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WWYD? (long)

I'm writing these here on E because I know there are several people here with experience in law (of which I have none), and might be able to help me with a (somewhat) legal issue that a friend of mine is having. 

I have a former coworker who is one of my very close friends.  She is a few years older than me (in her early 30s) and has been married for almost 14 years to a man she married straight out of high school.  They have five children, ages 5 - 13.

Shortly after their marriage, her husband began drinking heavily.  He started going to AA, with her support, but in the past few years he has stopped attending.  He lost his job last year and has done nothing about getting another one.  Although he is a SAHD, he doesn't do any of the housework or watch the children.  Often times the oldest son is responsible for making sure that the children eat and do their schoolwork, while their mother is at work full-time.

Yesterday my friend told me that her husband has started screaming at her daily when she gets home from work, to the point where she is afraid to go home.  After he stormed out of the house the other day, she spoke to the kids, and they older two said that they had been on the verge of calling 911, they were that worried about their mom's safety.  She says she doesn't believe that he would ever hurt her or the children intentionally, but that he is losing control and she is scared that he will have a breakdown and hurt someone.

She wants to separate but according to her, CT has no legal separation (I don't know if this is true, this is just what she told me), and so she has no way of making him leave unless she divorces him.  She's met with a divorce lawyer who told her that a divorce would be "financially ruinous" to her on her one income, and that if there was any way she could reconcile with her husband, she should try to. 

I'm starting to get very worried for her and the children.  I know it isn't my business, although I did tell her to call me, no matter what or when, if she needs help and I will try and help her.  She promised she would.  But it really chilled me to hear her say how scared she has become of her husband.

Does anyone know of any sound advice I could give her?  TIA.  And sorry this was so long.
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Re: WWYD? (long)

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    I would absolutely have her call a domestic violence shelter or hotline in her area.  Even if he hasn't physically hurt her or the kids yet, he is showing signs that he is definitely headed that way, and he is verbally and emotionally abusing her.  Oftentimes DV shelters have on-site attorneys that can give legal advice and at least help her get a restraining order on the guy until the dust settles and they both decide on a more permanent solution.  They will also help her work out some sort of financial agreement with the court so that it is very specifically laid out who has access to what and why.  The court can also mandate counseling and temporary custody with these agreements.

    If there are any law schools nearby, I would check to see if they have a legal clinic.  They are a great resource--basically, law students work for you (supervised) for free to gain experience.
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    not sure why a lawyer would tell her to stay for money. 

    my advice to her would be to pack up and leave him and the house, even if it means cramming the kids and herself into a 2 bed apartment until she figures things out.   you cant put a price on safety.
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    I agree with Brie.  She should contact a DV place for advice.  I think the advice that lawyer gave her is crap. 

    Is he drinking again?  It seems obvious that he is, but you didn't really say that.  Maybe he has/had a sponsor she can get in touch with who could reach out to him?
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    kikibabykikibaby member
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    edited July 2010
    I don't know anything about the legal aspects, but it seems to me that she shouldn't stay in an abusive (or at least, getting there) marriage because of money.  Even if it was 'financially ruinous', wouldn't it be better to be broke than to be living in fear every day? 

    Also, I would think that with 5 kids, the courts are NOT going to leave her broke, but I could be wrong.
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    I think if her own kids are scared enough to comtemplate calling 911, then there's a real threat there. She definitely needs to find a new lawyer, because the one she talked to sounds completely ignorant telling her she should stay in an abusive relationship.

    Brie's advice is great. A woman's shelter should be able to help her out in so many ways and they are often able to help the children involved as well. I'm not a lawyer at all, but there's got to be some way to get this man out of her life and not ruin her financially.
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    In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_etiquette_wwyd-long-5?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding%20BoardsForum:9Discussion:9831873b-7e2f-4335-8dbf-4a3aa3462323Post:395e9a83-9755-4054-bd6f-09e0c853b77f">Re: WWYD? (long)</a>:
    [QUOTE]I agree with Brie.  She should contact a DV place for advice.  I think the advice that lawyer gave her is crap. <strong> Is he drinking again?  It seems obvious that he is, but you didn't really say that.  Maybe he has/had a sponsor she can get in touch with who could reach out to him?</strong>
    Posted by danieliza1127[/QUOTE]

    Dani, I asked her that.  She says that while he hasn't shown any signs of actually drinking, there is a concept she heard about in Al-Anon (which is for the family members of alcoholics) called "dry drunk", where the alcoholic still shows symptoms of alcholism even if they're not drinking alcohol (sleeping during the day, outbursts of anger, unreliability, etc.).  She thinks that this is the case.  And she says she hasn't seen his sponsor in years, and he doesn't hang around with anyone from AA anymore.

