Summary: Rick is reeling from the shock of his wife's devastating betrayal when he meets Andrea, a beautiful divorce attorney struggling with a tragedy of her own.
I shouldn't be starting another Rickdrea fic when I already have two WIPs, but this idea wouldn't leave me alone. At this stage, I have no plans to include a walker uprising in this story - the only badassery we will be seeing from Andrea is in the courtroom - but I will incorporate the zombie apocalypse later if you guys request it. Also, I'm still working on coming up with a title. Let me know if you have any suggestions!
PETITION FOR DIVORCE
Rick stared at those words, printed in neat black ink across the top of the page, as if doing so would somehow make this day feel real. He would be lying if he said he hadn't seen it coming. Things between him and Lori had been strained for a while now, culminating in an ugly confrontation in which his soon to be ex-wife had admitted to loving someone else. She refused to tell him who the lucky guy was, though Rick supposed it didn't matter. All that mattered was that she no longer felt that way about him.
What he hadn't anticipated was that she would send Shane, his partner and best friend of more than twenty years, to serve him with the divorce papers without breathing a word of her intentions to him first. Despite his friend's awkward apology, that had come as a bigger blow than the complaint itself. After all, it fell within his jurisdiction as the sheriff's deputy, though he supposed he couldn't exactly serve himself.
He might have granted her the divorce just to get it over with if it wasn't for section 6. She had checked the box stating that she was seeking both temporary and permanent primary legal and physical custody of their only child, Carl. Rick didn't care about the house or the car or the alimony he would no doubt be paying her in near future, but he would be damned if he was going to let her deprive him of time with his son.
That was how he came to find himself sitting alone in the swanky reception area of a law firm in downtown Atlanta, clutching the offending papers as he waited for his name to be called.
Fifteen minutes after he had arrived, a door opened and two women emerged, one a lawyer if her tailored grey pantsuit was any indication, the other a harried-looking mother leading a little girl by the hand.
The lawyer squeezed her client's arm, saying something reassuring to her, before acknowledging the beaten down man in the waiting area. "Rick Grimes?"
Rick wasn't sure what he had been expecting when he chose the firm at random out of the phonebook, but it certainly wasn't the pretty blonde standing in front of him. She couldn't have been more than forty, though he would have placed her age at closer to thirty-five.
"That's right, Ms…?"
"Harrison, but you can call me Andrea," she told him, offering him her hand, which was small and soft, though her grip was unusually firm.
Her voice held no trace of the ubiquitous Southern drawl, he noted with surprise. "You're not from around here," he pointed out, trying to pin down her accent, but all it told him was that she was American.
"No, I'm not," she said simply. He waited for her to elaborate, but she didn't.
Instead, her blue-green eyes shifted away, landing on the envelope still clenched in a death grip in his other hand. "Why don't we step into my office, and you can tell me what brings you here?"
"What exactly are my options here?" Rick asked once he had finished filling Andrea in on the situation. It felt strange, spilling his personal problems out to a complete stranger, but she listened without judgement, wincing sympathetically when he got to the part about Lori's new boyfriend.
"Well," she began, laying the complaint back on her desk and looking up at him, "we could contest it, but you would have to go to court. And even then, you work in a dangerous occupation and you're gone a lot outside of school hours, so there's always the chance the judge would side with the primary caregiver, which in this case is your wife."
"So you think I should just agree to this?" he asked, incredulous. That wasn't the counsel he was seeking.
She leaned back in her chair, regarding him with a thoughtful look. "Not exactly. You said your wife is seeing someone else?" Rick nodded tersely. "So we could file a counter complaint requesting a divorce on the grounds of adultery. It's risky, but it might sway the judge's opinion in your favour."
But that would mean publicly shaming Lori, and Rick wasn't sure he was prepared to do that, to her or Carl. "I'm not asking for primary custody," he explained. This wasn't about vengeance. This was about his son. He deserved to have a relationship with both of his parents. "All I'm asking for is a fair arrangement. Joint custody."
"Then my suggestion to you is that you talk to your wife," Andrea told him, sliding the papers back over to him. "See if you can hash out a private agreement before this winds up in court, because I guarantee you, Rick, that if it does, things will get messy, for you, and your son."
"That's it?" Three hundred dollars an hour and that was her advice? Talk to his wife?
"For now," she agreed. She pushed her chair back and stood, and sensing that the meeting was over, Rick followed suit. "The first consultation is free. If you're lucky, you won't need a second. But if you do, you know where to find me."
Rick thanked her politely, and she walked him to the door, where they shook hands again.
"Good luck, Rick," she told him sincerely, letting her hand linger in his for just a moment. "I really hope I never have to see you again."