Words of Encouragement

A life turned upside down

A client’s perspective on living through what parallels a war

“The world is full of good people and good food. We all want to live a life without drama, some security and comfort. Raise our children and live in harmony.

What if that life of yours is turned upside down and you find yourself in a war zone and there was nothing you could have done to avoid that? What if you have children next to you in that war zone, buildings collapsing around them? What if the place you used to call home became that war zone?

Many years ago, I was told by an attorney to separate from my wife. I asked what would happen to my boys and he said not to worry about them. When they become teenagers he said, they will want to live with you, their father. He told me that based on the thousands of divorce cases he worked on throughout his legal career, I will not have a chance to obtain custody in Utah, being a male immigrant. Well, leaving my children with their mother was not an option. I knew from watching my grown step-children how they would develop. So, I stayed. Every day, for years, walking through a minefield. Every day, trying to dodge bullets. Life paralleled war zone psychology.

The day came where risk mitigation and attempts to negotiate for a better life simply came to a halt. I filed for a restraining order and held on to my children. I worked with the same attorney who recommended to me to walk away from my children. He was the only one I knew and trusted at the time. Once my abuser filed for divorce in an attempt to be financially cared for, as she later admitted to me, I was told that that normal divorce has been turned due to her filing into a hundred-thousand-dollar divorce. It was on – without having been prepared for what to expect, life became all-out war. Most people who find themselves in that situation do not want to be in it, did not seek it.  Life just comes to you in ways you often cannot predict.

A nightmare of joined custody followed with irresponsible behavior for months. And finally, the court ordered drug testing of both parties. The outcome was clear – the abusing former love of my life tested positive. I got temporary primary custody. I did not get temporary primary custody because my attorney at the time right away recognized that that was the right moment to request it from the court. I, the inexperienced client, recognized it and insisted that a motion is filed. The motion was successful and in the months to come I did see how different parties involved in the system really tried hard to help “the mother”. I knew better, knew that all chances given by the court and parties involved will fail. I lived with that love of my life for 13 years. I knew. The question was only for how long we will have to go through it, and if I and my children will make it out of that nightmare in one piece. Will the operation be a success, but the patient be dead?

Besides not having identified the opportunity to get me primary custody, my attorney at the time was too friendly to the opposing party’s lawyer. Or in other words – “can you please stop being accommodating and not detail oriented about my life and the life of my children just because the opposing party’s attorney is blond?”  Sometime before, I saw Emily Smoak in a courtroom as she worked on one of her cases. I did not catch her name at the time, but I liked her style. Little I knew when watching that persistent lawyer, that destiny had plans for us.

I was looking for a new attorney, an attorney who would not give up, who would not be influenced by the looks of the opposing attorney. I asked around and someone described to me his attorney. What I heard sounded familiar. He described to me what I noticed back then in that courtroom. He described Emily. So, I got the phone number I needed, called, met, and hired Emily Smoak.

Years followed that can only be compared to an all-out war. Years of desperation. Years during which I was hardly able to function, paralyzed by fear, depression, anxiety, scared for my children and life.  At one time I even hired a detective to provide security services for me and my children.  It was a nearly daily bombardment with documents during the daytime, and text messages or emails during the night. The only person to help me and my children making it through, getting us bandages for our legal and emotional wounds, was Emily Smoak. Besides everything a lawyer does, Emily filled the role of a battlefield medic.  Who wants that job? Who wants to live in that stress environment for a living?

When you live for many years through a case like that, the attorney is affected as well. We as clients often do not see it because we are focused on us and deal with our un-diagnosed PTSD. But we are not the only one affected. Attorneys are human beings. And that is good because you need a human being who is an attorney on your side and not an attorney in a suit.

After years, the other party had to reveal and admit to the gravity of the problems involved, the lies, the unsupported slender. A peace agreement was negotiated and signed.

I now have 100% physical custody of my children. I did not turn my back on them. I did not walk away. I did what in my opinion a man has to do. I still do not know if it exhausted me so much that I will not be able to fully recover. No one thanks you for what you have done. Everyone affected is still trying to process the experiences of the past, present, and future. It remains hurtful every day. You try to get back on your feet, you fail, you get back up. Life became hard but at least no more bombs falling on you, no more bullets to dodge.

Life calmed down, but you live in constant fear that a new letter is served that opens up old wounds and continues the destruction your life just went through, and you try to recover from.  All you want is get back on your feed, enjoy good food and live in harmony. Your life is blown into pieces, you try to rebuild, some people care and help, most don’t, just talk. You are alone with your experience for many years to come, still fearful, living in a financial struggle trying to rebuild your life.

Only one thing remains a constant – that phone number I can call again if I have to go back to war. I do not want to go back to war but if I have to, I know that that Special Forces Medic, that Legal Delta Force we call Emily will be back next to me, gearing up.”