Thursday, April 14, 2011

No Fairytale

I try not to get emotionally involved in my cases.  It's a bright line I have drawn, and one I work hard to keep.  I cannot give effective advice if I am emotionally drawn in.  At times, it makes me seem cold and apathetic, but I am more effective that way.  I do care, it's just that I care differently.

And yet, there are these cases.

I walk into my conference room and stifle the surprise.  The lady at the table looks just like a relative of mine.  The look is so similar, I am taken aback.  I compose myself and get her story.

She is dressed conservatively, yet with the care of someone who takes pride in her appearance.  Her hands fold and unfold in front of her, and she looks nervous.  She is in her 50's, and has spent decades fighting someone else's fight.  Ambitions and dreams have been happily pushed aside so her husband can reach his goals.  They have raised two sons, now both out of college and pursuing successful careers of their own.  She has been looking forward to spending their future together, now living the life they have dreamed about.

The best laid plans...

Her husband struck a friendship with a woman up out of state.  This started as an internet friendship, but quickly became serious.  Last week, she says, he packed up his stuff and said the true love of his life was this new lady.  He got in his vehicle and left, never looking back.  He cancelled the health insurance, car insurance, all utilities, cashed in his substantial retirement account, and cleaned out the bank account as well.
After taking some days to pull herself together, she begins to clean up his side of the room.  She finds a tiny slip of paper, about 1/4" by 1/2", with three lines of text: a first name, a street name (no number) and the state.  Armed with that information, she calls me and makes the appointment. 
Time to get to work.

Unfortunately, the husband has moved fast.  In the days before Zaba and other search engines, finding someone with the small bit of information I had was no easy task.  But we make it work, and I eventually track down the hiding husband.  He gets served, and we finally get the ball moving.

A court order needed to stop the retirement plan distribution does not come in time.  Tens of thousands of dollars are gone.  She is swiftly running out of money, and has returned to work, working 7 days a week just to catch up.  Now in a position she never anticipated, she's starting to rebuild.

The case drags on for four years.  Hearings, notices, negotiations, rejections.  A sad case all around.  By the time the case finally concludes, no one wins.  The parties end up fighting for nothing more than memories.  What little was left to save has been wasted trying to save it.  She'll get the house, the contents of the house and the car.  Eventually, she'll get her portion of the retirement money back.  Currently, he has none to give.  Time will tell if he sticks to court ordered payments.  I close the file.

Recently, now ten years after I first met her, I met some friends at a restaurant to discuss an upcoming event for which we were volunteering.  The restaurant, not my pick, is a cheap, well known greasy spoon.  It's loud and busy, though that's not what bothers me.  I can feel my arteries clogging from the smell, and I'm gaining weight just walking past the food.  Heck, I'm gaining weight just writing about it now.

It's almost 10p.  We sit down and begin to hash out details.  My attention is drawn by movement to the left.  I look up, and I see her.  My former client is waiting tables.  She's older now, has lost weight, and is still hard at work.  I try to get her attention, but I don't think she remembers me.  Or she is trying not to.  I hope she's happy with where she is.  I hope things have gotten better for her.

She was a good client, but I am reminded that, most of the time, there are no fairytale endings.


Shepherd K said...

That story reminds me that some men are alive simply because it is illegal to kill them.

Rev. Paul said...

A sad story indeed. I have used such examples when speaking to my daughters (now grown) of 'disposable' marriages & divorce. TV makes it looks so simple.

Keads said...

Sad indeed.

Tango Juliet said...

Heartbreaking story.

Ed Skinner said...

Lost our family inheritance to a gold-digger and politics in Arkansas. Our attorney, familiar with the courts there said, "Walk away."
It hurt but our lives (and previously built, personal finances) are secure.