With a huff, “I don’t understand. How is this even legal?” My question was equal parts rhetorical and literal. I couldn’t wrap my brain around what my lawyer was telling me.
Just a month and a half ago, my divorce case was finalized. After a year and a half of litigating, receiving that two-page document titled “FINAL JUDGMENT AND DECREE FOR DIVORCE” felt a little anti-climatic at the time.
I regret letting that feeling rise to the surface. In hindsight, a quiet little two-page document emailed to be with a file-stamp was exactly what I craved. Now, I am meeting with my lawyer, who -while I respected and admired- had absolutely no desire to need her services again. And, frankly, I didn’t fully grasp why I even needed to.
Coupled with a squint of my eyes and a less than subtle head-tilt, I ask: “But aren’t I divorced? How come his attorney could file so many motions? The case is over.”
My attorney nods her head in sympathy and understanding before stating, “You’re right. Your case is over. Your divorced. But, his attorney can also file motions. It isn’t a question of whether or not he can do something, it is a matter of if it will be successful.”
The internal sigh also escaped my lips. I hated when my attorney said that. It was a reoccurring theme. Its truth did not diminish how frustrating it is to know that my ex-husband’s manipulations, delays, tricks, and outright jerk-like behavior can’t be stopped; it can only be proven to be unsuccessful. And it was. Repeatedly. From the first filing of the divorce, my attorney had to maneuver around every trick my ex-husband could conjure, some of his tactics more valid than others, all ultimately costly in the end.
He was ordered to pay my attorney’s fees and reimburse me nearly each penny spent waiting out his games. Truth be told, I’d rather we’d saved ourselves the time, money, and energy all together. But my ex made those choices. He now had to live with them.
And it would seem, rather than follow the Final Divorce Decree and finish this chapter of our lives, he authorized his attorney to file every possible thing that could semi-reasonably be appropriate to file: motion for contempt, motion for new trial, motion for reconsideration, motion to set aside, motion for recusal of the judge. The list went on and on.
My attorney had handed me the stacks of motions filed by my ex. Most were comically brief; the names of the parties, the style of the case that tracked every paper through the divorce taking up 50% of the entire length. I trusted my attorney when she said that the substance was lacking. Again, it wasn’t a question of if he could but if he’d be successful. She promised me the likelihood was low. My attorney speculated this was more of a strategic tactic to buy a little time for an appeal.
In resignation, I ask, “so, what do we do?” The great thing about my attorney is she always took time to explain the why, the how, the when, the way in a manner that made sense. But ultimately, all I could hear was: what you thought was the end of a relationship and litigation is just the start.
“When will it end?” I ask on a whisper. My tone clearly shifting from the confusion and frustration that started our conversation to weary and withdrawn. I was at the point where I’d give anything, do anything, just to make it all stop – if my ex could be stopped.
“I know you’re exhausted. I know you want to give up. He is betting on that, hoping to wear you down. Don’t let him win. It won’t make him or any of this go away. He will come back and expect more. The end is in sight, we just have to fight a little longer.”
I nod along. She is right and I know from the years married to him that the second I give in, it won’t be enough. It is the cycle I wanted to escape and the cause of the divorce.
Still weary; still dejected, I state with a little more grit than I had before, “Okay. What do we do next?”