When I was 30, I finally married another lawyer who had wooed me incessantly for seven months. When I say “he wooed me, ” by the way, I mean that I would have called it “stalking,” had it happened today, 27 years later. I would drive in to the office from the suburbs, and he would be waiting in his Corvette on the other side of the tollbooths. He would then follow me to the office, park near me, and invite me to a late breakfast.
Soon after we began dating, I moved in, and he proposed. Ultimately, we married on Valentine’s Day. My husband changed his colors dramatically after that. He gained 80 pounds in six months. He soon asked, and I agreed to start paying the mortgage because his firm was not bringing in enough to pay the overhead plus his salary. He assured me “I’m putting the deed in both of our names.”
We’d been married for about a year when I noticed money missing from my wallet. I confronted Charles. “What is going on?” He shrugged, and responded “I needed some money. It’s no big deal.” I was upset, but nothing I said seemed to make a difference.
One morning, my secretary timidly approached me because Charles had asked her to notarize his client’s signature without seeing him sign the documents and without verifying his identity. I immediately went to Charles. “Nina can’t notarize someone’s signature without verifying it. She needs to see your client, to inspect his driver’s license, and to confirm that he signed the document you gave her.”
“No problem.” He was nonchalant. “She should have said so.”
Well, now, that was odd; I knew she had.
When Charles announced that he had sold our home, I was furious and told him that I would sign off on the sale but that I wanted a separation to think things over.
When I asked for the spare keys to my VW bug, he responded “Oh. I lost them.” I believed him. Silly me.
Soon, I noticed once again money repeatedly missing from my wallet. The third time it happened, it struck me that Charles had not lost my car keys, he had simply kept them, planning ahead.
I made an appointment with the guy in my new workplace who practiced family law, explaining that I needed a divorce.
“Not a problem. Fill out an intake form, and I’ll get the petition filed right away. Then we can discuss logistics.”
My heart leapt. “What?! You have to file a lawsuit to get divorced?” I was a lawyer; I was smart enough to know I didn’t want to go to court for any reason. I continued, “I didn’t have to go to court to get married!”
Thankfully, Charles agreed to my settlement offer, and I finalized my divorce quickly, without going to the judge except for the fine-minute hearing to execute the final judgment. But I had been practicing law for nine years and I was still shocked to discover that you have to go to court to get divorced.
In retrospect, I guess I should have known, but shame on the lawyer for just assuming that we would go to court, and for not telling me about mediation, or any of the other courtless alternatives available back then.
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About this week’s author Joryn Jenkins.
Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, two of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership in the American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.