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Cypress Knee 03-01-2021 05:05 PM

The Divorce
The Divorce
(This is a true story, except that I have changed some of the names and locations. A debt to society has been paid and I don’t want anybody using social media to resurrect an embarrassing lapse of judgement from thirty years ago.)

As the years roll by it is possible to look back into the past at what were very painful proceedings, and decades later find a laugh in the situation that outweighs the pain.

I spent eight years as an Army officer, then took a long look down the career path chosen for me and decided there wasn’t much future for a history major in the EE field that had been assigned to me. I had made my mark in infantry and special forces units, not the science fields that my branch called for. I submitted my resignation and moved my wife and infant son to a major East Coast city, where her father had a family farm nearby. We settled into a house on the farm not far away from Dad.

I was selling financial services in an area where I had no base, no network, no friends. To say that the start was difficult would be an understatement. When I transitioned to straight commission, it was like “Jiminy Christmas, how am I going to make this work?” I was working 12 to 14 hour days cold calling with an hour and a half commute each way.

A fellow showed up to my office one day. I said, “Hello, what can I do for you?” He said, “You’ve been served!” What? I opened the packet and there was a petition for a divorce.

I was stunned. I tried to call my wife, but no answer. I called my in-laws. My mother-in-law answered and told me, “She just wants out. You are never home and you aren’t making any money. She won’t listen to me, she just wants out.” Then my father-in-law came over and told me, “She’s not going to change her mind, so you need to move on. Let me know when you find someplace else to stay so I can tell her when to move back in here.”

I moved to an apartment, then looked for a lawyer. A friend gave me a name and I set up an appointment. His office was in a little Cape Cod out on the edge of town. The guy was straightforward and said, “There is nothing to this case, just a waiting period and a judge will grant the divorce and award child support and joint custody based on these tables.”

Time went by. The day before my court appearance I saw a classified ad in the newspaper – “Fathers United for Equal Rights”. The ad claimed that if a person was at risk of losing their children or income in a divorce fight they should come to this meeting. I wasn’t sure about my situation, but I went for the educational benefit.

For the first hour of the meeting the two moderators ranted and raved about the unfairness of child custody laws and child support payments and judges who didn’t care and blah blah blah. I was really bored with the whole setup.

Then they went around the room and asked first time attendees for their stories. Whoa, Nelly. Guys claimed to have been falsely accused of assault, rape, child molestation, affairs, drug dealing, prostitution, some had been arrested on (supposedly) false claims, others had eviction orders or restraining orders. Accusations of attempted murder, kidnapping, and a myriad other transgressions filled the air. Then they got to me. “What is your story?” was the query.

“I don’t have a story,” I replied, “my wife just went back to her Mom’s and filed for irreconcilable differences and I am going to court tomorrow to figure out visitation and child support schedules.”

“Wait a minute,” the moderator said, “We need to know more. Where did your wife file for divorce?”

“Harnett County,” I told him.

“And who is her lawyer?” he asked.

I replied, “Jeff Black.”

The room went dead silent. Not a peep.

Then, “Who is your lawyer?”

“Tom Clay” I said.

“Never heard of him. Let me guess, this guy is in his mid-fifties, works out of a frame house in the old city, and his name isn’t even on the front door. His office is in the back of the house. His desk is all cluttered with coke cans and MacDonald’s coffee cups and he has ketchup and mustard stains on his tie and short sleeve shirt.”

Bingo. They nailed Tom to a tee.

“Your guy is a loser in the legal business. He can’t make it any other way other than represent men in divorce cases that they are bound to lose anyway, so his old law school buddies have given him a backroom office to generate some retainer fees from idiots like you. They don't want to be professionally associated with him which is why his name is not on the door.”

They went on. “You are taking a failed city-slicker into the county where the good-old-boy network reigns supreme. And your wife’s attorney is gay and he hates straight men. His over-riding mission in life is to use the favorable laws for the wife in divorce court to personally and professionally destroy the lives of their estranged husbands. He is very, very good at it. Your best bet to survive tomorrow’s hearing is to go outside and lie down in the road and let a truck run over your legs so you will be admitted to the ER tonight and we have some time so that we can figure out a way to get you some quality representation!”

