THE BLOG
12/29/2010 11:23 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When Life Gave Me Lemons, I Became a Divorce Attorney

I never believed in divorce. My parents met in college and have been married for nearly forty years. I thought I would be following their footsteps when I met my college sweetheart. By our second date, I had already named our three children and we were planning to settle in his hometown of Pittsburgh.

After college, I moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA Law. He moved to Pittsburgh to take over his family business. Our long distance relationship did not deter our plans to marry; he proposed during my last semester of school. I remember thinking that my life was finally coming together. I had three more months until I graduated and then I was going to start a federal clerkship in Pittsburgh. Our lives would be perfect. I would be a big time lawyer and he would be the big time business owner. I was thrilled. I was over the moon. I was ecstatic . . . for five days, that is.

A week later, my fiancé emailed me a prenuptial agreement to sign. He knew I didn't believe in prenups, but this was non-negotiable: we couldn't even talk about a wedding until it was signed.

The next few months were hell. In between studying for finals, I reviewed and edited my own prenup. When I crossed out the clause where I waived spousal support, my fiancé went ballistic. He told me I'd always be marketable with my law degree, that I wasn't entitled to spousal support. But, what if we had children? What if I became a stay-at-home mom as we'd discussed? Or, worst-case-scenario, what if I became disabled while giving birth? There were too many "what if's" to guarantee that I could always be self-supporting. Our long distant phone calls became contentious. We were divorcing even before we married. But, I thought we could overcome this.

Two days after I graduated, I got on a plane to Pittsburgh and moved into his apartment, where I began studying for the Pennsylvania Bar Exam. I would tell you all the horrifying details of that summer, but then you would think my story is a sad one, when really it is a happy one. Suffice it to say, one week after I took the Bar, I broke my engagement. When he threatened to make my life miserable if I continued to live in Pittsburgh, I withdrew from my federal clerkship and moved back to Los Angeles to live with my parents.

I became severely depressed. I went from having the life I'd dreamed of, to suddenly having no job, no fiancé, no future. And, to make matters worse, I couldn't even practice law in California because I had just taken the Pennsylvania Bar. After weeks of staying in bed, my mother told me that I needed to do something. She suggested that I volunteer. So, I became a full-time volunteer at a non-profit family law center. I wanted to know my rights in a marriage to protect me and other women from men like my ex-fiancé. At the center I felt empowered. I learned the process of paternity and dissolution actions in California. And yes, while I was mostly helping these clients get divorced, I never felt as though I was breaking up families. The families were already broken. Instead, I was helping clients transition into their new lives as single men and women. And, they were helping me transition into my new career as a family law attorney. It was a symbiotic relationship.

This experience gave me the courage to take the California Bar Exam that spring. It also gave me the courage to start dating again. When I passed the California Bar, I got a job as the associate for a private family law practitioner. I have been with her for two and a half years. I love my job. And while the path to getting here was not easy, I wouldn't change it.

When people hear my story, they often ask me if I now believe in prenups. My standard response is 'yes.' It wasn't the prenup that broke my relationship, it was what I learned about my fiancé while drafting one. He would never put me or our children before his business. He no longer was the husband for me.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
We’re basically your best friend... with better advice.