25 steps to survive your divorce. The nasty word that is becoming an epidemic. I cannot go a day without hearing of another “nasty” , taken by surprise, divorce. What the world??? The story is the same, the characters are different, the events that take place, all the same.
Why this post? Too many of my friends are struggling with the pain and had no idea that their spouses was going to file for divorce. I want to help people see a pattern change. Be more prepared and proactive to not allow the emotions to win. I have been through it and I should have written a book about it. The nastiness is out of this world. You wonder who this person is and where was it hiding all those years.
I will not bore you with all the nastiness… ok, maybe a bit. If you are or have gone through a divorce you already know the stories all too well. However, what I want to do is open your eyes on what has helped me and others along the way to keep our sanity.
This, understand, is not legal advice, but advice from the heart. A consensus of suggestions shared from friends as well as professionals that wished they would have done “this and that” prior to the divorce experience.
Therefore, I have subdivided this post in 3 sections: The clues ~ Get all your ducks in a row ~ What to do after filing.
~ All of the sudden you become incompetent. The one that cannot walk or talk. You are irritating. Being dismissed. Attacked when you ask a question about a credit card charge, a trip, phone call, or late meeting. No matter what you do, nothing is good enough. Everything with you is wrong and you start to believe it, too. Your intimacy is gone and somehow it is your fault, or you are too demanding intimately.
~ Another side is he or she becomes extremely caring, loving and wanting to make you happy. Because it is so out of their character, you happily take it all in. They even ask you to give them your wedding ring because they want to have it cleaned and bring you back a bigger diamond ring. If that is the case, run to your jeweler and have it checked. Most likely the stone is a gorgeous expensive cubic zirconia, not your real diamond. Saw it happen. At time of divorce Mrs X goes to sell the ring to pay for the legal fees and the ring was worth nothing. The supposed money to replace the stone gone from the bank account. And you lost on both ends. According to her husband and the bank records, the ring was worth $40,000.00.
~ Or out of the blue now you can go with your friends on that way too expensive trip knowing very well you have no money. Or, buy that very expensive purse or shoes. Why are they so careless with money all of the sudden.
Those are the beginning clues that your partner may have flown the coop with someone else and it is only a matter of time.
It is uncanny how most all the traits are the same. It is even worse how we choose not to see them. We even justify them. But unfortunately, the reality is another, and you are the sounding board of their anger, not directed at you, but at them.
Get all your ducks in a row.
Your gut feeling is telling you that things are not right. The constant bickering. The constant putting you down is making you weak inside. You start to question everything and your every move. You suspect infidelity and lying, but have no proof. And everyone tells you that they, your spouse, will never do that to you … and on and on. Time to take action and stop the insanity.
~ First of all, leave all your friends at the door and do not say a word to anyone. You have some serious work to do here and you do not need the good intention of your friends. Even less someone that will report things to the other party. If things will not turn out and you are headed for divorce, there will be room the for all their love and support. Right now you are in commando mood and need to get stuff done.
~ If suspicions exist, hire an investigator and get your answers. Crazy right!!! Even though most states are no-fault divorce, meaning you do not have to have a reason to divorce, you will want to know the truth for YOU. The cheating spouse has manipulated you so much that now he or she will start to play the “without me game” to stop you in your tracks. You become frozen. I have seeing men deny an affair even when their spouse has proof on hand. And if your spouse travels, even better, services out of the country are cheaper. This, to me, is a must. You will be amazed at what you learn and may find evidence of future plans that will be executed. This will help you on your next step.
~ Now that you know the truth do not change a thing to your routine. Stay the same so you are not rising suspicions.
~ If cheating is involved, immediately have a full VD – HIV panel testing. You already have so much in your plate, you do not want this hanging over your head.
~ Change all your password to all your electronic devices, email and such.
~ Gather all your financial information. Taxes. Get all your tax filing. Business tax filing. Trust me, once the process starts you will need every details of financial information. And they will play on this. Get all the assets, bank accounts, IRA’s, house deeds, anything that your name is on it. Anything that was accumulated during marriage, get copies or the originals. Paycheck stubs.
~ Get all your bank statements and start going through them for any out of the ordinary expenses. Keep them all safe somewhere. There are places where you can get a lock box with no name or social security needed but a code. Found one and start hiding things.
~ Check the deed of the house to make sure no changes were made.
~ Pull your credit and your spouse’s credit through a reputable bureau. Make sure that you have no credit cards issued under your name that you are not aware. A woman that I knew had accumulated over $150,000.00 in debt via credit card under her husband name only, and he had no clue of what she did. As the same with joint cards. Are they all paid on time and are you aware of where and what is charged on them?
~ Open up a credit card only on your name. Much easier when you are married than when you are not.
