timing. You said you want to see how your new job goes before you talk divorce. Why? It might be helpful to think through that.

I might be missing something, but is this because you want to make sure the job is ok? What if it isn't? You want to be able to quit?

I'd think of this differently: if you had to choose between a not-great job and a not-great marriage, wouldn't you rather have a bad job and no marriage?

If you leave now, you can make a fresh start at your new job as a separated person, knowing you need to make it work.

Your husband has been pretty awful to you. You can't depend on him, and so I think you should get out now and start re-building your life and support network immediately.

And, for what it's worth, if a woman I didn't know well was separating and asked if she could stay at my place a few days or weeks, we'd open our guest room to her. Please don't be scared to ask friends for help.

Good luck! I wish you the best.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:23 AM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


1.) Could you keep up the house alone? If not, you'll probably want to sell. Which means potentially dealing with an in house seperation. Those are awful.


2.) You should wait a bit. Career uncertainty at the same time as marital uncertainty is a lot of uncertainty at once. Try re-connecting with old friends or even start a new hobby or better, an old hobby that you had before you met your husband.

3.) It helped me to play out the scenarios in my mind. Ultimately, it came down to I loved myself more than I loved being married to someone who wasn't for me/couldn't be faithful.

4.) You should get a lawyer. Even if you have to use credit card to do it. You could do the whole "collaborative divorce" thing, but I'm not a personal fan of it because there is always going to be hard feelings that one side is lying. Because, after all, if you couldn't collaborate on a marriage, what incentive do you have to "collaborate" on a divorce?

And given the background you provided in that previous post, did anyone recommend "Not Just Friends". Even though it's heavy on the adultery angle, there is plenty there about divorce and the vagaries of "friend" relationships.

Best of luck! Seems like a lot going on, but take it one step at a time and you'll be fine.
posted by PsuDab93 at 1:22 PM on June 25, 2015


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