I sat in the chair, nervously clasping my hands and staring in disbelief at the lawyer on the other side of the desk. His words were still ringing in my ears. “You don’t have a hearing scheduled for next week”, he had just told me. I shook my head, “No, I have an evidentiary hearing next Wednesday”. He gently repeated, “You don’t have a hearing next week”. He turned and pulled some papers from the printer and slid them across the desk, “The last hearing was in November. Your husband and his lawyer showed up. You and your lawyer were a no show. The judge took your case off the schedule. You’ll basically have to start over.” I felt sick to my stomach. I looked down at the court printout that showed a summary of my case. There it was, in black and white. All the converstions I have had with my lawyer over the last few months swirled in my head. The continuance we were granted in November, the hearing scheduled for January that was again continued for an evidentiary hearing in February. None of it was true. I barely heard anything else the lawyer said. I walked out to my car, trying not to cry. I made it into my car before I lost it. Sobbing, I called my friend at work who has been encouraging me through my divorce. I could barely get the words out. My lawyer has been lying to me. Making up elaborate stories to cover up his failures. Ten months of my life that I will never get back.
I was devastated at this turn of events. I’m not sure what was more upsetting, the fact that my lawyer lied to me or the fact that I didn’t have a clue. I was healing from the abuse and gaslighting of my husband. Getting stonger and moving forward. Now, I had to wonder how this could happen to me, seemingly without warning. Had there been signs that I hadn’t noticed? Should I have questioned what my lawyer had told me? The betrayal of my husband now seemed intertwined with the betrayal of my lawyer. Worse yet, my faith in my own discernment seemed irrevocably shaken. I interviewed two other lawyers after my discovery, both women. I received even more bad news. My lawyer had not just been lying to me since the hearing in November. From day one, he had let almost every deadline pass without submitting proper notices. I so badly wanted to be divorced and put my marriage behind me. For months I have been pushing down my impatience, denying myself feelings of despair over how long it was taking to finalize my divorce. Rather than deal with the pain of still being married to my abuser, I put it out of my mind and refused to think about it. Everyone told me how well I was handling my situation. My sister, my friends, my co-workers. Even my counselor. The truth be told, some days I feel like my sanity is hanging by a thread. Every time I feel like I’m going to breakdown, I put it out of my mind. Frankly, I’m afraid that if I start to allow myself to feel, I will be overwhelmed by the pain.
After discovering the truth about my lawyer, I naturally started to think about my first husband. I got married at nineteen, defying my parents who didn’t much like my choice. In retrospect, I can hardly blame them. He was loud, obnoxious and would rarely look anyone in the eyes. When we first met, I thought he was so funny. He had a warped sense of humor and always had a crazy story to tell. I was young and impressed by his bravado. My own life had been very sheltered and I was painfully naive. He told me all about his life growing up. He was tormented all through school and accused of being gay. Even his father ridiculed him. He told me that in his senior year of high school, he got his girlfriend pregnant. When the baby was a year or so old, both his girlfriend and his son died in a car accident. I can still remember him crying on my shoulder as I comforted him. One day, after about a year or so of marriage, he suddenly started sobbing uncontrollably. Concerned, I begged him to tell me what was wrong. He finally broke down and admitted that he had lied about having a girlfriend and child. To calm him down, I told him that it was okay. We never talked about it again. After thirteeen years of marriage, I found out that he was gay. I have to wonder, how does one not realize that one’s own husband is gay? And how does one not realize that one’s own lawyer is systematically lying to them?
It’s been three weeks since I found out about my lawyer. Somehow I have to get past this. Intellectually I know that I just need to move forward. But, I feel emotionally befuddled. Perhaps I feel like somehow my husband scored a victory. I know that he had nothing to do with it. But, in the end I’m still married and no closer to being free. I still have his last name. I still pay for his health insurance every paycheck. I still have to spend money to hire another lawyer. I just want to be me, without him.