    I don't understand why a lawyer would tell her that, either.  I honestly question the legitimacy of the guy she spoke to, because I know she doesn't have a lot of money, so I have no idea how qualified he was to give legal advice.  I didn't ask her, though.
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    Also, I would think that with 5 kids, the courts are NOT going to leave her broke, but I could be wrong.

    teh court can award anything they want, but if he isnt working, he's not going to be able to pay.  if he had a job, they could garner his wages, but she probably wont see a dime from him.  but she could get public assistance.
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    In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_etiquette_wwyd-long-5?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding%20BoardsForum:9Discussion:9831873b-7e2f-4335-8dbf-4a3aa3462323Post:b0e9810b-f888-45cf-a5d8-25eedfc9cd5a">Re: WWYD? (long)</a>:
    [QUOTE]Also, I would think that with 5 kids, the courts are NOT going to leave her broke, but I could be wrong. teh court can award anything they want, but if he isnt working, he's not going to be able to pay.  if he had a job, they could garner his wages, but she probably wont see a dime from him.  but she could get public assistance.
    Posted by Calypso1977[/QUOTE]

    Ditto all of that. 
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    Thanks, Brie, for your legal advice, and thank ALL of you ladies for your suggestions.  I'm definitely going to recommend that she get in touch with a DV shelter -- I know there's one in the town we both live in -- and recommend the legal clinic. 

    I really want her to get out of there.  I know she's nervous but I love her and those kids.  I'm scared to death that something is going to happen to them all.
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    In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_etiquette_wwyd-long-5?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding BoardsForum:9Discussion:9831873b-7e2f-4335-8dbf-4a3aa3462323Post:b0e9810b-f888-45cf-a5d8-25eedfc9cd5a">Re: WWYD? (long)</a>:
    [QUOTE]Also, I would think that with 5 kids, the courts are NOT going to leave her broke, but I could be wrong. teh court can award anything they want, but if he isnt working, he's not going to be able to pay.  if he had a job, they could garner his wages, but she probably wont see a dime from him.  but she could get public assistance.
    Posted by Calypso1977[/QUOTE]

    I meant that I couldn't see them telling HER to give HIM money.
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    If he's a SAHD, are they not all living on her one income already? I know the legal fees would hurt, but it's not like she would lose an income if she left.
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    In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/wedding-boards_etiquette_wwyd-long-5?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Wedding%20BoardsForum:9Discussion:9831873b-7e2f-4335-8dbf-4a3aa3462323Post:e66cf608-87cd-4815-95a6-70cb0a2eff3e">Re: WWYD? (long)</a>:
    [QUOTE]If he's a SAHD, are they not all living on her one income already? I know the legal fees would hurt, but it's not like she would lose an income if she left.
    Posted by georgia_bride09[/QUOTE]

    I think the legal fees are what she was talking about.

    BUT, at the same time...up until last year, she was working part-time with me and being a SAHM, while he worked full time.  When he lost his job last year, the two of them decided that whoever got a full-time job first would go to work, and the other would be the stay at home parent until the youngest was in kindergarten (which is this fall) and work part-time.  It didn't surprise me that she got the job; she's brighter and a harder worker than he is, and she's definitely more charismatic.  So she went to work full-time, and he...did nothing. 

    So I'm sure that years ago, when she had no real income to survive on, the lawyer would have been right in saying that she'd never be able to afford a divorce, plus she'd have trouble getting custody of the kids with only a part-time job to support them.  That's not the case anymore.
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    I would also say, the next time one of them thinks they *maybe* should call the police- CALL THEM. It certainly won't hurt her case to show a record of domestic disturbance issues with him at fault.
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    If she has access to a computer there are ways to file for a divorce without going through a lawyer.....  I did not have the money to get a divorce, but the thought of spending the rest of my days with a man who outwardly hated me and demeaned me in front of our kids, was not for me.  I can send you the sites that I used, which will have links to the forms that need to be filled out. 
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    There's a good chance the court would tell her to pay him alimony. I'm not licensed in CT so I don't know the law there, but it doesn't matter in the eyes of the court which sex the SAHP is - if the situation were reversed and she stayed at home, he would be expected to pay her alimony. Just because he's male doesn't change the situation.

    Now, if she keeps the children, then child support becomes an issue so that could even out the playing field. That's assuming she keeps the kids and they aren't joint conservators with equal time.

    WRT to the abusive situation, what really sucks is that she's just in a bad spot legally. Technically, he hasn't hit her and judges won't necessarily be that sympathetic to the fact that he drinks and verbally abuses her because (1) it's not verifiable and (2) everyone says things like that (it's just in this case, it's really really true).

    If this were my friend, I'd tell her to call the cops next time so at least there's a record and try to get a restraining order or protective order against him (although that may be difficult without physical abuse - dunno, depends on the law there).

    Crappy situation - I'm really sorry for her.
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    edited July 2010
    BUT, at the same time...up until last year, she was working part-time with me and being a SAHM, while he worked full time.  When he lost his job last year,

    Didn't see that he's a recent SAHD...that changes things considerably. I'm sure she could do a cheap divorce, dependng on their asset situation, and if she gets full custody of the children, she should be ok.

    I don't do divorce law on a daily basis but I've handled divorces pro bono through the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program for people who can't afford to pay for them. I'm sure there's a similar program where she lives.
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    I wonder if the lawyer was thinking she'd end up owing him some alimony since he's a stay-at-home parent. But if it's that recent, I can't see any reason why she would. Other than that, I can't imagine why it would be financially ruinous to divorce. And even if it does come to that -- isn't her and the children's safety more important any way?

    If it were my friend, I'd advise that she speak with another lawyer and find a way to do this.
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