Tag Archives: lawyer

The Online Other Woman: Chapter Ten, Details of Decay

Crack-up nights were brutal, such as should not be retold. Mornings offered more promise. With the Sun and the day’s tasks to be done, there was a momentum to morning. Max made a pot of strong coffee each day that was my salvation. Once August came and I was back at my teaching job, breakfast had to be quick and simple. Sometimes, though, on the weekend, I’d prepare something special like my

Spinach Omelet

Slice a medium Vidalia or other sweet onion into slivers and sauté it in a little olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet. When the onion begins to be translucent, add handfuls of fresh spinach. Sauté spinach just until it wilts. Meanwhile in a bowl beat three to four eggs vigorously with a fork and add grated feta or white cheddar cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the sautéed onion and spinach and cook. Once the egg begins to set, stir the center. Then lift the sides of the eggs and tilt the skillet so that the raw egg comes in contact with the skillet. Add salt and cracked pepper. Once the eggs are set, fold one half over the over. Cut into half to serve two. This is delicious with sliced tomatoes from the garden.

It was so much more difficult to cope with my shock and grief once I was back at school. I told only three of my closest friends there what Dan had done. For all the rest, especially, the students, I had to keep up a brave front and show nothing. The strain was extreme.

Some of my worst worry centered around the need to secure my home from the fallout associated with Dan’s dissertation. Although it was difficult to face strangers with my story, I had no choice. I had to visit bankers and lawyers. I had to seek advice. The lawyers and bankers who I saw did not know Dan, so what they had to say was not based on any knowledge of what he personally would do. Still all of these professionals were unanimous in what he could do, and I felt that they had seen could shift to would enough times that to ignore their experienced advice would be foolhardy.

I did not even have to go into much detail. I had them on my first sentence: “My husband is having an affair with a woman he met online who lives on the dole in Australia.” That would be enough to immediately launch them into warnings on the legal binds of marriage, the liabilities of mutually-held properties, how I could be held  responsible for Dan’s debts, he could borrow more than he already had on the house, and if he went to Australia, I would have to pay or lose the house.

Dan has since shown anger that I or our friends who gave the same warnings as the lawyers and bankers, that any of us could have doubted or suspected him. He thinks he should have been trusted based on his “track record.” But he is talking about a record of honesty from before he met the Instagirl. Once he met her, he began a pattern of lying, deception, and disregard for the feelings of others that made it difficult to put anything past him. Trust in him had been broken irrevocably for me and for Max. In fact it was Max who was the first one to say “Get a lawyer” once he learned of his dad’s deception.

Obviously, I could not share ownership of my home with a person capable of deliberate dishonesty and cruel treatment to those who had loved him, still less could I remain married to him. The lawyer I had hired, Ms. Madison, was in the process of drawing up the dreadful divorce papers. I would sign. Dan would sign. A court date would be set, and our marriage would be officially over in the way it had been spiritually over from the minute Dan took up with his online other woman.

But the house? How to handle that? First of all, Dan and I needed some kind of agreement on a price if I was to buy him out. I had paid cash for my half of the house when we had first bought it 20 years earlier. Dan mortgaged his half and then borrowed more on that to pay off credit card debts. How much would he need to settle these loans? How much would he want in order to sell?

The next time Dan was scheduled to visit so we could go over separating the cars titles, insurance, utilities, etc, I brought up my buying him out on the house. I gave him a figure based on the county tax assessor’s valuation and the selling price of a house on the next street. He said he would feel “screwed” by that price. This flew all over me! Did Dan really get to feel screwed by anything after his sudden backstab to me and Max?

A few days later, I called a realtor from the neighborhood who came by and gave me an unofficial, but informed estimate for the value of our home. It was more than the amount that I had quoted Dan; in fact, it was more than we had paid for the house.

I had worked as a teacher for years and had been frugal. Unlike Dan, I had no debt. I had savings, yes, but that was for my retirement and to help Max finish college. My hard-earned savings were not enough to pay Dan half of the appraised value of the house. I brooded over the problem, but my heartbroken head could not think clearly. I was so alone.

Finally, Saturday came and there was time for coffee, a spinach omelet with Max, and time to get outside for a little yard work which always served to clear my mind. I thought, “Ok, I want to buy Dan out on the house, but what price? I should not have to hand him the top dollar, open market price. A sale on the open market would involve realty fees, closing costs, upgrades, and repairs.” But it was difficult to come up with a number that allowed for all those costs.

