Last Friday, after three years of wrangling, mountains of paperwork and mounting solicitor's fees, was the Final Hearing for the financial settlement of my divorce. I had been told that whatever happened, I would have a decision on that day. Seeing as it had taken so long to get here, with so many postponements, I wasn't entirely convinced. The day was dependent on countless factors: would J. turn up or not, if he didn't, what would this judge decide, as it had been 6 months since our last court hearing where he didn't turn up either and the judge decided to postpone? If he did turn up, would we be able to agree something without having to get the judge to take a decision? Would the judge decide that J.'s financial information needed updating, as it was about a year out of date? If we came to an agreement outside of court, would the judge actually agree? Needless to say, I was quite apprehensive, mostly because I had no idea what the day would bring.
As it was, it went as painlessly as I could have hoped for. I had a fantastic barrister who had been booked at the last minute. I'd had a barrister before but wasn't too keen on her, I didn't feel she was representing my best interests when she said 'I'm sure he isn't paying you maintenance because he hasn't got the money'. I'd had another one booked for this hearing, she couldn't do it, then my solicitor booked the first one again. Fortunately she was very sympathetic and immediately booked someone else when I told her about my doubts, and I couldn't have been happier. This barrister was on the ball, she was strong and she was out to get me a good deal.
J. turned up, to all our surprise, and we managed to come to an agreement before seeing the judge. My barrister even managed to negotiate J.'s demands down a bit, to my surprise. We then went in to see the judge, who rubberstamped the lot after half an hour of 'word fighting' over a clause which he wanted to put in to protect me - even though it already was a good deal for me - but J. wasn't happy about the wording.
Basically I am now the owner of the house. I still have to sort out the mortgage but have been told in principle that I can take over the existing mortgage. There are a few snags, but nothing major, and financially we've come to a clean break.
The sense of relief and pride on Friday was overwhelming. It felt weird to come back here and think 'it's mine now'. I hadn't realised that although he hasn't lived here for a number of years now, he still felt part of this house while his name was still on the mortgage (not helped by his regular comments of 'it's still mine as long as my name is on that paper and I can come in if I want to').
Of course it's a huge responsibility too. I'll be taking on a mortgage based on a 20 hrs a week job plus my freelance income, and although I've been busy almost continually for over 18 months now, freelance work and income of course isn't as secure as a contract job. There may be a chance of increasing my hours at my parttime job, but I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that just yet - I do enjoy the combination of the two, despite having to work so hard.
All that remains is the admin of it all, but as the title of the post says, I feel a sense of closure. I even want the decree absolute to come through now, which up till now I'd felt was only a formality - for me, the marriage ended four years ago. I moved on a long time ago too, but all this seems to make it more formal and definite. It's given me a sense of calmness, which had been a long time coming.
On a much lighter note: I. and I are going to a sewing class this Sunday. It's a beginners class, to get to know your sewing machine - she has her own handcrank but try as I might, I just can't seem to get on with it, even though I love my treadle. She's been asking to learn to sew and as I'm a terrible teacher, I thought this would be more fun - also in the light of mother-daughter bonding. I think she's quite apprehensive, but then she often is about new things and sometimes needs pushing a bit. Fingers crossed she's better by then, as she spent this afternoon on the sofa, shivering under her blanket with a temperature!