My ex-wife filed for divorce in 2009. I did not want a divorce and tried, but ultimately failed, to get her to change her mind. To this day I do not know what caused her to want the divorce although she did mention that she wanted to be with someone else. (But apparently that never panned out) Here are the facts in the case:
• At the time of the marriage I was 30 years old; she turned 30 a few months later. The marriage lasted less than than 20 years.
• Prior to her filing for divorce, we had been to three marriage counselors, two of which we met with extensively. Both of these were vetted by her and in fact one was a friend of her family. She walked out on all three because they were questioning her actions especially her drinking.
• The Court appointed custody evaluator determined she was not the primary caregiver to the children.
• An employment evaluation determined she could make just as much money as me.
• Joint custody of the children was awarded post-marriage. (although in reality they were with me more)
• There was strong evidence my ex-wife committed perjury. I asked the Court several times to talk to the children in order to refute allegations she was making but the Court refused.
• There is absolute evidence her lawyer lied and committed fraud in court.
• Virtually all marital assets came from my income. Her income was used solely for her benefit.
• My ex-wife has never used a single dime of her income to benefit the children during the marriage or after.
Despite this, I lost a huge amount of assets in the divorce (including many pre-marriage assets) had to pay over $100,000 in legal costs (including many of her costs), was required to pay child support, and am required to pay a massive amount of permanent spousal support until the day I die. I will never be able to retire nor remarry as that would require my new wife to pay support to my ex-wife should I become disabled.
I believe one of the primary reasons this happened is that I pointed out misconduct by both my ex-wife’s lawyer and my own lawyers. Then later had acted unethically, lied to me and encouraged me to commit perjury, which I refused to do. I was punished for acting responsibly and with integrity. Though I could go on for pages about the misconduct of the attorneys in my case, I do believe that reform in the law to provide more specific guidelines, calculators, etc would go a long way toward reducing such behavior.
Although clearly there are many good people, including lawyers, that work in the family law system, the reality of our laws is that it encourages unethical and criminal behavior for the bad apples that are inherently in every profession. The legislature can make situations like mine better or completely fix the issues by enacting more just laws.
The most harmful law we have is the one regarding alimony or spousal support as it is called in Minnesota. The award of permanent alimony to my ex-wife is equivalent to her winning the lottery through criminal action. It is wholly unjustified. There may be cases were alimony until normal retirement age makes since. One can imagine a situation where in a 30 year marriage the spouse receiving alimony had put the other through medical school, was a stay at home spouse, is now disabled and there was not enough money at the time of the divorce for a final and equitable settlement, but these situations are rare.
If you are a legislator who cares about justice, who wants to reduce fraud, violence and suicide, there is no better and more effective first step you can take than reforming Minnesota’s alimony laws. It will be a hard fight because the ones who benefit from the current laws are well funded and will lobby extensively against it. They fully understand that a more just system means less money for them. I can only tell you what I tell my children – there is nothing worse than the loss of your integrity. I encourage everyone to find the integrity to act for justice.
Joe X, St Paul