Many thanks to my editor Erik Thread. If there are some errors still, its only because I played around a little with the final edits that Erik sent across.
"So, Judy, are you getting married to Jack once the divorce is through?"
My wife had informed me a week prior that she was divorcing me and marrying her high school boyfriend, Jack Ripper.
She looked up from her plate. "Yes. You should be receiving the divorce papers tomorrow. I am asking for no support for me, no alimony. I just want 40% of the total savings and 40% of the value of the house. I am not looking at your 401K account or anything else for that matter."
"What about custody of the children?" I asked.
"Joint custody, and either of us can be the primary parent. I know that we both love the children and we would not jeopardize their welfare." She looked directly into my eyes.
"That is no good. Two weeks with me and two weeks with you and deciding which holiday to spend with whom; half the time these would be difficult to schedule and would make for frequent tough decisions, problems that would tend to complicate their childhood. I am in favor of full custody to just one parent. And since I will be a single guy dating as many women as possible to find the perfect mate, I am sure I will not have enough time for children. I will spend a good deal of time with them with your permission, but I will not be responsible for them overnight or anything. I am selling this house as soon as possible and I am moving in with a friend who is also getting divorced. We plan to have some fun together before we tie the knot again." I poured myself another cup of coffee.
"So are you planning to relinquish your rights to the children?" she asked.
"Well, if Jack is ready to adopt them legally, sure. No matter how I try I will never be more than a weekend dad to them. Jack's house is a three hour drive from here and I am sure I could only make it on weekends, and besides, would you cancel all your weekend plans if told you I wanted to spend time with the kids? No. So basically I am reduced to being a dad who gets to spend time with his children only when it suits you and your new husband. It will be too painful to me.
"Best would be if I relinquish all rights to your children and marry again and have a few of my own with someone who will be with me when I grow old." I told her what the realistic picture looked like. "National surveys indicate that more than one-fourth of children living in mother-cared families never saw their fathers during the previous year, slightly more than one-fourth saw their fathers weekly, and among those children who maintain regular contact with their fathers, less than one-third had opportunities to spend significant amounts of time with them.
"I do not like the odds, and honestly, just because you feel you need to better your life, I see no need to put my life on hold to maintain a distant relationship with them. You thought more about your fulfillment than theirs when you began sleeping with Jack, and I don't see why I should not do the same. I will just let them know that I am willing to be around if they need me, and that you will insure if ever they need a father, Jack will step in. That way they will have a solid relationship with him and in time, I will be erased from their life."
Judy shouted at me at the top of her voice. "You are talking about my children here. They are not national statistics, they are your kids. How can you abandon them like this?"
"Do you think you have abandoned me?" I asked
"No. I have just fallen out of love and am doing something that will make my life more fulfilling. This is divorce not abandonment," she reasoned. "Then what do you think abandonment is? How would you define it?" I asked as I took another sip of my coffee.
"When someone you count on leaves you to fend for yourself. That according to me is abandonment,"
"Are you telling me I did not count on you? Or are telling me you are not leaving me to fend for myself?" I asked.
"You are just playing with words. What you are proposing is completely different from what has happened between us."
"Whatever. Either I get full custody and you relinquish your parental rights to both children, or you get custody and I relinquish mine. I do not want any ties to bind us together anymore. This break will be clean, after which we do not need to see each others' faces anymore," I said and walked off.
At the same time Jack was having a similar conversation with his wife who was relocating to California after the divorce to be miles away from Boston. She was adamant that she would not take any responsibility for their three school-age children. Although Jenny claimed she was moving to California, she was actually moving in with me. No, we had not been having an affair, but we had become really good friends and wanted to have a go at being with each other and giving our relationship a try. We'd had sex once, and to say it was dynamic would be an understatement.
Well, the divorce came and Jack and Judy were stuck with five children. I had to pay child support but no alimony. Jenny was getting alimony slightly higher than my child support and it was turning out to be a good deal for us. I did not give my new phone number or address to Judy, nor did Jenny give hers to Jack. They both knew our email addresses and that was the only way they could communicate with us.
Imagine my surprise one Saturday, when Jenny was at work. I answered the doorbell and found Judy at the front door. She was looking as if she had aged ten years in the last six months "Can I come in?" Judy asked me.
I was shocked to see her, but shrugged, "Why not? Do come in. How did you find me?"
"I followed you from your office one day. I wanted to talk to you face-to-face and clear up some things," she said as she sat down.
"What is it? I have been sending my child support checks on time and I have called the children once a week without fail," I said.
"Just wanted to talk. How have you been? Have you been enjoying your exciting bachelorhood[this is not really a typical American word from what seems to be a sort of middle class family]?" She looked around. "This does not seem to be a bachelor's apartment. This place has a woman's touch."
"Well, my divorced friend, my roommate, is a woman," I said with a sense of satisfaction.
"Oh! That was quick and painless. You already had her lined up even before we were formally divorced. Were you having an affair behind my back?" She asked in a sarcastic tone.
"Does it matter? And what is with this inquisition? I told you I wanted nothing to do with you once we were divorced. That is why I did not even give you my address. You have your children and you have your man. What would you need from me?"
"The children miss you. They ask about you constantly. Why don't you come to see them sometime?" she said softly.
"Look here. If I maintain a regular contact with them it is only going to hurt me more. They have their new father now — Jack — and I am sure he would not like me coming around and pampering the children so they grow resentful about his discipline. It is tough to be a good father and for Jack it must be even more difficult, having two new children who do not exactly know him. I am satisfied where I am. I promised you that I would not be a roadblock to your happiness and I request you be the same for me. Leave me alone. I must have been a sorry husband for you to spread your legs so willingly for Jack. Why would you want such a awful person, your ex-husband, to be anywhere near your children?" I began revising a plan.
"You were not a horrible husband. It is just that I loved Jack more," she replied with defiance.
"You and Jack dated for three years in high school, and he made you fall in love with him madly enough back then to throw a ten-year-old marriage down the drain. Does this not make a statement of how big a failure I am — I was unable to make my wife love me in ten years! You do not want your children around me. I am traveling a path to self-destruction and I will be gone before long." I was beginning to hope that my plan would work.
"I loved you with all my heart. I just met Jack and it was high school all over again. You are a good person and believe me when I tell you that the children are missing a large part of their life because of this," she countered.
"Because of what?" I asked.
"Because of this attitude that you have taken," she said
I thought for a moment and came to a decision.
"Okay, I will spend one weekend with my children each month. During that time I will stay at Jack's house with you as my wife. Jack will stay in a motel and I will sleep in the master bedroom with you. Agree to that and I will come back into their lives. I paid a price for their happiness and if Jack can pay a price for their happiness then I will be sure that he loves you and the children enough. Can he endure this for the greater good of the children?"