Obviously, celebratory beers for finishing my manuscript today were not in order – the longer I think about things and the more my ‘follow-societal-protocols-filter’ is lowered by 6% proof alcohol, the more pissed I become.
For the record, as an unemployed, recovering-from-a-stroke 43 year-old, I was awarded $1,000/month in child support for one child left at home after 16 years of marriage, in 2012.
I actually come out better many months, because I’m blessed with an ex that doesn’t mind sharing the benefits of his overtime earning opportunities when they arise and sometimes, I manage to get work I’m capable of completing in a manner acceptable to those signing the checks.
Sure, if I could have purchased a good attorney, I probably could have gotten alimony too – but alas, after multiple calls, and getting a loan on my truck to pay a a $2,500 retainer check to an attorney whose paralegal swore they would take the case at a lower fee, but admitted after my ‘free consultation” I would need to sign a contract promising $4,000 total due to complete the divorce and if the money ran out before settlement was obtained, well, if they aren’t paid, they don’t work –
I decided not, but not before I wracked up some charges.
Not only did they cash the check before the next banking day, (and my consultation occurred at 4pm), but the attorney charged me for paralegal time and $60 for each email correspondence, as the following illustrates:
Me: “I hand delivered to you a cashiers check in the amount of $2,500 and all the information needed to fill out initial filing paperwork and the best information I had access to regarding my future ex-husband and I’s assets. I have received paperwork that is worthless. (Your firm emailed me falsified forms and notified me of the charge for some paralegal to incorrectly fill out a state judicial form I already filled out with the correct information and submitted to you in .docx, .txt and .pdf form for your e-submission or copy & paste ease.) Your paralegal’s typing mistakes are as follows:
- My future ex-husband is not in the military – did you even read what I gave you?
- I am not a victim of domestic violence – he went off on a mid-life crisis and talked me into believing it was my fault there was no money in the bank, food in the house or funds to pay for basic utilities, but he never, never, once hit me. (Yes, Yes, I could lie, saying he beat me continually, sexually abused our kids and numerous neighbor kids and I could actually get some help out of this hell-hole I’ve so stupidly placed myself in by marrying poorly complicated by not having the good judgement to have an attorney on retainer, but it’s really against my principals to do bear false witness against another.)
- I have one son, who is 13 years old – not 2, and no, his name is not “Alexander”.
- Did you even glance at the hand written paperwork you made me fill out, in addition to the correct judiciary forms I provided you in digital form? (I wasn’t a Civil Process Administrator for years for nothing.)
- Did you even read the handwritten, paper wasting forms you had me fill out at your office, when I had provided all my basic contact info via your website form?
- I picked you because your website convinced me you were probably somewhat in the know on efficiency of business operations! Dammit!
Okay – you get the idea. Yes, I’m a rube – I paid and did not complain to the Bar Association or the Gods of Justice about the $256 charged me in less than 14 hours from the time of my ‘free consultation’, for paralegal time filling out (incorrectly) initial filing forms nor the two emails my attorney exchanged with me, which basically amounted to:
I think your fees and incompentency are ridiculous. I provided in both multiple digital files and hand-filled-out forms my basic information and you could not even convert that information into correct documents ready for court filling. Do not spend any further time on my case. I will seek other assistance. Do not allow you or your paralegal one more minute of wasted billing time on my case.”
“Form email, Blah, blah, blah, we’re so happy to have you for a customer, blah, blah, blah. Please do not hesitate to contact us regarding anything, blah, blah, form letter, blah. We are here to work for you. Blah, Blah, Blah
Are you saying you do not wish me to represent you?”
Apparently, English is your second language. YOU ARE FIRED. IF you engage on any further work regarding this case and bill me for it, I will work till the end of my days to not only financially destroy you through civil litigation, but I will do my best to ensure you can’t get a job as a manure shoveler before I quit. STOP! NOW! DO NO FURTHER WORK ON ANYTHING THAT MAY REMOTELY PERTAIN TO ME, INCLUDING RESEARCH ON MY ANCESTORS FROM 3,400 B.C.”
