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There is still hope

Caitlin's picture

The lawyer that my fiance met with a few weeks ago got back to him after consulting with her "superstars" in the custody field. Given that we can't afford a lawyer at a minimum cost of $10k, she recommended that we pursue custody on our own! She said we have a rock solid case and there are free legal services at the local universities that can help us wade through it all. She said that money (or lack thereof) does not have to stop us from saving SD. So there's hope! We're looking into what the universities offer and going from there.

The other part that I'm a little bit fuzzy on is that she can't take his divorce case because of the complexity of the whole situation involving custody. From what I understand, if we retained her to close the divorce and then pursued custody, she would be obligated to continue representing him and given that it will likely be drawn out to kingdom come, she can't commit to that. I don't really get it, but whatever. She assures him that the divorce will be cake. She gave him the private number of her contact in the courthouse so we can be sure to get this four-year-long divorce c-l-o-s-e-d. Hey, at least this way we're saving the $2k or $3k retainer.

As for SD? We were so worried about her when she had that breakdown and wouldn't see or speak to us for a week. BF was horrified to see her exhibiting all of BM's (ill) behaviors - refusing to communicate when it doesn't suit her, being super manipulative by preying on loved ones' emotions - at the Family Based therapy appointments. We've always been so amazed and relieved at how little she models her behavior on her mother's, but we started to panic that this would no longer be true. It was so devastating. Then she came for our weekend together and she was delightful! Her usual loving self. And we realized that the only time she models her behavior on her mother's is when she's with her mother. All the more reason to get her the hell out of there! She needs positive role models!

BM did take a small step in the right direction recently though, so maybe these Family Based people are helping. This weekend is our weekend with SD, but her cousin on BM's side is graduating high school and apparently SD wants to go to her graduation party on Saturday. First gripe, SD should come to DAD not MOM to discuss scheduling conflicts on DAD's weekend, but at least BM came to him with 10 days advance notice to ASK him, not TELL him last minute. In the past, he would get a phone call on Friday afternoon at work where she would inform him that SD has other plans and would see him some time the next day/weekend/what have you. Then he would say no, I don't agree, then she would put SD on the phone in tears begging Dad to please do what Mom asked, and so on. So this IS an improvement.

We said yes, even though a)it's Father's Day weekend and b)we had plans with my stepsister and her family to meet at the zoo on Saturday and now SD has to miss out on that. I'm so disappointed because we planned this over 2 months ago and there just isn't another weekend we can do it, and SD *so* enjoyed getting together with them last time. They have a daughter the same age as our daughter and they're just a trip together. I hate that SD won't be there. But we're being adult about it and not putting any pressure on her because her cousin will only graduate high school once.

I would just like to point out that if the tables were turned and there was an important family event on our side on Mother's Day weekend AND they had special family plans that they had scheduled months ago, there wouldn't be a snowball's chance in hell of BM compromising with us. Hell, she wouldn't even compromise with us when we asked 3 months in advance for SD to come to her baby sister's first birthday party. She wouldn't even discuss it with us. Then she planned a vacation out of state during that time and said SD couldn't make it. Why does the high road have to suck so much?! I just hope that the next time something comes up on her time that we'd like SD to take part in, she'll remember that we cooperated with her this time. She'll forget, but you can be sure that we'll remind her!


marika's picture

Be VERY careful handling the divorce and custody on your own. You might want to check at your local courthouse for lawyers who do pro bono work instead of just going to the local university. This is a major life issue and it would be terrible if a lack of a lawyer kept you from having a good outcome in court.


Caitlin's picture

Thanks, Marika. I know, the thought of going it alone is damn frightening. We have already looking into legal aide and pro bono attorneys, however my fiance is ineligible because the divorce is in another county. Legal aide in that county won't touch it because he is not a resident. Legal aide in our county won't touch it because the divorce is in another county. Nice catch 22, huh? So we're hoping that the local universities' help is the miracle we were looking for.

Oh, and the divorce is done - she just refuses to close it so we can get married. They separated over 4 years ago, she filed for divorce and everything was proceeding swimmingly, I came onto the scene almost 3 years ago and everything came to a screeching halt. Literally all that's left to do is file to close it. She's keeping it open because she's loving her alimony pendente lite payments AND she has the added bonus of keeping us from legitimizing our relationship. My fiance has tried to close it himself on 4 or 5 occasions but got nowhere. This private phone number that the lawyer gave to us should help with that.

We'll see!!!

Krissy's picture

Caitlin--you are in Delaware County, right? So you guys go to the court house in Media? If you change your mind, I have a lawyer referral if you want one...he handled our custody case and basically outplayed BB's lawyer on every hand. The originalr retainer was $1K and then he just billed us after he did X amount of hours. We did spend a lot of money (the $10K area sounds about right) but that's because BB had us in court literally every month for almost 2 years. That shouldn't happen with you guys.

He's a little "lawyer-y" with the arrogance but he's very nice and not slimey at all. All of the lawyers at the courthouse always seemed to make a point of coming over to talk to him and rhe judges had a good rapport with him as well. His advice was always perfect and he didn't bill for some of the nonsense other lawyers definitely would've.

If you want the name and number, let me know! His office is at Baltimore Pike and Rte. 452.


Caitlin's picture

Yes, that's where we live, but it's not where the divorce is taking place - different county, different court house. We've talked to sooo many lawyers since we finally came up with the money for one and they've either been totally incompetent or total arrogant condescending a$$holes so instead of continuing to look, I think we're going to just go it alone. This last lawyer assured us it would be really easy with her court house contact as our ally. There is literally nothing left to be done but file the preacipe to close the divorce. BM just won't do it out of spite.

Little Jo's picture

You know I'm behind you 150%. I know it's scarry, but do it. Ask questions on top of questions and get some paperwork filed. I found the people at the court house where very helpful when I would ask, "o.k., we need xy&z, what forms do we file."

As far as the divorce, it is absolute insanity that she has not finalized it. What exactly needs tobe done for it to be signed by the judge?

Hope you are feeling well. Best wishes always, Jo

Caitlin's picture

You give me hope Jo, because I know you were able to file your fiance's divorce without a lawyer so I'm holding on to that right now!

All that needs to be done is file the preacipe (whatever that means, right?) I take it to mean that all that's left is the judge has to sign it. So my fiance has to get it in the right person's hands at the court house to make that happen because all the other times he's tried to do it, he's been turned away, ignored, forgotten or otherwise sh*t upon! They are sooo unsympathetic to those of us who can't afford lawyers, it's sad!

We'll get there...

Anne 8102's picture

That doesn't make sense. She can't represent him in the divorce because she'll get sucked into the custody thing? That's not how it works. You could fire her after the divorce or just sign a contract stating she's representing him for the divorce only. But if you can do it yourselves for free, go for it. I always like my money better when it's in MY pocket.

~ Anne ~

"Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission."
-Eleanor Roosevelt