~ Put all your jewelry away, not just the expensive one. Not at the bank safety deposit box which your spouse can open with a simple signed paper that they provide. Been there. The one that no one knows about. The one I mentioned above.
~ Start paying attention to all your household expenses. If you are not paying the bills, start getting involved. At one point and time you will have to fill out a household expense report and you do not want to forget that cute dog of yours can cost you a pretty penny every month. Money that will come out of your support.
~ Before filing or even talking to an attorney make an appointment with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (C.D.F.A.) Attorney are not financial advisors. By doing this step you will save yourself lots of money during the proceeding. Furthermore, they are expert on forensic accounting and if your spouse is self-employed, any hidden assets will be found.
~ Make a preliminary list of all your assets and liabilities. Try to come up with a fair settlement now that you have all the financials on hand. I know, feelings are hurt, but when it comes to family law, let’s face it, is all about formulas. So put pen to paper and start working on that. It will save you lots of money doing this.
~ If use of alcohol or drug is present in the household, document all activities as well as behavior, daily. It will be heart wrenching, but do you do not want your kids in the car if one of the parents is a heavy drinker. This is a good time to slow down anything that you may be doing too. Remember if it works for one party, it can work for the other. Also, you cannot serve divorce papers to anyone in rehab.
~ The last step, search for the top three layers in your county and set up appointments with all of them for a preliminary consultation. Have a list of questions ready. Why the top three? If they talk to you there is a precedent. Meaning your spouse will not be able to hire them as a conflict of interest has risen. You are safe. You may not be able to afford them, but your spouse will not be able to use them either.
Why the attorney is the last step. There is something as proof of intent of wanting to file for divorce that can be used against you. An acquaintance of mine saw the attorney six months prior filing. The husband company was planning an IPO. She decided to wait so she could cash in the stocks. Thanks to her girlfriend (see my above note) her husband found out about her intentions -to stay in the marriage to cash in – and was able to prove that her intent was to divorce months prior. The judge agreed. All purchases she made during that time, which were huge, she was solely responsible for them. Filing was back dated to date of her getting legal advise. At the end not only she lost millions, but she lost on long term support. Obviously, it’s all up to the judge discretion, but why risk it.
What to do after filing for divorce.
~ Do remember that the attorney works for you and not the other way around. Do as much as the homework you possibly can by yourself. A full list of items will be required. Do not panic, it is normal.
~ Get the cost up front of the legal secretary and paralegal. Talk and do all correspondence via them. They will discuss all the cases to the attorney, so there are no surprises, however the bill at the end of the month will not be a surprise to you.
~ Do not let in any way the attorney convince you to sell everything. I am going to piss off a few friends here, but I have seen it over and over. Your case will win until there is no more money to pay the attorney. Once all the money of your assets is gone, only then you will settle. Do not allow them to bully you into selling the house or what ever else. Those are your assets that you work hard for them. Fight for them. And when all it is said and done if you need to sell, you will not find yourself accepting any offer because the attorney says so.
~ Ask to go to mediation. Time and money saved.
~ Another great avenue, which will save you money at the end, is using a collaborative attorney. Even if the two of you do not get along, they will make sure that your best interest is up front.
~ Consider hiring a Divorce Coach. They will help take you thru the divorce by guiding you and keeping you motivated and accountable. Because their work is under a confidentiality oath, you can share information to them. Be emotional with them instead of your attorney which does not want to hear it or your friends that can be used against you. Their goal is to take the emotion out of the divorce and focus on making decisions that will be most beneficial for you long term. They will hold your hand thru the process while keeping you sane. My wonderful friend Theresa Kleinlein, Co-Founder and Certified Professional Coach at DIV/VY shared this with me:
“The decisions you are expected to make during this time will dictate the rest of your life… You cannot be expected to be mentally capable to make those decisions alone when you are at your lowest level emotionally.”
~ Hire a Real Estate Collaboration Specialist in Divorce. Is the house the best asset, or your worst enemy?
~ And do NOT sign anything, mainly a quick settlement or deal. Those hide the truth. When this happens early on and when your ex and his attorney swear up and down that it is the best deal for you, run. Run to a forensic accountant.
~ But most important, always read all your legal documents and all papers that you need to sign with your attorney present. Your decree verbiage, depending how it is written, may or may not allow you to get a home loan. Do not be afraid to ask questions and demand explanations. And if you do not like what you read, do NOT sign.
I am here to tell you that how scary all this is, how hurtful and painful this all is, you will be ok. As we are the masters of our own destiny we can recreate a new life for ourselves. Actually, if you look at it from that perspective, it is a brand new page of our life that we get to re-write. That is the silver lining for all the hell we go thru to get there.