Yes, I’m not kidding – I managed, through numerous phone calls to find and fall for the (hopefully only) single female attorney in a 100 mile radius that would have the balls to charge me $60 per email for reading and replying to email to confirm I’m really firing her.
I know, you weep for my gullibility.
Lessons learned, I found a good ole, (albeit male) attorney and his paralegal who are willing to give me legal representation for my divorce (if me and the spouse agree on everything) for $800 and they actually ended up only charging me $500. The paralegal thanked me for doing most of the work when I asked what the final bill was.
Spouse offered $150 more per month than the state maximum of $850, because he is, after all, a nice guy.
I end up with a settlement from the retirement fund of approximately $728 dollars payment for each year of being a wife, worker and mother. A tad lower once the state punishes me for daring to earn more than $21,000 per year, but count your blessings is what I’ve been taught to do.
I’m given a share in the PERA retirement fund that means I’ll get $1,500/month if I live to see 65 years of age and my spouse doesn’t mess up before his retirement is legit. This settlement is not negotiable due to hardship, medical crisis, disability or pure dumb luck.
Hell, I’m lucky I actually got a check from the 401(k), 457 plans.
I filled out the required forms, but the state only accepts their forms for electronic filing- not what independent investment firms require
– and the forms PERA insists on me using are not Certified by the State Judicial system as worthy of being filed electronically.
PERA won’t pay unless the judge signs the form they’ve approved as valid for use.
(It all turned out okay – eventually – I’m sure somewhere along the line someone in the vast labyrinth of social justice said, “Yeah, I know, but she’s a nice kid, doesn’t flip her lid if you drop the F-bomb and there’s a bottle of Scotch in it for ya~ Whaddya say?”)
That’s okay – I came out with more than most. I’m lucky,
And I will repeat this mantra until I believe it.
My divorce settlement allows me to pay back-rent to my mother for the past year of not only housing me, but also worrying over whether I’ll ever recover from my stroke.
Okay, this might not sound like a lot, but truly, my mom can wrack up the annual national debt in one second of her brand of worrying.
I also pay off my outstanding medical bills, (some from three years before I even separated from the spouse) get a secured credit card because I’m unemployed and divorced from a man who actually managed to throw away our family’s life, but not his career or available resources, and I am borne into a new life with some semblance of minor security and $1,100 dollars left over.
On the day of my divorce, the judge wants to know why $1,000 per month?
I tell him the ex offered & I accepted.
The white, male, has-a-job-with-benefits judge decides not to belabor the point, and wishes me “Good Luck” before he pronounces me single.
I won’t hold a grudge – It’ll be fine – soon I’ll be well and back to work.
If you’ve read anything here at BallyBin, you know I walked out of that courtroom in June of 2012 and I’m still struggling to do more than 2 hours labor at one time without a break. Too bad – since the tests the insurance company would approve to be taken don’t show where, exactly, the damage in my brain is, I do not qualify for Disability from the Social Security I’ve paid into for every year but 3 between 1984 and 2011. But its 2013 now, and according to their calculations, I have not logged enough credits to qualify.
My new doctor has treated my non-functioning thyroid and he’s certain if I just give up gluten, I’ll quit talking like Porky Pig, a computer or Elmer Fudd when the work day stretches long and my body says, “Yeah – no more talkie”
Gluten affects your brain waves, he informs me and I just need to push through my self-imposed limitations and get on with life. Since there is no diagnostic evidence of an actual stroke, who’s to say what really happened, he says. I just need to buck up and push through any physical symptoms like racing heart, blurred vision or that dull head pressure that my stroke experience indicates I may just drop dead any moment.
My neurologist in charge of my stroke care changed offices and insurance plans months ago – I hold not hope for that.
I show my new doctor the pictures of the manual labor I’ve performed since last spring, to protect the structural integrity of my house and to build a garden of paradise with my own two hands – moment by moment, piece by piece.
