My wife left me for a woman -- could I please have my divorce now?

I've been through hell for two and a half years, and I'd really like this marriage to be officially over!

Published December 23, 2005 1:59PM (EST)

Dear Cary:

My wife left me almost two and a half years ago for a woman. After having worked through everything involving the infidelity, the gay issue, custody of our then 1-1/2-year-old daughter (although I'm not sure I'll ever be OK with that), etc., I'm ready to move on with my life.

We decided to go to a mediator, as neither of us was financially able to hire lawyers to take care of the divorce. The first year of mediation was rocky, as I felt I was getting the short end of the stick, and I was fighting for custody of my daughter. Time has cooled things out, and we are what you might call "amicable," although I don't really believe that's how things are. I think that I've become amicable and she's become vindictive and controlling. My (still) wife presents a veneer of kindness and responsibility (she's an ESL teacher and "wonderful" mother). However, she for some reason cannot let go. I've taken care of all the paperwork, even redoing all of it when both of us moved to different counties. I've initiated meetings to go over the final divorce agreement, I've set useless deadlines that have come and gone. It's two and a half years later and I'm still married to this woman.

She had an affair with a friend of her younger brother's, and she quickly moved in with her after I asked her to leave our house. They're still together and seemingly happy. I had predicted it would last only a few months, but everything seems great, and my daughter loves my wife's girlfriend and girlfriend's family. I've met the woman I should have met 10 years ago, and we bought a house together, closer to my daughter. My girlfriend moved from another state to be with me and sacrificed her career so that I wouldn't have to leave my daughter. We intend to have children and get married; however, this never-ending divorce is holding us back.

I used to think it was funny. Now I wake up every day infuriated. I drift further and further away from my daughter every day (I'm only "allowed" to see her twice a week, and those visits are tenuous at best). Keep in mind, I was rolling along, assuming that life was all set. I was married, owned a house in a suburb, and had a wonderful daughter. My wife and I had even talked about a second child two weeks before she left. We were the best man and maid of honor in her brother's wedding one week before she left. Obviously, she has some far deeper issues to deal with that she was never willing to address with me. Sexual abuse, abusive father masquerading as a caring, loving family man. That's not my problem anymore.

I don't have the money to hire a lawyer and file for me, but I'm considering just filling up a credit card and taking care of it that way. She always promises that we'll get it done, and it never happens. What should I do?

Left in Limbo

Dear Left in Limbo,

First, let's take stock of what's happened. I mean, my Lord, as you say, you were all set! Then out of nowhere you had a tremendous blow. But you bounced back. You did what was necessary. And things worked out for you. You met somebody. You bought another house. You're doing OK.

So I say, Bravo! Any step of the way, a man could have gotten twisted up in this and drowned or choked or just turned to stone, sat down to ponder it and never gotten up, or said to hell with it all and started hitch-hiking. You have survived something profound.

I say this because although it's no doubt driving you nuts and while I wouldn't blame you for harboring the darkest and most harrowing thoughts of what you'd like to do to settle it, the truth is you are very close to the end of this thing.

However, while at first I thought that if you could just come up with some clever way to get her to sign the final divorce papers you would be in the clear, the more I think about it, the more I think you probably ought to have a lawyer on your side. Because although people do tend to drag their feet when it comes to signing the final papers, something else may be going on. This woman has demonstrated that she is unpredictable and unreadable. She may just be dragging her feet, or she may be angling for some advantage that you cannot yet see. She may even be angling for an advantage that she cannot see!

So I think you need to protect yourself. A good lawyer would be able to poke around and see if there are any such future aggravations for you hidden in this agreement that she has not yet signed. And, presumably, that lawyer will be able to bring some pressure to bear on the situation so that this matter can be closed. That lawyer might also, in the process, suggest some things you may have agreed to which you might want to renegotiate from a position of relatively greater strength. After all, I notice that you are not happy with the custody provisions.

Just a thought. I understand that your main wish is to finish this quickly. I'm just thinking, since her recalcitrance prevents you from finishing it quickly anyway, you may want to reconsider some of the concessions you have already made.

But that's for you and your lawyer to discuss. It may be that her delays have certain legal implications. It may even be that her failure to respond will constitute default and the divorce will become final in that way. I do not know. I have no idea. That's why you need a lawyer at this point.

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