The ex and I chose to work together on our divorce. Sounds funny right? Working together on the divorce when the marriage obviously failed because of our lack of collaboration. In this process the 2 people that are wanting the divorce sit with both their lawyers in a somewhat small room and hash out the details of how they will end their lives together. Who gets what. Who pays what to whom. All the assets and liabilities laid out on the table to see where that dividing line sits. In Alberta all divorces are no fault divorces (in the eyes of the court) but trust me, as you sit across from one another, there is blaming. In a no fault divorce everything is split evenly. 50/50. Right down the line. This includes time with the kids.
I learned a trick very early in this ‘game’. I had to arrive at which ever lawyer’s office this collaborative meeting was to take place to get my head in the ‘game’. A pregame warm up, if you will. I had to take my time and remind myself to remove all emotions from this meeting. It was a business meeting for me now. So, sitting in my truck, pregame, I would remind myself that this was not about who was right or wrong. This was not about whether or not he helped with things around the house. This was not about how I felt I was unfairly viewed as ‘just a Mom’. This was about ensuring that my needs were met. Sounds kind of selfish. But I was learning that taking care of my needs was actually important. Seemed funny, I had to learn this behaviour.
But I had put just as much time and energy into this relationship as he had. At times, I felt I had put MORE time and MORE energy into the relationship than he did. I truly felt like I had been my ex’s mistress once he started his new business. I felt his first love was his work. But these meetings were not about that. I just had to ensure that I was going to be treated fairly now. So I wanted half and the courts would side with me on that. I was not out to sink him or destroy him or ruin him. That is not what I wanted at all.
So pregame talk before these meetings was important to me. Because emotions were running high! Oh were they ever. The emotions were the thing I talked myself OUT OF before each meeting.
-Don’t take your anger/hurt in through that door.
-Leave all the blaming right here in the truck.
-The marriage didn’t work because we BOTH stopped working at it.
-This is a BUSINESS meeting. Act accordingly.
All things I would tell myself before a collaboration meeting. Now, I would never have gone into a business meeting with my emotion running on high. I would have gone in with a level head on what I needed to make things turn out successfully. I have been known to bite my tongue on a few occasions (I know, some of you are shocked at this!). And last but certainly not least, I would remind myself of the ‘board members’ that had a very high stake in all of this… our kids.
After years of feeling like I didn’t have a voice. It was easier to just let some things go rather than fight, I had found my voice again. No, I didn’t agree with that. Yes, I did know what I wanted. No, I was not going to sit back and let someone else decide on what was best for me. Yes, I had a game plan.
And I stuck to that game plan. One particularly item I was stuck on was a 10th anniversary ring that the ex had given me. As a gift. I stress this for a reason. As we were listing all of the assets we currently had, the ring was brought up. It was an expensive ring. A past/present/future ring. It had 3 very beautiful diamonds set in it. Nothing fancy (this girl is not a very fancy kinda girl). Just 3 stones set in a row on a gold band. And when it was brought up as one of the assets that I held, I simply said NO. It was a gift.
That started it. The lawyer writing asset items down on the big piece of paper hanging on the wall, put her felt pen down. The room got quiet for a minute. Up to this point, I had not argued with much. But I was quite adamant on this item. One of the lawyers explained that this was a gray area in the eyes of the courts. No, I repeated, it was a gift. It is not an ‘asset’ I hold. I am not planning on selling it or trading it or using it in some way to gain financially. It is not an asset. It was a gift. Receipts were presented to say it had a financial value. Once again, No… it was a gift, was my answer. I really was not bending on this.
Then the lawyers did what any smart business person would do, they suggested we have it appraised. Fine, but it is still not something I am compromising on. It was a gift dammit!
Now I never had any intentions of ever wearing it again. The emotions attached to that ring were a little too high to parade around with this thing on my finger, but I wasn’t parting with it either. Beside it represented OUR life together, something I was trying to end! So no, I would not be wearing it. But like my engagement ring and wedding band, it held sentimental value to me. It represented all the good things in our marriage. I mean, our marriage wasn’t all bad. There were lots of good things to remember about it. So I was keeping those rings come hell or high water.
I had the ring appraised. The result did not come back favorable. The ring was actually valued at less than what he paid. He was not a happy camper on this. I actually didn’t care what the monetary value on the ring was… I cared about the sentimental value. So, the next meeting the ring came up again. I brought out the papers on the appraisal and also a compromise on the ring.
I would hold onto the ring, along with my engagement ring and each of my kids would get a stone. 2 rings with a combined total of 4 stones, one for each of our kids. Each would get a diamond out of the rings. They were, after all, all we would have left as evidence of our marriage. 4 beautiful examples of what we did right in our time together.
My compromise was accepted and the value of the ring was taken off the list of assets. I still don’t consider this a loss or a win or me giving in, it was a compromise. One that would benefit the 4 reasons we work together to date. Our kids. And when the time is right, when each of them are ready to accept their stone, I will have it ready to hand over.