I did not want a truck to run over me. Nonetheless, I was concerned about the ramifications of what I had been told that evening. I spent a restless night pondering my next move.

At sunrise I drove into the county seat and parked in the lot of an up-and-coming law firm that had a bit of a reputation for ruffling feathers in the good-ole-boy network. Shortly a black BMW pulled up and a thirty-ish man stepped out – cufflinks, tie pin, spotless white shirt and great fitting suit. “Hey, I’m Steve,” he said, “What are you doing here at this hour?” We went inside and I told him my story up to that point.

“Well, you have a problem,” he told me, “you already have a lawyer and nobody can step in until you do not have representation. When are you going to see Mr. Clay again?”

“We are meeting at the judge’s office in thirty minutes,” I told him.

“Well, there is only one thing that you can do at this point,” he told me, “if you have any guts then you are going to have to fire Mr. Clay in front of the judge and request a continuance since you have no representation. If you are willing to do that, then come back and we will talk. Can you do it?”

I said “Yes”. He immediately picked up the phone and dialed a number. “Hi Jeff, Steve here. I am going to pick up a new client later this morning but first he has to fire a city guy in front of you in about fifteen minutes. Don’t give him a hard time and I’ll buy you a beer at the Five and Dime this afternoon and we can talk about this.” He looked at me – “Done. I am the best family law attorney in town and he is the second best. Don’t worry, the situation is under control.”

I changed attorneys and things moved along. My wife was aggravated at the delay in proceedings, however there was nothing to do but wait. It was simply going to be “She wants out, here is the visitation schedule, and here is the child support schedule.” At least that what I thought.

One morning my secretary (I had turned around my previous failures to the point that the firm now hired an admin assistant for me) stomped through the doorway and loudly announced to me, “I hope that Steve Promatucci rots and burns in Hell!” A couple of minutes later she strode into my office and exclaimed, “I have to open your mail every day, and even though it is really none of my business, I know that Steve Promatucci is your lawyer in your divorce case and I want you to know that you should fire him immediately! He should be disbarred and thrown in jail forever!”

I knew that Mindy bar-hopped a lot with her girlfriends, and Steve seemed like the type of guy who would go out prowling through the local watering holes. I figured that they had run into each other and had a bad night out on the town. Anyway, I gathered myself and went out to Mindy’s desk. “What is it between you two?” I asked. “I have never seen you so hostile toward anyone.”

“You don’t know?” she practically growled at me.

“Don’t know what?” I responded.

She handed me the morning edition of the city paper. There, on the front page lower fold, was a headshot of Steve. The headline screamed:


Cypress Knee 03-01-2021 05:06 PM

The Divorce (Con't)
The phone rang. “Jim, it’s Steve. I’m dealing with some personal issues right now and am turning your file over to Ken Flowers, another attorney in the firm. The only issue is that he is going to have to re-schedule some court dates.”

I met with Ken. He was cordial and seemed proficient. He re-set the dates for the hearing further down the calendar. My wife was aggravated again.

Just before the hearing I got a call from Mark Morgan, the principal of the firm. Ken had left to join Jeff Black’s practice and could not take my case with him as it would be a conflict of interest. Mark would represent me the rest of the case. (Pro bono by the way). He needed to reset the court dates. My wife was really getting aggravated now.

Two weeks before the new hearing Mark called again. “Your wife fired Jeff and hired a women’s rights attorney down in the city. What is that all about?” I didn’t know. “Well, everything will be delayed as she does her due diligence. I know her and she likes to rack up the billable hours. In my opinion it is just a waste of time and money. I’ll let you know about a new court date.”

The day finally arrived. It had been well over a year since I went to the Father’s United meeting and decided not to lie in the street and let a truck roll over my legs. I went to Mark’s office at 8:30. We would walk over to the courthouse from there.

There was another man there, a big guy wearing spit-shined cowboy boots, a straw Stetson fedora with a blue band matching the stripes in his seersucker suit. He was wearing a bolo tie with a turquoise slide. “I’m Sam Richards”, he said. “I own the farm up on Panther Branch. You look familiar, aren’t you Nate Amos’ son-in-law?” Small world.

