This is a guest post written by XRAYVSN, a practicing radiologist located in the southeast working for a large multispecialty outpatient clinic.
Ever experience a divorce or are in the process of one? You’ll appreciate this post. Although physicians, fortunately, have a lower percentage of divorce than the general public, the stakes are much higher when one does occur.
The main reason is that opposing counsel often views a physician as having deep pockets with great earning potential. In fact, I would propose that even your own legal team will take advantage of your profession by charging you the maximum they can for every billable hour they can think of. I have heard of divorces in the general public that were settled for less than $500 in legal costs. That amount would be blown through with just a mere two hours of my lawyer’s time.
The Storm Is Best Endured With Your Eyes Open
If a physician’s spouse happens to be vindictive and finds the right unscrupulous lawyer, you have the makings for a perfect storm. I, unfortunately, had to endure one of the storms of the century.
No story can be fully appreciated with a little background, so I think this would be a good place to start. I am of Indian descent. Although I came to the United States when I was less than a year old, I was still immersed in the culture associated with the “old country.” My father, a physician himself, underwent an arranged marriage to my mother. In cultures that employ an arranged marriage system, it is predominantly a family decision and the betrothed have little say.
The marriage was treated almost like a business transaction and the main purpose was to solidify the two families involved. A dowry was given to the groom as a token of appreciation and the size of this dowry reflected the stature of the groom in question. My father received a small house as his dowry payment to my mother given his high standing in society as a physician. In this case, my father and mother seemed to be happily married for almost 20 years before he passed away at the age of 50 to pancreatic cancer (I was 14).
That left the rest of my childhood and young adulthood to be raised by my mother. My mother made it known very early on that she preferred for me to settle down with a “nice Indian girl.” Although I predominantly dated in college/medical school outside of my race, I never was opposed to this and thought if it worked out it would be acceptable.
Entering my final year of radiology residency is when I first noticed the pressure from my mother build up. Looking back I know she was afraid that I would start making the “big bucks” as an attending and fall into that presumed lifestyle. She believed that the likelihood of me marrying an Indian girl would, therefore, drop precipitously. She started a global search using her connections from Canada, the United States, England, India, etc. Eventually what everyone deemed a suitable girl was found.
My Match And My Future Wife
She had just finished medical school in England and her parents were looking for her to get married as well. Till this day I feel the only reason we were matched was that we were “both doctors.” Part of the arranged marriage custom was the family of the potential bride would send her birth horoscope to the family of the potential groom. This horoscope is not at all like the ones you find in the daily newspaper. It is supposedly a very detailed account created for each child the moment they are born, chronicling the stars and planet alignments, etc. An arranged marriage would only go through if the horoscopes between the two parties “matched.”
One thing that was unusual in this case was that the girl’s parents in England insisted that instead of them sending over the horoscope for us to match, that my mom would send my horoscope to them to match. A bit atypical, but we complied. Well according to the folks in England, we had a high match and were suitable to get married.
We then began communicating for a few months primarily by phone and email. The next step was her mother and her visiting the United States where we would be introduced at my home since I was currently in a radiology residency. It was supposed to be a simple meeting with no commitments but it was anything but. The pressure from both sides was intense as my family also descended into my home for the occasion.
Before I knew it I had agreed to be “registered” to her which was essentially a formal agreement of getting married and within two months of meeting her, we were indeed married. I have written extensively on my blog about how marriage was absolutely one of the worst things I have ever had to endure. Suffice it to say that I quickly realized that I had made a horrible mistake.
The reason I waited so long to file for divorce, which I eventually did after being married 7 years, was because of my daughter. However, after seeing how miserable I was becoming and after a friend told me that I was doing more harm to my daughter by staying in an unloving marriage than divorcing, I decided to take the plunge. It was then I seemed to have awakened a vindictive beast in my wife. She then hired an unscrupulous, small-town lawyer who encouraged my wife to create as much destruction and turmoil as possible.
Between the two of them, I was always on the defense, defending my name and reputation against the wild and unfounded accusations. This bled over into multiple court jurisdictions including chancery court, juvenile court, civil court, and even federal court. I lost track of the number of full-day hearings I had to sit through. All the while the meter was running full tilt from my legal team as well as hers.
The divorce took 13 months to finalize and just a couple of months shy of my birthday. I lost track of the number of full-day hearings I had to sit through. It was the lowest point emotionally and financially in my life as any savings I had were wiped out to feed the ongoing legal costs. Some of the accusations I had to defend made me sick to my stomach. Knowing I was completely innocent but still feeling like everyone viewed me as a monster in the courtroom because of the lies the opposition put out there was difficult to sit through. It was only years later that my wife’s mental state deteriorated to the point where it was noticeable to the casual observer and she was appropriately diagnosed. But by then the damage had already been done.
A Divorce Is a Costly Ordeal – Mine Was $4M
I estimated that I had to spend over $300k of legal costs just for my defense. The judge also made me contribute $100k to my ex’s legal fees. I wish I could say that I was free and clear of my ex-wife the day the judge signed the divorce decree but alas this was not the case. My ex-wife and her lawyer still wanted more money and their greed caused them to file a $4 million dollar civil lawsuit and requested a jury trial. I wrote about that ordeal in detail here.
The result of this fiasco of an arranged marriage was irreparable damage in the relationship between my mother and me. I have never forgiven her for putting me through this and felt I was an innocent victim who only got into this situation in the first place by trying to appease my mother and not putting me first. To this day my mother still has not taken full responsibility in her part of this. She tries to make excuses and still has faith in the horoscope matching system, going as far as to say that the people in England must have made up the fact that the horoscopes matched and that is why they did not want to send the paperwork to us in the more traditional way.
It took me a long time to recover from the divorce and subsequent lawsuit, both emotionally and financially. I didn’t even want to date for two years after my divorce because of the huge mistrust I felt. I am happy to say that these scars, while still present, have been buried deep down with subsequent great experiences. I have been in a long term committed relationship with a woman whom I very much love (and yes she is outside of my race).
Although it took a little longer, I was also able to recover financially. At the age of 47 many would consider me to be financially independent. I still work, however, as I am very conservative and would like to have a larger buffer in my nest egg before I consider retirement. The one thing that I discovered was that I had a lot of support from friends and co-workers during my ordeal and I leaned on them heavily to get me through the process.
Want to Share Your Story of Divorce?
Years later, when I started my blog and included the details of my divorce, I received a second outpouring of love and support which was very much appreciated. I thought it was so helpful in the healing process that I opened up my platform to others to share their stories of divorce (my Divorce and FIRE series) which would not only help them heal but also give others hope. I am always looking for my volunteers to share my story and if any are indeed interested, the details can be found here.