Then I had what I thought of as an epiphany. What about paying him half of the original selling price? I thought I could stretch my savings to meet this price. Doing so would seriously impoverish Max and me, but we would have a home, we would not end up on the street. With this deal, Dan would not make money, but he would not lose, and he would be getting all I had. If he wanted more, we would have to list the house on the open market. The downside of that though, he would have to continue to pay his mortgage until the house sold which would eat into any potential profit. If he took my buyout offer, he could have money right away.

I sent Dan an email with my offer to pay him half of the original selling price. I had learned that this would be enough to pay off the balance of his mortgage, his credit card debt, and he would still have $12,000 left over to spend on the Instagirl. In order to be fair, I did offer an alternative. If he did not like my offer, we could list the house and take our chances on the open market.

Knowing the hassles and delays of selling real estate, I had a feeling Dan would accept my offer and its promise of ready cash over the uncertainty of an outside sale. He kept me waiting in suspense for a few days, but finally I heard back from him. He would accept my buyout offer.

Although I was relieved to have an agreement on the house, I had never wanted any of this. When I paid my half of the house twenty years earlier, I had thought I was done; I had a home. Now, I was, in a sense, being forced to buy it again. The process was painful, involving fees for early withdrawal of my savings, endless phone calls, so much paperwork and running around to banks to gather the funds for the sale. I was falling apart. I was losing sleep. l was losing weight. My hair was falling out. I was trying to do my best at my job, but the effort, the effort was ….

I am trying to relay the details of decay: our marriage, our family, our home as it had been, and even the money from my life’s work, all lost, all over, all gone. I try to tell the story, but like Flaubert, I find my words are hollow beats on a cracked and broken drum when I wish they were a song that would melt the stars.

The Online Other Woman: Chapter Six: Get a Lawyer!

“Get a lawyer!” Those were the first words out of Max’s mouth when I told him that his father had an online girlfriend living in Australia with a son and a sick father. It turns out that his generation is even more suspicious of online affairs than is mine. Jules had warned me to protect my money, but Max seemed to think the risk could run even deeper and should be dealt with right away.

“Oh, Max, I don’t know if I can do that! I don’t know if I have the strength right now. I am so nervous and shaky. I’m not sleeping. I break down and cry all the time. Right now I’m on summer break, but soon I have to go back to my job at the school. I think I should wait until I’m stronger.”

“No, Mom, you can’t wait. This is horrible for you. You are depressed, nervous. This can’t go on. It needs to be resolved, so you can really start to rebuild. Get a lawyer!”

Max was right about my state of extreme anxiety. Aside from the heartbreak of losing the man I loved, our marriage, and our family, I feared what the change would mean for my home, for my finances, for my future. Max was not even halfway through college; I feared for his future. Our home was my chief concern. Even a crazy crack-up chick like me needs a roof over her head. The night Dan left me, he said he would continue to pay the mortgage and help with upkeep on our home. I remember wondering at the time if that would really work. Dan made his money with freelance construction jobs: sometimes it was boom, but sometimes it was bust. Would he really be able to afford his apartment in Atlanta and pay his half on the home expenses for Max and me?

Now that I had confirmation of another woman, I immediately saw that the financial side of the crack-up was extremely serious. My fears ran like this: even if Dan means well now, he would have a hard time paying for his apartment and his half of our home for Max and me especially during lean times with his work, and more especially when a girlfriend was added to the mix.  What’s more, this was not some lady from the successful side of Atlanta, but a woman who lived in faraway Australia, and, as more information was forthcoming, we learned that she was a single mother who lived on the dole. Even if she was not a scam artist as Jules and other friends feared, she began to sound very expensive.

The status of our home was this: When we bought the house 20 years ago, I paid cash for my half. I had the money because before I even knew Dan, I had worked as a waitron at a downtown hotel for 6 years and saved enough money to buy a huge house on North Highland which I sold two years later for twice what I paid for it. A couple of years later, after the demise of TV Dinner, Dan and I moved to New York City, and I bought a condo on the Lower East Side with my Atlanta house money and a small loan from Ransom Paid. After living in New York for ten years, we had Max and the New York apartment was too small. I sold it and once again doubled my money. When we bought our home in a pretty, older, Atlanta lake community, I paid cash for my half of the house. Dan mortgaged his half. Did he qualify for a mortgage in his own right? No. It was the fact that my half of the house was paid for that gave him his mortgage. But to his credit, once he got the mortgage, he paid the monthly bill faithfully for twenty years.

