Letter To All

Februrary 15th, 2011
To Whomever Will Listen,

I cannot get divorced. After almost three years of negotiating with my husband, attorneys, and doing some serious reflection on new tactics, I am still no closer to a resolution. How can I fight a man when I depend upon him for support and have NO money of my own? How can I get what’s fair? I have no savings, plus marital credit card debt that I can never hope to repay as things are now.

My husband had both a part-time girlfriend and an ongoing relationship with a mistress, and both became pregnant and had children by him during our 12 year marriage (we lived together for 21 years total). Now our son and I live in poverty, and my husband’s life is unchanged. He is a musician and recently performed in Dubai and Saudi Arabia while our son and I went without heat in single digit weather. We depend upon food stamps to eat and state assistance to heat our home while my husband has experienced virtually no change in lifestyle.

When my husband disclosed his pregnant mistress (in ’08), I left our Chicago home with our 5 year old son to live next door to my aging parents in upstate New York (in a small rental property they provided for us). Initially I was represented by attorney Alan Toback of Chicago; he did virtually nothing for me but take a $20K retainer and secure a monthly support amount of $750 for me on which we two must live. He is no longer my attorney.

My husband and I discuss things calmly, we have a good time as a family when he visits. I don’t speak ill of him to our son. He has told me that he is not interested in marrying his mistress, but if we divorce, she will pressure him to do so, therefore he is not motivated to conclude the divorce. He won’t budge on negotiations. Won’t give us more to live on, won’t buy me out. We are stalled. What action can I take?

My son is too young to be left alone, he is legally blind (which brings with it a whole set of logistic challenges) and my parents are too old to take care of him. While I am working to build my piano teaching studio and gleaning some income from that, I am unable to take a typical day job, as my son needs me at this age. My current attorney advised that the judge will not increase my support by much – especially if it appears I’m not actively looking for work. As my attorney sees it, teaching piano lessons does not constitute a ‘real’ job in the court’s eyes. Is this so? I have not yet appeared in court personally as I haven’t the money to travel. Might it help me to attend a hearing in person?

My husband made over $110K a year three years ago, but now shows $80K on paper. He is able to declare what he chooses, and on paper he now shows to be making far less than I believe he makes. I have touring itineraries, articles and interviews which show he does at least 200 dates a year – and yet my attorney does not feel this is viable evidence in support of his income. Is this so? His first illegitimate child is potentially owed $850 a month in support, while our son and I together are receiving less than that for all our living expenses. How can this be legal?

I invested $66K of my own money in our first home 23 years ago and now want him to buy me out. While he agrees in principle to paying me back, he says he can’t, as he’s unable. (Anecdotally I offer that he is an only child of wealthy parents who could easily co-sign on a loan in order to buy me out. He is able.) He is just unwilling. If left to the court, the judge would order sale of our properties, yet due to the market, they are currently worth less than the purchase price – so that’s a dead end. What can I do?

I am fast losing faith in the system. Can justice come only to those who can afford it? I hope someone can prove otherwise. If anyone can recommend any positive action I might take, I welcome suggestions.