Mark came out of his office and we headed across the town square to the courthouse, three suits striding side by side in the morning sunshine. We went into the vestibule where Mark admonished us to wait for him while he spoke to the judge’s assistant.

People in jeans and tee-shirts were coming up to Sam and me. “Are you a lawyer?”, they would say, “I need a lawyer.” It seemed a little too late for that. Sam asked what Mark was doing for me. “It is supposed to be a basic divorce case. And you?” “My neighbor’s dog has been sneaking into the henhouse and killing my chickens. I caught him in my yard one evening and dusted his hide some Number 8 birdshot. They didn’t like it so here I am.”

Mark came back into the room. “Sam, you are good to go. You will need to sign some papers with the clerk and then you are done here. Jim, you need to come with me.”

We walked in. It was over in about fifteen minutes. Everything worked out just like Tom Clay had told me. I will never know if Jeff Black would have taken me through a legal woodshed.

As we were walking back to the parking lot I asked Mark about Sam and the shotgun incident. He shook his head. “Your case has dragged out for so long that Steve’s case has already been adjudicated. I represented him. He has to go through counseling, rehab, probation and his license to practice law has been suspended. He didn’t go to jail and one day he will get his license back. Now every time a dog poops in the yard next door, or a cat kills a canary, or a cow wanders out of a pasture and stands in the middle of road, someone calls me and I am getting tired of it.”

I went back to my apartment to digest the events of the day and evaluate my new status in life. I knew my Mother would want to hear from me so I called her to give an update. After hearing my brief report, she afforded some words of consolation. “I want you to know that we are praying for you every day. I believe I raised you right and if you only trust in the Lord things will work out for you. You know, there are some really terrible people in this World. I am so thankful that you are not one of them and that all your friends seem like really nice people too. Why, I was reading Ann Landers earlier today and she had a letter from a lady whose boyfriend had cooked her cat in the microwave. He was a lawyer too! Can you believe that?”

rmp 03-02-2021 04:58 AM

wow.. quite the story (and very well written.. I do appreciate a well written story! hey, who don't!)

aside from cats being microwaved.... what ever happened with the divorce?

My brother in-law has been going thru a nasty one for going on three years this summer. His soon to be ex is clearly next of kin Satan's daughter. Full of hate, and as unstable as a bucket of nitro.

That whole attorney racking up billable hours is just exactly the kind of schmuck she hired.

AmericanEagle 03-02-2021 06:57 AM

Robin Williams said it best,
“Divorce is like ripping a man’s genitals out through his wallet”
I just went through one, and it was horrible.
I swear, my state (Mass) is the worst state to get a divorce in.

rmp 03-02-2021 07:16 AM


Originally Posted by AmericanEagle (Post 6651144)
I swear, my state (Mass) is the worst state to get a divorce in.

without first hand experience, but having witnessed a few, I think I'd agree with this 100%.

rsay777 03-02-2021 07:56 AM

As a teen ager I watched my brother (30ish) go from a apparently happy successful medical professional to homeless divorcee. I asked my parents "What is divorce?" they told me about what my brother was going through. Anyway I said to myself "I don't think I like divorce" Now 50 years later I have avoided marriage. Most of the women I have dated over the years have labeled me a jerk. A jerk with no financial problems.

hairpuller 03-02-2021 08:40 AM

I'm not sure a person can really attain full maturity not having been married with kids. Others will not agree with this.

Not getting married because of the risk of divorce is like not driving a car because of the risk of an accident.

Some things in life are worth the risk!


