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July 6, 2002
My Story

"Cessation of work is not accompanied by cessation of expenses."
-- - - Cato the Elder

Continued from Front Page:
My Story

I need people to realize that doing things pro se, while reducing initial legal costs, may cost you in the end. The cost can mount to much more than dollars, it can mount into emotional strain, depression, and when little things like sitting and traveling cause pain, well, that pain can become unbearable for a week. The life you were beginning to enjoy can be taken away , much more quickly than it was attained.

In 1992, I left my husband. I could discuss the reasons, but let's just say we had irreconcilable differences. I spent a great deal oft time at the State Supreme Court law library, researching types of documentation that was necessary in regards to having a viable legal separation. My intent was to see the irreconcilable differences become reconcilable. It did not work out that way.

I would prefer leaving the what went wrongs right here, just imagine Murphy's Law: 'What ever can go wrong, will go wrong." I suppose that was God's way of telling me I had somehow taken the wrong road on my journey, and it was time to pack, up, backtrack, and head down the left fork instead of the right.

My ex-husband and I sat at our kitchen table, and drew up the contract, each specifying what he or she wanted, the other agreeing, bickering, until we worked it out. The paper was types up, we each read it, went to a notary, and signed it. We each had a copy, neither of us filed the paper immediately. We waited, things got worse between us, I left the state. My daughter was by then, in college, living in the dorms, my son came to Florida with me.

I was staying with a friend, looking for a job, I had already located an apartment. I received a telephone call from my estranged husband indicating that if I would not push the issue of child support and maintenance (hmm, I hadn't pushed it so far) he would give me the house. I had accepted his offer of $110 monthly per child and $100 maintenance per month for myself. I barley received the child support. I felt it would be easier if I accepted the offer. 

I returned to New York, and the following month took possession of the house. A contractor had been hired to replace the floors in the kitchen and dining room, A few years later, I replaced the floors because of the job that had been done. The contractor was also suppose to close in a doorway, replace two windows and the front porch section of the house. The contractor had left unsecured poles holding up the roof of the house, he had done nothing with the doorway, he had removed the from siding from the house, and replaced a long window with a short used window, that had no screens and no handles to screw the windows open. I could look outside from the front room. I was also told the septic had been fixed, I suppose if you call digging a trench and running a straight pipe from the house to the creek fixed, well then.......

Let's move on, I had finally met the man I felt destined to be with, my present husband, Charlie. Within a few weeks of meeting Charlie, I thought it was finally time to make the break. Charlie and I met with my estranged husband and his fiancée at their apartment, where we sat and hand wrote the exceptions to what our original separation agreement tended to. I then had my estranged husband read and initial the separation agreement, page by page, to assure there would be no further discord. I filed the separation agreement, and began the divorce proceedings. 

The actual day-to-day routine that I found necessary to secure the divorce was unnerving. It took almost more than I was capable of giving. Being a lawyer truly takes a man, or woman, of a different breed, one that has no emotions, feels nothing, sees only the light at the end of a tunnel, nothing within that tunnel. They are a breed that sees nothing but the bottom line. 

The fact remains, my estranged husband and I agreed on everything, or so I thought. He did not show up in court, I received my divorce via default. It was plain and simple. A judge's signature on the bottom of the final papers made it official, my marriage had ended, my estranged husband was now my ex-husband.

Things were fine, or were they? I married a man I had known for a mere six months shortly after my divorced was finalized. I made my intent to my new husband quite clear, my ex was obnoxious and would try everything in his power to cause problems between us, he would  have to look through all of the deception, because I would not allow this man to stray from his children's lives. My present husband took a lot. We would awaken to find my ex-husband rummaging through our home. We would get calls in the middle of the day, night, whenever he felt the urge. We both simply ignored the the intrusions as much as possible.

My ex-husband told me he wanted me to waive my rights to his retirement, and if I didn't he would kill me. I ignored his threats, I was actually an expert at ignoring his threats. He told my children that if I didn't waive my rights, they would be without a mother, they reported his threats to me, and as I did, ignored the threats. I was out-of-state a few months after I had remarried and he made the threats to my present husband. My husband was beside himself, I told him to let the threats go in one ear and out the other, retirement was a long way off, plain and simple, I was not about to deal with the issue any further than by doing what I had to do. That was fill out a paper indicating each item I was to receive in the divorce and mail it to the retirement system, which I did. My job was done, or so I thought.

My ex-husband at one point in time, shortly after my second marriage, indicated that he had attempted to remove me from his retirement and all they would allow him to do was lower my position as beneficiary. He again made a threat concerning me waiving my rights, I again ignored him. I felt assured by his statement that things were fine, plain and simple, when it came time for him to retire, I would receive the half for the years we lived together, which was our agreement. I was wrong.

My ex-husband was diagnosed as terminal in March of 2001, the doctors anticipated immediate imminent death. My ex quickly applied for his retirement benefits, the rest of the family, including myself did what we could to assure that he would be able to see his daughter married. I was on crutches, recuperating from surgery, but I managed to get things around so that we could have a private family ceremony for my daughter whose wedding was to be at the end of May. I visited with my ex when his new wife was not around, which was frequently, I spoke with him on the telephone, but I honestly do not recall the subject of his retirement being discussed. Our conversations dealt with our feelings and mistakes. While my ex-husband declared what he felt was his biggest mistake as remarrying, he never once felt that things between us had been a mistake. We both expressed our love for one another. The facts are simple, the retirement was unimportant, the important thing was to  settle things between us.