How much was still outstanding on his mortgage? I knew he had taken out a home equity loan last winter to pay off his credit card debt, but did not know how much it was.  Had he paid the most recent mortgage note, and how would I know if he did not?

Suddenly, it was urgent that I visit his bank. We had our own accounts and used different banks. Would his bank even talk to me? I was always the one who kept up with all the family paperwork, so I had mortgage statements showing the loan number. Would that be enough to establish credibility with them? I went the next day to find out.

It was never easy for me to tell my story to all the different people that I had to speak to. Talking about the crack-up brought back so much emotion. That day with the mortgage banker was an especially difficult one, but it was made easier by the kindness and cooperation of the lady who helped me, Mrs. Simmons, a pretty professional with a Jamaican accent. She immediately began pulling up information on her computer and told me that Dan still owed $18,000 on the house mortgage, and that he had paid the most recent payment. His home equity loan had been for $15,000. This shocked me; it was a much bigger sum than I thought he had borrowed. The figure he mentioned to me was $7,000.

Mrs. Simmons and I talked about the Australian affair. I asked how much more Dan could borrow on the house. She said he could borrow up to the value of the house and I would not even know about it. If he were to go to Australia and not pay on the loans, I would have to pay them or lose the house even though my half was paid for and the equity loan was for his personal credit card debt.

All of this was terribly troubling. I knew that Dan had been honest with me in the past and had paid his bills all along, but this was new territory. He had recently been very dishonest to me and he had borrowed more on the house than I had thought. He was interested in a woman who lived on the dole in a faraway county. People can sometimes decide that the ends justify the means when their desires take over. If this woman asked Dan for money or if he needed money to in order to be with her, would he really resist the temptation to use our house as a source? I knew I could never be at peace with that kind of uncertainty. Mrs. Simmons explained the path to safety: once his name was not on the mortgage or the deed, he could no longer borrow on the home. I would have to find a way to buy Dan out.

And, of course, Max was right; a lawyer was the next step. But it was not an easy step because I did not know a lawyer to call. As with many of the challenges that came to me as a result of the crack-up, I looked to family and friends for advice. After a few days of trial and error, I found someone I thought would do, Ms. Madison, who was with firm located near our local county courthouse. By the day of my appointment with her, I was back in school at my job as special education assistant teacher at a middle school. My appointment was in the afternoon after a hectic workday. As I waited to be seen, I tried to calm my nerves, but it was no use. There I was waiting to talk to a lawyer about a divorce. There was no calm to be found.

Once I was with Ms. Madison telling her the details of the crack-up, I went from nervous to breakdown. I tried to hold back the tears, I tried to hold myself together and answer her questions. The tension in my chest made it hard to breath, but somehow I told what I had to tell. She said that as long as I was married to Dan, I could be held responsible for any debts he had. For me to buy him out on the house would keep him from borrowing any more on the house, but only a divorce would protect my assets and keep me from being responsible for his debts.

The Australian affair was a great concern because as Ms. Madison explained if he were to go to Australia before the house or the divorce were finalized, there would be very little I could do at that point. Time was of the essence, she felt. I agreed. Divorce filled me with dread, but now that it had to be, there was no need to draw out the suffering. She explained that an uncontested divorce would be the quickest if Dan and I could come to terms. She would begin to draw up the papers; I could review them and so could Dan. We would sign, she would file with the court, and a date would be set for the divorce.

I left her office sad and shaky. A divorce, a dreadful divorce was to be the next turn of the crack-up screw.   How to endure that? How to negotiate through it with Dan? How to settle with him on the house?

When Dan left me, he said he wanted to be free. I thought of all the steps between now and my freedom from heartbreak and financial jeopardy—so many staggering steps. All Dan had to do was pick up and walk out the door to gain his freedom. I wouldn’t get mine until I had mopped up after him and settled so, so much business. I can’t believe this is happening to me. I can’t believe what all I have to go through before it will all be Over!