Great! He no longer insists that I’m depressed and need to take pills designed to keep me awake for 36 hours straight.
But I still need to guard against not trying hard enough, he declares.
I give up.
My Liberal and Democratic friends think I should get aide – My Republican friends understand I never will (and probably hope so, for the nation’s financial sake.) no matter how much they think I may deserve a little extra help.
They do encourage me to take advantage of the local church sponsored food-bank.
I do not – for these reasons:
- I’m fully aware there are folks worse off than me. I do not deny this and I hate to take things others need more than I.
- I feel funny taking food from folks who should know, by now, I do not believe in Hell after death. (on Earth, yeah, after death, not so much) Is it even proper to accept gifts from those you think hold rather odd ideas?
- Food banks are often supported by commodity enterprises, and quite frankly, I believe the health of my household to be better served by trading sporadic and break-laden labor, gladly given to much kinder bosses than I’ve known in years of corporate/government service, in exchange for locally grown food, than the stuff I’ll get at the Food Bank (I could be wrong, I’ve never visited the local food bank – but my neighbors, animals & plants seem to love when I manage to be there at just the right time)
- I’d really like to purchase my tranquilizers of choice (nicotine and alcohol) without having to suffer the slights incurred should I be silly enough to visit the locally owned & operated liquor store and charity food bank on the same day. (I swear, I’ve tried to become a socially acceptable prescription pill popper, shop-aholic, critic of everyone who doesn’t think just like me & chocolate consumer, but these socially acceptable coping mechanisms just don’t calm me.)
When I was 16, my Dad and I compared my lifestyle/paycheck with his lifestyle/paycheck of 30 years before.
I made $2.16/hour plus tips, for 35-40 hours a week in a restaurant. He had earned $1.15/hour, no tips, 40 hours a week and an occasional Saturday morning thrown in, as a stocker at the local grocery store.
I lived at home, made car & maintenance payments, earned my own clothing and spending allowance & pitched in for brother’s necessities or fun luxuries for the family when offered. I could not have afforded to stay in the worst, flea bitten hotel located in the town where I worked on the wage I earned, even if necessity demanded it.
Dad, by contrast, owned his own mobile home, new Ford truck and a Harley Davidson motorcycle and could have fun tooling around the county attending races, dances, pool halls, and eating out every weekend, on his lesser wage.
In fact, that’s how he met my Mom – at the races – beer in each hand – cigs rolled up in the sleeve of his white t-shirt –
The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.
When we had this conversation, my dad was gone from home all week and sometimes didn’t make it home for the weekend. He had quit working his own business to go to work for a big company that had building contracts in multiple states and promised steady work. My dad often brought home paychecks our local bank said weren’t any good. He used his reputation as an honest man who paid his debts as collateral for a interest bearing loan to take care of the necessities.
That fall day, when we sat at the kitchen table, in the house I grew up, I’ll never forget what he sadly informed me of – the days of working hard, giving the best you’ve got to provide what is needed & valued by your community, were long gone. That Social Security, the government and insurance companies were the new Mafia and unless you had the clout or money to get a good attorney, you’ll never survive this new race for survival of the fittest.
I didn’t want to believe him. And I refused to hear his wisdom for nearly 25 years.
But I understand now. It does not matter how hard you work, or for how many years you pay your dues.
It does not matter that you’ve abided by the law, dealt honestly by your neighbor, took care of your family and friends to spare the government or insurance companies the burden of taking care of those they have pre-billed for the help they promised – the help that will, in actuality, never be provided;
The Republican party believes I have been lazy and irresponsible – the Democratic party believes I’m not quite yet poor enough to actually need help.
I register as an Independent voter, so I’m the recipient of phone calls and emails from everyone – hopeful I fall off my fence and into their corral.
It no longer matters or has any meaning – unless I am willing to build my success upon the death or destruction of another (or countless others), I will, eventually, be weeded out.
I now know my Dad didn’t die in 2007 – he died in 1984 – from a broken heart.