Following up on Vickie’s excellent financial advice last Friday, I thought I would devote today’s column to mediation debacles.
Vickie had a great comment on chump/cheater power dynamics that you may have missed. It bears repeating here. Someone asked Vickie her thoughts on mediation. She replied:
Mediation – well that’s a whole nother Oprah show honey.
It deserves its own blog as it’s one of the tactics in what Tracy (CL) calls “their playbook.”
I’m not a fan of mediation with the disordered as imbalance of power or imbalance of info can have disastrous results like your situation DDW.
Mediation: Also known as “Why do want to spend our kids college fund on YOUR divorce?” or “If you bring the lawyers in, I’ll make sure you live in a cardboard box forever.”
Often this version of mediation involves the Cheater insisting on a kitchen table division of assets and then you go to mediation.
I make these comments as a trained mediator in my state. Each state is different. Some require attys to be present to represent you. Mine doesn’t.
I’ll leave it at this for now: I’ll never understand why someone will come in and say “He’s lied about everything, I’m terrified to represent myself (and that’s what happens in some states where you don’t need to have a lawyer with you) I’m not clear on our exact financial situation but HE’s a really frugal guy and HE wants to mediate. SO we are going to mediation.”
This is one of those overly accommodating things chumps do that are so baffling.
I can’t give blanket advice but in most cases I’m a huge fan of being the first to file — if your ducks are in order. And those ducks vary from state to state.
Before I continue — a few caveats.
- I’m not a lawyer. What follows is my opinion. Don’t mistake it for legal advice. Get ACTUAL legal advice.
- I’m not advocating irrationally fighting tooth and nail over Aunt Hilda’s silver service. Or punishing cheaters with endless litigation. Or stayed mired in protracted divorce proceedings if you can avoid it. The goal here is to GET OUT. Whatever it costs, you can rebuild. No one gets through divorce unscathed. If you got a terrible settlement? Hey, it’s not as bad as staying married to a serial cheater.
The point is, stop being your own worst enemy. Chumps often have a very hard time sticking up for themselves. I don’t want you to take your codependent idiocy into divorce proceedings. Some thoughts on that:
A) Why are chumps so accommodating? Because we think we can control other people through our behavior. I’ll make my needs small and be so fair and kind, the cheater will Appreciate Me! And s/he will reciprocate in kind! And this Regrettable Event Won’t Harm the Children! Because I’m going to lead with decency and fair-mindedness! And everyone will follow suit, such will be my guiding moral influence. And then the heavens will part, and Gandhi will ride in on a lamb. For world peace. And we’ll all bake snickledoodles together. And cuddle puppies. And remain best of friends!
You are divorcing. You know what says I don’t appreciate you? CHEATING on you. This person isn’t your friend. They demonstrated that they can lie to your face and blithely take advantage of you — why would you let that continue? Why would you think such a person has your (or your children’s) best interests at heart? Why do you think you could negotiate a fair settlement with such a person? Because they promised you one?
Yeah. How’s that promised commitment thing working out for you?
B) SEE A LAWYER. You need the cool rationality of an impartial legal professional. Unless you’re absolutely confident in your ability to snow your cheater (a few success stories abound) or perhaps are a lawyer yourself, or have zero assets and zero debts and no children, you are not well-served by a do-it-yourself divorce settlement.
“Let’s work things out over the kitchen table.” And “no need to get ugly with lawyers” usually means Please Keep Being My Chump. Let me keep taking financial advantage of you! Pay no attention to those hidden assets/love child/missing retirement accounts.
Let the LAW tell you what’s fair — not a cheater.
And remember, no lawyer can help you if you won’t help yourself. A lawyer can give you great advice — but you have to listen to it. So long as you’re mired in Giving the Cheater What They Want to make them think well of you and accepting the few crumbs thrown your way (be grateful!), you’re going to get fucked.
You want to mediate? Take a lawyer with you. (Some states require this.) You can say you tried. Of course, that attempt costs money. I think you’re better served just going on the offensive and filing. Trying to achieve consensus with a cheater assumes the cheater is going to deal honestly with you. See the first item. How’s that worked out for you?
C) Get them while they’re contrite and in impression management mode. The only success stories I know of quick and relatively painless divorce settlements are when the chump lets go so the cheater can run off with Schoompie. The cheater fears exposure, or everyone’s bad opinion and want your buy-in, so they sign whatever. Their need for instant gratification and obliviousness to long-term consequences can work to your favor.
However, usually chumps happily play the Obstacle to Cheater Happiness, and fight (pick me dance) for their spouses. You could be missing a window of opportunity here, chumps.
I have a friend who got rid of her whackadoodle husband by letting him think his insane ideas were great. He was chaotic and moved them all over the country for his crazy schemes. One day he decided that he wanted to be an Alaskan fisherman. She said, “That’s fine! Why don’t you go off to Alaska, and I’ll stay here and settle things and join you in a bit?”
He ran off to the salmon boats in Juneau. She packed everything up, moved out on him, and filed. (True story!)
Sometimes it’s better just to let them have it — you make your escape.
So, divorced chumps — any words of advice for the newbies? Any regrets over the do-it-yourself settlements?