Six years ago, I was officially divorced from an emotionally abusive and controlling woman I'd left a year earlier. In that year, I got tripped up by several loopholes in North Carolina law that made things even more arduous than they should have been--and added to the emotional pain I'd already endured from three years of being yelled at and hit by F-bombs.
Most longtime Kossacks know about one of them--how my now-ex had me arrested on false charges of making a girl staying with us watch X-rated movies and threatening to beat her up if she told anyone. This was in retaliation for me having my ex's son arrested for beating me up on the day I finally left her. I wondered for years how this could have happened. I got my answer late this summer--a self-initiated warrant process that is not only fundamentally flawed, but to my non-lawyer's mind is also unconstitutional. The self-inititiated warrant process only allows a warrant to be issued if a magistrate receives "sufficient information" that probable cause exists for an arrest. But there are no criteria for what constitutes "sufficient information"--which results in patently bogus cases making it to court. Such as mine--because no one bothered to look into the charges, I had to not only endure four hours in jail, but two court dates and four months of having to call pretrial release every Monday. And due to her not showing up, my only recourse to hold her accountable was to sue to recover my legal expenses. I had every intention of doing so until finding out she was homeless--and there wasn't enough to overcome the moral objections that would have been raised to suing a homeless woman.
But that was only one of many loopholes that sucked me in. More after the jump ...
The first came right on the day I finally left her. I'd wanted to leave her as early as 2004 due to my ex's temper tantrums and constant berating. I did a good job of holding it in and keeping up a front, even though at least one of my longtime friends--who has been in abusive marriages herself--told me she could tell what I was going through. However, by 2006, her son's repeated threats to beat me up--brought on my my ex's failure to refill his medicine--got to the point that I had to move back in with my mom for my own safety. When I finally left, my ex browbeat me into letting her borrow my car. I tried to get the police to help get it back--only to find out that cars are considered community property under North Carolina law, even though I'd bought it in 2001, two years before I married her. Translation--she could take my car and there was literally nothing the police could do. I had to literally steal back my own car the next day.
Later that week, I found out my ex had run my bank account negative before I had a chance to disable my check card. Fortunately, my check card has fraud protection, so I was able to get the money put back in my account. At first, I was told that I had to press charges against my ex. But when I called the police, I was told that bank accounts are community property--even when the spouse's name isn't on the account. The fraud protection specialist handing my case at the bank was flabbergasted--your spouse isn't allowed to get any information about your account unless his or her name is on it. Under the circumstances, they didn't claw back the money.
The night before I finally left her, the girl whom my ex talked into filing those false charges gave me a savage beating--ostensibly because I hadn't been willing to move to the Bay Area with my ex when we got married. I filed a complaint--but I never was able to find out if she'd even had to answer for beating me up.
The combined effect of the community property loopholes and not knowing whether that girl had been held to account ultimately forced me to leave a church I'd been attending for three years. I found myself looking over my shoulder practically every Sunday in case either of them showed up and tried to start something that could lead to more bogus charges. Plus, I had to worry in case my ex finagled a way to get my car even though the locks had been changed. Remember, we're talking about a woman who tried to get a 15-year-old girl to lie under oath--so you really can't put anything past her. In the end, I no longer felt safe going there. It broke my heart to have to leave, especially since the people there were 100,000 percent supportive of me. I still miss them more than I can adequately express, though I still pop in there occasionally.
In the summer of 2007, I got an unusual surprise in my mailbox--divorce papers sent from Aberdeen, Washington. Apparently my ex had conned her way back west. The papers were obviously fake--no tracking number or anything. To my mind, she was trying to expose me to bigamy charges if I ever got married again. I gave some serious thought to filing federal charges against her for mail fraud. But then I remembered how my bank account was considered community property. Given the possibility that my divorce could have been delayed while the case made its way through the courts, I was afraid that I would have had to be away from home for several months--and in that time, she could legally freeze my account or suck it dry. Between that and my mental state at the time, I decided it wasn't worth further heartache--which still hurts, since I have no doubt I would have gotten her sent to jail.
It took me some time to realize I was as beaten down as I've seen a lot of battered women after leaving bad marriages. One woman I dated told me that words hurt as much, if not more, than getting slapped or punched. What I had to endure as a result of loopholes in North Carolina law made it much more painful.