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.

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