Shortest day, longest night

IMG_6370Today is  the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year and the day I had nominated for the transfer of the house into my name alone. I liked the metaphor of it being the point at which the days start to grow longer, brighter and warmer but as best laid plans so often do, it has all gone astray.

My lawyer, Rebecca, drafted the Binding Financial Agreement needed to complete the transfer which both Matthew and I have to sign and have signed by independent legal representatives. In essence, this document reduces 18 years of life into as many pages of financial reconciliation, officially and definitively severing the last of our ties. Seeing our names in the document alongside each others as ‘opponents’ warped my mind into a state of disbelief. At the beginning of the end, I used to wake each morning in confusion, certain that I had just had the most horrific, unbelievable nightmare only to then have to remind myself that the nightmare was true. Reading this document had the same effect on me – for a moment my mind was lost in confusion as I read clauses outlining such notions as us no longer having claim to each others estates when I had always assumed we’d be buried together – it just didn’t make sense to my confronted and muddled mind.

Luckily, thanks to a lot of practice, I came out of it almost as instantly as I went into it. I regained my composure and forwarded it to Matthew. He got back to me with uncharacteristic speed saying he didn’t know how to find a lawyer. Now, I know, I know, I know that this is probably where I should’ve told him to go sort it out himself but for whatever reason – sentimentality, stupidity or just wanting it to not to feel so adversarial – I stepped into the breach to help him out.

I should mention that by training, I am a lawyer myself which is to say that I have a law degree though I have never practiced. So much dust has settled on my credentials that they are virtually useless save for the couple of good friends I made  at university. If there is a silver lining to this Binding Financial Agreement Cloud, it is that it has bought me back into long-overdue contact with my friend, Rebecca (yes, it would seem that Rebecca is a popular name for lawyers!). She made a few enquiries and lined someone up to act on Matthew’s behalf.

Unfortunately, that person palmed him off to another person who wanted to charge the princely sum of $1,000 for a signature on an already-drafted, agreed-in-principle, non-contentious document. Even if her pen was filled with pure gold ink, that’s still wouldn’t justify the cost. She claimed there was 3 hours work to be done, changes to be made to protect her from further action as though Matthew’s wishes and instructions were a secondary concern. Her tone suggested she was out to make  revenue-raising mischief between us when the only mercy in all of this is that it hasn’t been nasty. When Matthew clarified that he was happy to sign the document as is and would just like her signature, she said she could not take the case on those terms.

Back to square one and full of rage. I don’t believe in generalisations – they are the result of intellectual apathy – so my rage is not for ‘lawyers’. This women is no more representative of her group than I am of people with brown eyes but her behaviour has reignited in me an outrage for institutionalised and tacitly accepted exploitation and extortion of people in vulnerable situations, especially when they have no choice but to participate. Don’t even get me started on the cost of funerals… which this doesn’t feel entirely dissimilar to.

This little set back put paid to any hope of the transfer happening today  so I cancelled the small gathering of family and a few family-like friends that I’d arranged to help me quietly celebrate or loudly commiserate , perhaps both. At any rate, there’s no time for either now as today also signals the end of our mortgage hold period. If we don’t get this sorted by the time the next payment is due, we’ll be in a bit of hot water!

I sought and followed up another recommendation only to be led down the same path at a slightly lower hourly rate but still with an estimate of an extortionate 2-3 hours work to protect herself with a flurry of superfluous paperwork. Ironically, the only sticking point the two lawyers seem to have in common is the list of assets which they’ve taken to be incomplete for the lack of cars, share portfolios, significant jewellery and furniture. On an hourly rate of $350, it must be hard to imagine lives lived without such luxuries and so they will charge an extra hour to be told that this house in the only asset aside from the paltry bank accounts already listed (which their fees will account for the lions share of) – the driveway adjoining the house has no cars, our fingers wear no fancy rings and I’m writing this from the comfort of the lounge my parents bought in the 1980’s!  I only wish they would exercise a little common sense and demonstrate some compassion and just do what is being asked of them.

So that’s where I am at the moment – stalled between a rock and a hard place; wanting it all to be over and still mourning the fact that it soon will be.

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