The case I turned away

I was sorting old notes for shredding and I came across notes from a case I chose
not to mediate. A few years ago I met with a gentleman who was interested in
mediation for a divorce. He was organized, well groomed and dressed, spoke
eloquently and was charming.

I asked him if the divorce was a mutual decision between him and his wife.
He hesitated for a moment and said no. He explained his wife has been a
high-functioning alcoholic for 30 years but in the last years she had
become very medically fragile due to the alcoholism. She developed neurological
and balance issues in addition to memory loss and liver function issues.
She refuses to see her doctor anymore. She does not qualify for disability
insurance and is no longer working. They have accumulated substantial debt
because she is no longer able to work.

I asked why now? He recently came home one evening after a work trip and found their teenage daughter sitting silently in the kitchen and his wife passed out on the dining room floor. His daughter looked at him, tilted her head towards
her mother and rolled her eyes. “It was an epiphany moment. I knew my daughter should no longer have to live in a chaotic co-dependent family system. I knew I had to save us both.”

Suddenly, after 30 years, he was pushing hard on the accelerator. He wanted to be divorced ASAP. He would walk away from the house, their possessions, anything to just to be done and to protect their daughter. He was not being rational.

They are both in difficult situations. Clearly his wife is chemically dependent
and very sick. Alcoholism is a disease. Treatment did not work for her and she
refuses to go again. He is likely co-dependent as so many spouses of alcoholics
become plus he has to responsible for daily details plus their daughter.

I referred him to an attorney I know well and trust. I felt his wife could not
participate in mediation. She cannot self-advocate or make life-changing decisions and I am concerned she needs someone to advise her. I did not get the sense her husband would try to cheat her or be unfair in the settlement but she is frankly a vulnerable adult. As he currently is too.

I wonder what happened to them. Hopefully she sought treatment and it worked this time. Honestly, not very likely though.

Life can be hard.