Thursday, 1 September 2011

Nightmare On Divorce Street

Well, it's a long time since I updated my blog with anything other than the 30 Day Song Challenge (which in my typical style, I started late and didn't finish.) But a lot has happened since then.
At the beginning of 2011 I decided to finally give in in my increasingly unpleasant divorce and sell my home. My soon to be ex husband left me nine years ago when we lived in Kent, far from my family home. I had followed him around the country for ten years as he moved from job to job, and had ended up in Tunbridge Wells. He left me two weeks after my thirtieth birthday. I had been registered blind two years before in 2000 after losing seventy percent of my eyesight in a couple of seconds in 1996 - it was downhill from then on and the vision that was left deteriorated. I've got some left in my right eye but not a lot.
When he left I was miles from home with very little support. A friend of mine called Louise thankfully stepped in and picked me up, helped me claim income support to pay the mortgage, eat, pay the bills, and keep the roof over my head, and for a few years I waded on. If it hadn't been for her I would have honestly sunk, both financially and mentally. She literally saved my life.
Unfortunately I was not able to do the same for her and due to her crushing bipolar depression my dearest friend committed suicide in 2005. I decided that I had nothing to stay in Kent for and every reason to leave, so I approached the absent ex and explained that I would like to sell the home we had formerly lived in together and move back to Norwich, my home town. I explained he could have a large part of the equity in the home if he were prepared to guarantor a mortgage for me on a new house in Norwich, with the express assurance that he would never have to pay for it or any support to me whatsoever (which he hadn't been doing so far anyway). I would put my share of the equity into the new house. He agreed. It was pointed out to me by a solicitor that he in theory should have been paying me maintenance and was likely not entitled to this money in view of a divorce court, because he was gainfully employed, happily housed elsewhere and I was blind and unwaged with little chance of supporting myself except via disability benefits, but I knew he was in thirty grand's worth of debt and could use the money, so I gave it up.
So he got thirty grand and I got to move back home where I could have some sort of support.
Fast forward to 2008, when I decided to pursue a divorce (I had tried previously, twice, but had been persuaded, shall we say, out of it.) As soon as it was apparent that he couldn't bully or threaten me out of it this time, he refused to cooperate with the divorce, dragging his feet with requests for paperwork at every opportunity, refusing to answer letters and going awol from contact from even his own solicitor. Three years on and he has tried to make me sell my home and give him money from it - which he has never lived in nor paid anything towards. He is happily housed elsewhere (where I don't currently know) and gainfully employed, rather amusingly considering his total lack of moral fibre both past and present, as a police officer. I tried to get him to talk it over when it got really nasty, despite being previously advised by my GP to break contact with him for the sake of my blood pressure and sanity. Any attempts to contact him to discuss a solution, whether it be via official mediation or me trying to contact him personal have been rejected via solicitor's letters.
So, two and a half years of someone who previously purported to care about you trying to take your home away tends to wear you down. Although I should have expected this - he left me after all and was not exactly a nice character when he was with me - but I was at first dismayed and upset that he would seek to cause me pain and chaos in this way, knowing that I was severely unwell, virtually blind, and flat broke, all because I wanted to legally cement what he had done emotionally and physically years before, namely end our marriage.
At the beginning of 2011 I decided to give in and sell up. My fibro really turned up the heat in September 2010 and has not let up since, and I can't manage on my own anymore, it's plain. The constant stress was killing me, the house is in a less than happy state of maintenance as I've had neither the money nor the energy to do it, and my neighbour has caused me no small amount of distress with his aggressive behaviour. And I love my fiancé, who is prepared to take me in and care for me when I can't look after myself, and give me some semblance of a normal life where your partner isn't cheating on you, emotionally abusive, occasionally violent or getting into massive amounts of debt behind your back. Thank God for him. With all this I figured why fight it ? Just sell it and pay the ex off even if he isn't entitled to the money and hopefully he'll leave you alone.
So, now we are in September 2011 and I have managed to get soon to be ex to agree to getting £22,000 from the sale of MY home (I will get much much less than that due to the property crash), and have agreed to waive all rights to his extremely adequate pension and any other capital claims. Basically in order to obtain a divorce from a man who abandoned me without a penny to my name nine years ago I have had to give up everything I have and pay him a very large sum of money. All in all he'll have had £52,000 out of the sale of both houses, past and present, and keep his pension. I pay the mortgage off, estate agents and conveyancers and I'll get £12,000. By the time the credit cards debts have been paid (running a house is expensive when you own it and survive on benefits - it owns you !) there will be around four grand. Then there's my matrimonial solicitor's bill, whatever that is likely to be. Ah well, it's only money.

There are a few lessons to be learned from this in my experience.
One - the legal system in this country is not, as people would suggest, weighted towards an unwaged (and disabled) wife on legal aid. The legal help coffers are so squeezed these days that solicitors who undertake publicly funded legal work are often not prepared to take your case to court even if you will win (and arguably my solicitor should have taken my case to the court as soon as the ex tried to get me to sell up) because it costs money. And by the way, legal help still isn't free - anything over about £900 in charges and you will pay the rest if you recover property or money from the settlement. This is called the "statutory charge". I have that to look forward to after it's all over. My ex of course is paying his solicitor from the word go - which makes her much more invested in getting what he wants.
Two - if you hang on in a fight with a pig, the pig will enjoy it and you will just get dirty.

Sometimes it's worth it to fight. But sometimes for the sake of your health and sanity it's better to give the bastards what they want and walk away. Once they're gone they can't hurt you again.

So here we are - the contracts are about to be signed on the house (first ex has to do this, which he will doubtless fuck about on so I'm not holding my breath) but in theory if ex is prompt in his return of the paperwork we could complete the sale by the 16th of September. I will then move in with my fantastic fiancé who despite seeing me in absolute pieces several times over the last four years (and a couple of times in the last few months !) that we've been together still, for some unfathomable reason, wants to take care of me, love me, and eventually marry me.
The nightmare is nearly over.