It took the court six months after the 120-Day Status Conference for the Court to find three consecutive days to set aside for the trial. The day of trial arrived, and we were ready to proceed. When we arrived in the courtroom, we asked the judge for a pre-trial conference in one final effort to try to settle the case. The attorneys met with the judge in chambers and gave the judge a brief overview of the issues that Annie and Sam had not been able to resolve. The judge, without pre-judging the case, gave us some insight and ideas, and allowed us some time to speak to our clients.
We spent the rest of the day negotiating and cajoling our clients. We asked for the judge’s input when we were stuck. By 4:45 that afternoon, we had resolved all of the issues. While the process had been extremely expensive for both Annie and Sam, at least we did not have to go through the grueling process of a trial. My concern was that after all the horrible things that would be said at trial, Annie and Sam would not be able to sit together at Jason or Jennifer’s college graduation ceremonies, their weddings, or any other happy family events.
Neither Annie nor Sam was happy with the final agreement, which is the hallmark of a good settlement. I suspected that Annie would have been even less happy with the judge’s decision. Worse, she would have lost all control over the outcome. Annie was going to be able to keep the house, which had been the most important thing to her, but she was going to be on a very tight budget to make ends meet. She had continued to look for a job, and a few leads that sounded promising. Any income would supplement the alimony and investment income she would be receiving and make the funds last longer.
Unfortunately, the investment income was going to be less than it would have been if she and Sam had been able to resolve the issues at mediation. Since the time of mediation, each party had spent close to six figures fighting and preparing for trial. At least Sam and Annie had saved for Jason and Jennifer’s college tuition before the marriage fell apart, so they did not have to worry about finding money for that expense. Still, had both parties worked a little harder at setting aside their emotions, they would have saved a lot of money for themselves that went to their attorneys.
A year later, Annie sent me an email. She had found a job, and she and Sam had managed to move past the animosity and remain civil. She was dating again, and enjoying the freedom of single life where she made her own decisions. She had complete control of the remote control and could watch her beloved Baltimore Orioles without interruption. She had even learned to sleep in the middle of the bed. Jason had graduated from college and moved back to Seattle where he had a great job with Adobe. Jennifer had another year before she finished, but she was happy and doing well. Annie saw Jonah and his family regularly, and she had resolved much of her anger at Sam.
It was not the happily ever after that Annie imagined when she married Sam, but she was happy. She realized that things did not always worked out as planned, but that the new plan could be even better than the last.