Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Update the Third - Mediation

Remember Gaaaaahhhhhhhh!!! ? Well, Day One of Mediation was today. Basically, my STBX and I sat down in a room with two mediators (a man and a woman) and went over visitation. It was very informal compared to being in a courtroom.

First, we were asked to describe how we got to be in mediation, and I was asked to go first. I explained that I only had 7 hours of visitation a week and that I wanted more. I explained further that my attorney and I had proposed a plan that would give me two evenings a week and every other weekend, and that it had been turned down. I said that I would be moving to a town that was over the state line so that transporting my son over the state line would not be a problem. The female mediator explained that the state line was a non-issue and that it didn't matter where I lived as long as it was a reasonable distance for me to travel with my son in the car. This must not have gone over well with my STBX because the state line issue was one of her big guns. She had claimed that she was worried that if I got more visitation that I would be more likely to kidnap him (because obviously visitation time is directly proportional to intent to kidnap) and that if I brought him over the state line I wouldn't bring him back.

Then it was my STBX's turn. She didn't really have much to say because the state line issue had been taken away and I think her attorney had warned her to not say anything about kidnapping plots. She did say, however, that she felt that where I currently lived was too far away for travelling. The mediator asked me about this and I told her that our proposed visitation schedule stipulated that the overnight visits would not start until after I had moved to the closer town. She was satisfied that this issue was now settled also. At this point my wife started to sniffle and tear up - she was not happy about how this was going.

And it just got worse for her from there. The times for pickup and dropoff ended up giving me an extra 12 hours per weekend with my son beyond what our original proposal had asked for. We went through holidays and I was very happy with the result of that. Basically at the beginning of each subject the mediator would suggest a starting point of what most couples found reasonable and ask us our thoughts on it. I was more than happy with every starting point - mainly because I really don't want to stick it to my STBX, I really just want a fair amount of time with our son.

The whole process went very quickly because I did not argue any of the points (because I thought they were all reasonable) and she couldn't think of any ways to argue without sounding unreasonable. The end result was that I got far more than what my attorney originally proposed to her attorney in every single area. My STBX was upset and agitated, but did a pretty good job of holding it in until we left. I, on the other hand, am very happy about the whole thing, even if it did cost a lot of money to get here.

It's good that this went the way it did for another reason. We're going to have to divide assets soon. I am anticipating a huge battle in this area. My STBX still feels that she is entitled to most (almost all) of the assets, including the entire value of the condo, and that I should take all of the debt. My attorney says not to worry about this because she has no chance of getting this. If she refuses too much than we can go into mediation again, or the court can divide it. My attorney says that if the court divides it it will be fair, so I'm not worried about that aspect of it. She also says that if we go into mediation it will also be fair, and my opinion of this is bolstered by my experience in mediation today. I'm sure what happened in mediation today is going to weigh on my STBX's mind heavily in the asset division process. My attorney says that at some point in the process my STBX is going to realize that she is going to have to pay me a significant amount of money to compensate me for my share of the condo, and that will give us a lot of leverage. I'm very happy about this, but not for the reason some of you are probably thinking. I want things to go smoothly and easily, but I do not want to be taken advantage of. I am perfectly willing to give up more than I take to make it easier. In other words, I'll make offers that are financially advantageous for her to take.

On another front, I think the relationship with N (the woman I have been dating) is pretty much over. We don't talk much on the phone anymore and we haven't seen each other for a while. The move I'm going to have to make is going to pretty much finish it off I think. My personal opinion is that I should probably wait until my life is a little more stable before I start looking to date anybody else. A woman in one of the offices I visit gave some pretty clear signs of interest, but I didn't respond too much.

One more thing - the other phone call from the other night. It was one of my two older brothers. Well, they're actually half-brothers, but I don't make the distinction - to me they are just "brothers". He told me that my oldest brother had gotten a DUI just before Christmas and that the court had mandated a two-week inpatient rehab program for him. I think I've mentioned before that alcoholism runs in my family and that I stopped drinking at 17 because of this. My oldest brother, like my father and his father, is an alcoholic. It's really affected his life, and we're hoping that this inpatient program will do him some good. He's been in rehab once before, but it was literally over 20 years ago, and things have changed quite a bit since then. My brother said in his message that my oldest brother (J) was quite depressed about the state of his life and could use some communication to let him know people were thinking about him and wishing him well. I decided to go one further - I just kept on driving past my exit and on to see him. I arrived at about 9:30, and the first thing that struck me as he answered the door was how much weight he had lost.

When he realized who I was (he had just woken up and was not expecting me) he threw open the door and grabbed me in a bear hug. I think he was close to crying. We went into the kitchen and talked for a little over an hour. He told me that he was depressed and that was just as big a problem as the alcohol. He had lost his job as a result of the DUI, and his health insurance with it. The doctor he started going to is terrible about letting his patients who have no insurance know about programs for them. There are programs the drug companies run, state insurance program for people without money or insurance etc. The doctor also was not interested in all at looking at whether or not he is clinically depressed.

I think the best thing I did was tell him that I'd been being treated for depression. Showing up to see him wasn't bad either, I think he was feeling very alone. During this program he can only receive mail, so I'm writing him some letters and I'm encouraging others to send him letters also. He's my brother, and it hurts me to think of him in pain or suffering. I think he needs all the support he can get right now - he thinks his entire life is ruined. Combine alcohol, depression, job loss and legal problems and you've got a recipe for disaster. I'm also looking into some programs for drug coverage and health benefits.

So, lots of stuff happening, not all good, but that's life. Financially things are improving quickly, thank God. I'll be able to move soon, which will be very nice.

Starbucks must love me. I've been here for hours now, mooching off their electricity only having bought one coffee. If any of you hear of a case of "Starbucks Rage" where a customer ends up dead at the hands of a gang of rogue Barristas, it's probably me.