When I first hired my attorney, I was pursuing a divorce through publication (not that I even knew what that was until I was left with a text message and a husband that then disappeared). At that time, mere days after the tsunami, I had no idea what happened and no evidence other than the empty accounts and maxed-out credit. My only option at that juncture was to seek a “no fault” divorce.
And then I found the email. And discovered the affair. And the bigamy.
I learned where he was and contacted the police to report the dual marriage.
Even though that first email, which indicated that band hired for his wedding had not yet been paid, sent me through a dark tortuous path that seemed to birth more questions than answers, I not regret the search for information. The drive for information was too strong. The need for some sort of understanding was too overwhelming to simply walk away.
I contacted my attorney with the updated information.
And that’s when I made my mistake.
In Georgia, you have two options when it comes to divorce – fault or no fault. In order to file a fault divorce, there has to be some concrete evidence that one person’s actions directly led to the divorce.
And with the copy of his second marriage license in hand, I had that proof.
So when my attorney asked me if I wanted to continue with a no fault divorce or if I wanted to alter my approach, I responded immediately that I wanted to change course.
But I didn’t really understand what that meant.
Here’s what I thought at the time –
No fault makes it sound as though we simply grew apart. As though the divorce was a mutual decision made over time and with both party’s well-being in mind.
No fault excuses him of his (criminal and otherwise) actions and makes me (since I was the one filing) look like the one responsible.
No fault made me physically ill. It made me feel like he could spit on me, ground my heart and my finances into dust, abandon his family and responsibilities and that I publicly acknowledging that all of those things just happened.
That they weren’t really his fault.
And at a time when what I wanted more than anything was for him to acknowledge the destruction and pain he caused, a public absolution (as I saw no fault indicating), caused the smouldering anger to flare.
I believed that the word “fault” directed at the defendant on the top of the pages would alert the judge that he or she was dealing with somebody unscrupulous.
I thought that placing him at fault would earn me the favor of the courts and positively influence any rulings in my direction.
And I hoped that having the finger-pointing at him would make my then-husband feel guilty for what he done. And maybe even prompt him to apologize.
And here is what I learned –
The. Courts. Don’t. Care.
About the reasons for the divorce. About infidelity. About blindsiding. About abandonment. About financial betrayal.
They don’t care.
My attorney was more than happy to switch gears to a fault divorce. Because proving fault takes time.
And therefore money.
And I’m not even sure the judge noticed the fact that there wasn’t a “no” before fault on the paperwork submitted to her that day. She proceeded as though my almost-ex was a rational and rule-following man as she divvied up responsibilities.
I didn’t receive any favors for not being the at-fault party and I certainly didn’t receive any empathy.
And I didn’t feel validated in the slightest my the fact that the records showed that my ex was at fault.
And that was what I really wanted.
In the end, removing those two letters – n o – from my suit for dissolution of marriage cost me added months of stress and thousands of dollars.
And brought me nothing.
A note about the legal process – I am by no means an expert in the legal proceedings of divorce. In my state and in my situation, the difference between fault and no fault was negligible. This is not always the case. Make sure you take the time to fully research the path you’re taking. And don’t make assumptions that legal terms have anything to do with the real world.
It is so incredibly difficult to separate the emotional separation from the legal, especially when you have not been preparing for divorce. And even though from my current standpoint, I say that I wish I had not filed a fault divorce, I can’t promise that I would have listened to that advice at the time.
Make the best decisions that you can. And then forgive yourself for any mistakes.
Divorce is one of things that you don’t really understand until you’ve been through it. And I don’t think anyone wants to practice it enough to get better at it.