Divorce, We Have a Problem

by Elyse Rafferty Mitchell,  Author of “Meatballs and Peanut Butter”

Looking back now, a few days after my courtroom appointment to finalize my Divorce, it all seems so surreal.  I think about that morning and my memory feels like an outer-body experience.  I was there, but I remember it as if I was an onlooker.   It was a strange morning.  One I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  Once, or twice.

Nothing comes easy in Divorce, this I have learned several times over.  So it should come as no surprise that on that emotional morning, as I sat waiting outside of the courtroom, in a sterile, light-filled hallway on the 20th floor in downtown Chicago, that I would be met with such absurd words straight from my lawyer’s mouth.

“Um, we might have a problem.”

Um, what?

As I am aware, divorcing couples with small children in the state of Illinois are required to take a parenting class prior to the finalization of divorce.  As it turns out, a large majority of judges will allow this class to be taken post-court with the stipulation that the divorce is not “official” until the class is completed by both parties.  And as it turns out, we were assigned a judge (after having been reassigned that morning) who is a stickler for our participation and completion of this class before she would even review our case.

Oh.  Well.   Isn’t that something?   And I never expected the words that were to follow:

“We are just going to have to reschedule.”

Wait.  I’m sorry.  I thought I heard you say I am going to have to go through all of this again.  I must not have heard you correctly.

“We are going to have to reschedule after you have both completed the course.”

It was almost as if I was listening to someone speaking a different language.  The words were coming out, and I understood that they were words.  I could hear them and I could see my lawyer’s lips moving, but somehow, they didn’t seem to make any sense.  (And I think I was spinning in a tunnel, too.  Cue: hypnotic music.)

How could that be?  How could we have “missed” this one big portion of Divorce Requirements.  Neither of our lawyers had pushed that we do this prior to our court date?  No one I knew had mentioned this to be so.  Is this a joke?  Am I on Candid Camera?  Is this a “What Would You Do?” episode taping?

This cannot be happening.

Needless to say, my lawyer got an earful, fueled by the combination of my emotions that had been brewing for a few days.  Instead of having the metaphorical Devil vs. Angel on my shoulders arguing about the advice to give, I had my Ex (screaming about the plain and simple fact that we were not going to be paying for the legal fees associated with this mishap) and an incoherent, dazed and confused, still-in-shock version of myself (if I were Sean Penn as Joe Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High).

To think back on it now, it still seems so ridiculous.   It IS ridiculous.

My advice to divorcing couples: take your class before your court date regardless of what your lawyer says (or doesn’t say).

Not to drag this story out any further (which seems to be a trend with me these days), I will wrap this up by saying there is an online version of the class that my Ex has already completed (I’d like to pat him on the back for his 100% score) and I will need to complete as soon as possible.  And again, why was this not mentioned several months ago?

We are back on the court’s calendar for another shot at this: May 23.  Which, ironically enough, will be our 9.5 year wedding anniversary, to the day.  Only fitting.

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