Thursday, February 16, 2006

business as usual  

posted by Michael Piwonka 6:17 PM
Since I haven't posted anything in a while, my audience (at least a half dozen readers and holding!) has grown restless. Or at least concerned about me (thanks, Sue).

I have been preoccupied with completing my separation agreement. Penny and I have agreed multiple times on all the pertinent issues, but alas, we still haven't signed anything. It seems that after weeks of waiting on the completed document, many of the things we had verbally agreed upon were evidently no longer honored.

It has been a very frustrating experience. I put a lot of value upon a person's integrity and honor, and I've been repeatedly disappointed.

It reminds me a story I read in the Wall Street Journal many years ago: an American businessman was recounting his experiences negotiating with the Communist government of China. He was attempting to open a store in China, hoping to tap into the gigantic Chinese market. However, he found that after spending endless hours and days negotiating with a government representative, he would periodically arrive at the negotiations to discover a new representative, someone with absolutely no knowledge of his previous discussions.

So he would have to start all over again in the negotiations. Once he felt that progress was being made, he would find himself in front of a new representative again. The frustration of dealing with this form of negotiation was wearing thin.

It was unclear from the article whether this was a tactic on the government's part to gain concessions, or whether it was a case of bureaucratic confusion and inefficiency, or whether it was simply a form of stonewalling.

I think I can relate to his frustration. The main difference is that I'm still dealing with the original negotiator, although perhaps not the same personality. For example, we had agreed, as many divorcing couples do, that neither would have dating partners spend the night when the children are present. I think we had agreed upon that months ago; in fact, it was one of the first things we did agree upon, given its obvious benefits. As you can probably guess from the context, the draft I received gave either party the right to decide that unilaterally.

And that's just one example. I have already conceded approximately $90K to Penny after everything was divided down the middle (which I had wanted to put toward the kids' college funds, but I made some poor negotiating decisions early on). I also agreed to the amount of child support Penny asked for. We had all the financial issues resolved, until that is, I received the latest draft. It seems like the Chinese government has changed negotiators on me again.

My level of frustration has been increased by the fact that I'm nearing the closing date on my home, and I need all this stuff behind me, from both a legal and financial perspective. I definitely made a mistake by committing to purchase a home without having an agreement signed already, but at the time I felt confident since Penny was planning to raze the home she was buying once she and her business partner got married. No sooner than I committed to my house did their plans evidently change, and suddenly Penny lost her motivation to finish what she originally was frantic to complete. Or perhaps she found some potential negotiating leverage.

I've also had to backtrack on my plans to go to London with the kids. I'm saddened to have our exciting plans squashed by this protracted negotiation, but I've realized that I can't commit to anything until our agreement is final. I'm a slower learner, but not completely hopeless.

So there it is. I've been distracted, holding my breath, waiting for an agreement that actually represents what Penny and I agreed upon. But she's told me again just today that she's committed to all those things we had previously agreed to (months ago), and that I should have a signed agreement within a few days.

But I'm going to make up for lost time, posting more absolutely fascinating, enthralling articles to keep my loyal readership satiated. All six of you.


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