Happily married (with kids) for 20+ years.

ghostnote 03-02-2021 09:01 AM

Quite a story. I was divorced decades ago, and it went as well as something like that could. I have found, from knowing many guys who've gone through it, that the degree of pain and suffering is directly related to what kind of person you picked to marry in the first place. What a concept! So many blinded-by-love guys I've known just get married for all the wrong reasons - I'm sure we've all seen that. I have shaken many hands and said "congratulations" to a lot of guys I knew when my actual thoughts were "he must be crazy". Sometimes everyone in the room knows that two people are wrong for each other except the actual two people. It's a lot harder to find a decent, normal person, who, if things don't work out down the road, just takes her fair share and moves on with mutual respect. In my case, I was lucky. My ex knew that if she went for both alimony and child support (2 kids), I'd be destitute and there'd be years of bitterness and fighting over money. Instead, she opted for just the child support and we still have a cordial relationship to this day - she's a decent person and a great mother to my kids.

Daniel Grenier 03-02-2021 09:20 AM

I don't know what your current employment is but you should consider writing as a career-change option if you are considering one. Very well written and engaging story, sir! As for crazy divorce stories, I'd bet 1/2 of us here on the AGF have one.

merlin666 03-02-2021 01:49 PM

I went through a few years of crazy divorce proceedings. Started out with a nice lawyer and hopes to settle fairly, but the ex had hired some young ambitious one who was out to destroy me. So I got the best and nastiest court lawyer in town. I decided to offer settlement when legal fees were at the level of what I was initially willing to pay the ex. The ex gladly accepted and didn't see another dime from me.

Good thing out of it was that I started to buy expensive guitars for mental balance of legal fees. I still enjoy playing them.

rmp 03-02-2021 01:51 PM


Originally Posted by hairpuller (Post 6651236)
I'm not sure a person can really attain full maturity not having been married with kids. Others will not agree with this.

Not getting married because of the risk of divorce is like not driving a car because of the risk of an accident.

Some things in life are worth the risk!


Happily married (with kids) for 20+ years.

same here, only add 24 years to the time.

Got lucky, met an angel in Jr. High school (1973) married her in 77,... and the rest, as they say...

buddyhu 03-02-2021 02:18 PM

Married 26 years...but had two divorces (short marriages) before that.

Neither of my divorces was all that ugly. Emotionally gut wrenching for sure, but both of my ex's were of good character, and we struggled through the conflicts and came to reasonable settlements. I don't know if anyone can really say a divorce settlement feels "fair". But it can feel "non-abusive", if both parties are mature and deal with their anger and hurt reasonably well (which is a combination of traits and skills that is not all that common, it seems).

Sorry to read about the folks who are posting about their traumatic divorce experiences. For too many folks, divorce is the worst thing that they will experience, with so many layers of hurt and mistreatment.

AmericanEagle 03-02-2021 06:37 PM


Originally Posted by hairpuller (Post 6651236)
I'm not sure a person can really attain full maturity not having been married with kids. Others will not agree with this.

Not getting married because of the risk of divorce is like not driving a car because of the risk of an accident.

Some things in life are worth the risk!


Happily married (with kids) for 20+ years.

If your marriage ended in a nasty divorce instead of thankfully still being happily married, you’d be singing a different tune.

rmp 03-02-2021 07:30 PM


Originally Posted by AmericanEagle (Post 6651765)
If your marriage ended in a nasty divorce instead of thankfully still being happily married, you’d be singing a different tune.

Yes,, we would AE.. speaking for myself, I am blessed beyond counting those blessing. Like I said, I got really lucky a long time ago.

I followed your post as you shared how your situation unfolded.
sometimes, there is no rhyme reason or justice.. I am sorry for all what happened it's not supposed to work like that.

Denny B 03-02-2021 07:52 PM


Originally Posted by hairpuller (Post 6651236)
I'm not sure a person can really attain full maturity not having been married with kids. Others will not agree with this.

Not getting married because of the risk of divorce is like not driving a car because of the risk of an accident.

Some things in life are worth the risk!


Happily married (with kids) for 20+ years.

I believe that maturity is a state of mind that directs us to conduct our lives with dignity, respect for ourselves and others, and to willingly carry out our obligations and responsibilities in life...

Personally, in my 71 years, I've never observed those characteristics to be displayed any more or less, dependent upon a person's marital or family status...I've seen major success stories and major fails pretty equally on both side of the matrimonial fence...

It's a matter of personal choice, and as I say about a lot of things, "It's an inside job..."

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