On the night that my ex-husband passed away, my daughter stopped at his house to check on him. She called me hysterically. I told her to call 911 and I drove to her father's house. I checked for a pulse, and found none, so I took my daughter outside where we awaited the emergency team. I stayed with  my daughter until my ex-husband's wife returned from work, a place I felt she should not have been, especially since she was collecting totally disability for an injury she received at another job. I returned home and contacted my son and my husband, mourning my ex-husband's passing without being able to be by my children's side because I was not wanted at my ex-husband's home. I respected that.

My daughter stopped at my house on her way home that evening, despite her grief she had witnessed something that she knew was wrong and stopped to tell me about it. The new wife was quickly rifling through things so that she could claim what was hers. My daughter noticed that the retirement form no longer had my name attached to it, but rather the new wife's name was listed as soul beneficiary. I thanked my daughter for the information, but I was still too distraught to consider what that meant. 

The next day, I felt that I should do something for my ex-husband's family, after all, he was the father of my children and deep down, I felt despite everything he was still, very much my family. Both my mother and myself spent hours making food to take to the new wife, BIG MISTAKE! She graciously accepted our food, but proceeded to tell us, unemotionally, what a BASTARD my ex-husband was. Without arguing the point, and knowing full well what he could be like, I still felt he deserved a benefit of a doubt, after all, he had passed on less than 24-hours prior to that. I also knew, from experience, that pain makes you an extremely grouchy individual. Rather than accept my explanation on his behalf, she proceeded into her tirade condemning my son, something I had bit my lip on several occasions about. Again, I bit my lip. She then proceeded to tell me that she hoped no one felt they were going to get anything now, because as soon as my ex passed on, everything became hers. I simply agreed, not wishing to rip her eyes out at that moment, besides, I could tell my 76 year-old mother was about to do it anyway. We left, my mother was so infuriated, she cried.

There was a mere one day viewing at an out-of-the-way funeral home. The new wife insisted this was what my ex-husband wanted, my children and I felt differently, but refrained from objecting. While I fought my grief, I watched the new wife. She shed a tear or two at the appropriate moment, but other than that she told people she was going to have to have an order of protection placed against my son. People came to me offering condolences, and asking if I knew what she was saying. I pleaded with them to pay no attention to her, explaining that I now truly understood what my ex had been trying to tell me over the past few months.

She asked everyone to come to her house the next day. My son, who had always despised the woman went out of respect to his father. His father had a four wheeler that my son would often drive his children around on. The children wanted to go back to the pond, my son, unknowingly went to get the four wheeler, the keys had been removed and hidden. He went back to ask about the keys and was told if he wanted to go anywhere, he could walk. He walked, grabbing his children, he walked out of the house and returned home. Two days later, my son received a letter from the new wife's attorney stating that my son was NEVER AGAIN TO SET FOOT ON HER PROPERTY!

This woke me up, I began my telephone calls to the retirement system to find out what had happened. I corresponded with them. I took my divorce papers to a family court judge who attempted to write a DRO (domestic relations order) New York State refused to cooperate with the judge. I had no idea that the paperwork, by the way it has since disappeared from the file, that I sent in was not enough to stake claim to the agreed upon portion of my ex-husband's retirement. I was told by an attorney for New York State retirement that she did not agree with the judge, she felt that I did not have enough to stake claim against the retirement. I was also told that the State was probably not going to enter into a retirement agreement, they would instead pay a death benefit which would exclude my claim. 

I was also refused by New York state any access to the files because they were private, yet my daughter reported that my ex-brother-in-law checked and was assured that not only did the retirement go through, but the new wife was receiving 100% of it. I made repeated telephone calls, sent letters and email and five days before my ability to appeal the decision was up, I was notified that the state had decided NOT to honor my request, and I had 5 days to appeal the decision.

Needless to say, I was forced to hire an attorney, something I truly cannot afford, but I do know what my ex-husband and I agreed upon, and with the actions of the new wife, I felt my only recourse was to fight for what was mine. However, I am not only fighting the state, I am forced to also fight against the new wife. I went through a grueling cross examination in which her lawyer lied about not seeing my divorce papers, hmmm, there is a criminal investigation going on concerning her signing a waiver and him gaining access into private files. He became adamant with me, trying to force me to say I was given the house in lue of the retirement. When I restated the deal made about the house, he attempted to make me say that I was happy with the amendment made in my divorce. What he was actually trying to make me say was that I was happy with the amendment and wanted no claim to the incorporated separation agreement. I told him he was absolutely correct, I was extremely happy, because I knew the separation agreement still held. 

The hearing created extreme pain for me, both physical and emotional. I feel that I am being forced to spit out all of the deceptions my ex-husband did over the years, deceptions that are well documented. However, I am having a very difficult time with that, why do I have to condemn a man who died a painful death? Instead, I would like to condemn the woman he married, pull out the papers proving that she never had a QDRO (qualified domestic relations order) filed against her ex-husband's retirement until after my ex-husband applied for his retirement, is this not indicative that someone within NY State said that I did not have an adequate DRO therefore they could get away with taking my name off the retirement? I would like to hand over papers that I located within Erie County, that show without a doubt there was no Power of Attorney on file yet two months after my ex-husband was diagnosed as terminal, she signed his name to a loan for $38,000 and to an insurance paper for that loan providing death and disability benefits. I would like to show that this loan was paid off in November of 2001. There are a great deal of other things I would like to hand over to the court, but none of this is pertinent to my dispute. 

So, all I can do is share my story and warn others, men and women alike, if you do obtain a divorce and you agree to split your ex-spouses retirement, get to a lawyer and have the appropriate paperwork submitted now. The $500 average cost to take care of things in the present is a far cry from the emotional, physical, mental and financial cost to you later.

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Page Last Updated: 7/11/2002
C 2002 L Munro

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