The average divorce, all told, costs roughly $20,000. But, of course, a long, drawn out settlement can cost far more. Just ask Arjun. He filed for divorce from his wife after their arranged marriage failed, and in the 13 months of divorce negotiations that followed, he had to pay his lawyer $300,000 dollars, his ex-wife’s lawyer $50,000, and he gave up nearly half a million dollars in assets, all while swimming in student debt.
When I was doing my radiology residency, my mom was really pressuring me to meet someone. I’m Indian, and she went the arranged marriage route. One of my mom’s friends found a woman in England that they thought would be perfect for me. She was a doctor, too. I got her contact information and we talked over the phone and email for about three months. Then she flew down from England to meet me in person. I was afraid her family would come down and force me to propose then and there but she promised there wouldn’t be any pressure. When she flew down to the states, my whole family descended where I was training in Ohio. Everyone started pressuring me like I knew they would. She pressured me too.
I caved. We did it. We made plans for the grand wedding. That happened within weeks of her showing up. Soon, I started to see a lot of odd behaviors from her. I tried to get her into some other programs — she had just finished med school and was looking for a residency. But she got fired from two programs.
I thought maybe starting a family would bring out some motherly instinct and maybe divert her into a new purpose. We had a daughter in 2005. She did not have any motherly instincts at all. And it didn’t help our marriage. I didn’t want my daughter to be brought up in a divorced home, but it got so bad. I could tell my daughter was picking up on it.
At some point, my friend talked to me and said that he understood that we wanted to stay together for the kid, but we were probably doing more harm than good. I realized he was right. I realized there was no way I could stay with this woman for another 14 years until my kid became an adult. I filed for divorce right there.
My ex became really vindictive. I was the one who filed and when she got the papers, she lost it. She hired a lawyer. I could tell that they were trying to get as much money out of me as possible. I ended up having to go through juvenile court, regular court, and even federal court at one point. That’s how many things they were throwing at me.
I went to at least seven or eight full-day hearings. They were trying to ruin my name. They hit me with a civil lawsuit, saying there were emotional and physical damages to my ex-wife. They asked me for $4 million. My net worth was basically almost nothing at that point, because I was still in debt from med school and had loans and stuff like that.
By the time the divorce was finalized, I had spent $300,000 of my fees and $50,000 for her lawyers. Because she wasn’t working, the judge gave her the assets that were debt-free or had some income coming into them. She took my 529 account I had for my daughter, she took my 401k that was probably worth $160,000 and she got a $25,000 HSA that we had. On top of that, I had to pay child support and alimony. Her alimony was $2100 a month for three years and child support of $2100 until my daughter was 18. I basically came out to almost a $1 million figure, if not a little bit more.
She falsely accused me of abusing my child. She got full custody of my daughter and took her to England. A couple of years later, social workers and the police had to intervene and take my daughter out of her house. I had to go to England to get my daughter back. I now have full custody, and they diagnosed my ex with a mental condition.
The first couple years after the divorce were miserable. It took awhile before I started dating women again. It truly was the worst chapter of my life. There was a point where I felt like checking out. I even told my mom where my life insurance papers were. My lawyer had to talk me off the ledge. I felt like no one believed me and everyone thought I was a monster. But luckily, I realized that there is a huge support system out there. I was embarrassed to tell my friends what was going on, but once I finally opened up, they all were there for me.
Compared to where I was during the divorce, things are great today. Financially, I’ve recovered. My ex-wife was a huge anchor that was dragging me down. I won’t say that I’m 100 percent back to where I was before. I was once a carefree person. There are still scars. But I’ve actually been in a long term relationship for over 4 years and we’ve been talking about taking the next step. It took awhile. But I’ll go into marriage with my eyes wide open this time. And with a woman I choose to marry myself.