No, this is not some soppy story about my life and my divorce. This is just stating the cold hard facts of what I had to endure in the process as well as what I have learnt and what I wish I knew when I started the process!
After three year, seven month and 10 days, my divorce was finalised. Even on the day, it nearly did not happen as my ex and his lawyer did not pitch up at court. The magistrate took the initiative to make some of the changes, and signed the final decree. I was elated at finally having the chance to put this ordeal/chapter behind me. But as experience has shown me, the joy was short lived.
So, just a little background of how my experience was. In the whole process I saw about 5 lawyers, paid over R50k in lawyer’s fees, lost my sanity, was diagnosed with depression, was judged, lost hope, lost my faith and lost my confidence and trust in our legal system. I ended up in a clinic for depression and after some hard and honest introspection, I had to concede only I can change my situation. Divorce is a soul wrenching experience which can leave you overwhelmed and scarred.
Looking back, I wish I knew the following:
- Try and work out the details of how assets will be split before you go to a lawyer
- If you have minor children ask the ‘Clerk of the Court’ to direct you to the ‘Family Advocate’
- Ask him, the ‘Clerk of the Court’ as many questions as you can or do research on the topic
- Don’t let your emotions make any of your decisions
- Always think of the bigger picture/future as you make decision
- Don’t make a lot of calls to the lawyers (they charge by the minute)
- On the settlement agreement, make sure you understand all the wording and let your lawyer reflect as much information regarding the settlement on the agreement. Also, in case of non-compliance of the ‘Divorce Decree’, what remedial steps will/should be taken
- If you are employed, try and get your HR department to assist you regarding your emotional well-being, enrol in an (EWP program)
- Keep track of your finances at all times
It’s been a year since my divorce and I am still struggling to find my feet. I left with nothing, while he got half my pension, the house, my vehicle as well as the furniture I paid for. With hindsight, I could have dealt with it more intelligently, but my emotions got the better of me as I just wanted to get it over and done with. I just wanted ‘peace of mind’ and to not go back and forth with the lawyers. Also, financially it was steep to pay all the lawyers’ fees. I am more educated than my ex but he had a better lawyer than mine, I guess. His lawyer knew that I had to give half my pension to my spouse; he on the other hand had nothing, as he was not permanently employed, as per his request with his employer. I moved out of the house in 2014, due to him being aggressive and abusive towards me. I tried to get a restraining order against him but on the day of the hearing, he brought his lawyer with and I was alone. Me, being uninformed agreed to have a lawyer with the next time. Due to work constraints I could not take off again and the matter was scrapped.
My ex never paid the bond in the time he was staying alone in the house and I had to save the property twice from being auctioned at my expense which amounted to over R75k, money which I never got compensated for. His lawyer just said it was part of the estate so I will not be able to claim, which my lawyer agreed to. He also had to contribute towards our daughter’s education fees and medical expenses, which he never once did. Unfortunately, lawyers are expensive and they do not charge you less than R1000 per hour which can add to a hefty sum if you dispute every detail on the settlement agreement. I ended up with no house, half my pension, and a judgement for rates which he is also refused to pay. I will need to do this to clear my name in order to buy a property as I am currently renting a very small room with huge rent amount. It seems that you just lose out at the end. I was already in an abusive marriage, and, it seemed that the process of getting out of it was even more abusive?
When phoning my lawyer about my ex not keeping his end of the decree, I was told I will have to go to the court to have it enforced, which means I need a lawyer for this, which means money per hour, absenteeism from work, having to deal with my ex again and dealing with what it seem an incompetent justice system, so I am just leaving it and trying to work it out on my own. Luckily he paid the bond, now it is just a matter of transferring the house into his name clearing the rates and I’m rid of him ‘once and for all.’
This is just my view and my opinion about divorce. I am sure some people had a “better” experience than me but I think we can all agree that emotionally it is the worst thing to go through. I guess that is why I hesitated to begin with it due to thinking about the emotional toll it would take on my family. Having the family unit disbanded is very traumatic but I am glad I did it as I am a role model as well as a mother. I cannot let my children think it is acceptable to be abusive and to receive abuse. Upon hearing my decision, my eldest son told me he fully supports me and I should have done it earlier. I thought I was shielding them from harm, but they could see what was happening and how I was abused, even though I down-played it when I was beaten. I am in no way looking for sympathy as my past greatly determines where I am currently going. I used to be a wreck over having everything perfect for my ex-husband, yet it did not stop him from being abusive. This might sound strange, but in a way I feel extremely sorry for him, as violence was the only example he ever saw.
I am glad I made the decision to leave him as I don’t want my sons to grow into bullies and abusers. It is a fact that children repeat what they see and if I did not make a stand to leave my abusive marriage, I’m afraid I would have given my children the idea that being abusive and being abused are acceptable. I hope my story gave someone the courage to change their circumstances. I don’t advocate divorce, rather try to resolve your differences, but if all else fails, do what is best for your health, your mind and your spirit. Since my divorce, as much as I have lost, I have gained so much more.
I have made friends I never would have been socialising with before. I have gained insights into life and I now have peace. I have a good job that I can perform without the concern of going home after a hard day’s work to be abused and threatened. I try to live simply. I enjoy being alone and spending time on my hobbies. I don’t even have a television as I now so much enjoy the quietness and my own company. And no, divorce is not the end; it could possibly be the start of something beautifully new, especially if you use your past mistakes and heartache to navigate a new beginning, a new way!