Obviously, I’m not a lawyer. I have, although, been through multiple custody hearings and a divorce, so I’d say I have some experience. Through practice, I’ve definitely built up my confidence and learned a lot through trial and error. Some of which I’ll share in this post and next week.
Last year, I consulted with a lawyer to help me create the Divorce Survival Tool Kit. I wanted to give women the tools they need to be prepared to talk to a lawyer and face the legal process ahead. That’s because when I started, I wasn’t prepared and I wasn’t confident that I knew what to do.
Going to court used to be very intimidating for me but not anymore!
Many of the women I hear from don’t want their divorce. Like myself, we go into this thinking that he’ll change his mind, find the healing he needs, or God will knock some sense into him and he’ll come back to the family and marriage. (And we’ll all live happily-ever-after, amiright?)
But as things move along, we realize this is really happening, we’re really headed toward divorce and now we need to participate… or else! I’ll write more about how to do this next week, but you really have to put your feelings aside for a few moments and deal with the tasks at hand.
I know this is not easy. I’ve been there multiple times. But it was only when I separated my feelings from the divorce process, saw it as a business deal instead of the destruction of a family, that I was able to make the right decisions and protect myself, my child, and my future.
Later you come back to the healing. And that’s where this community will help!
But until then, you need to…
As soon as possible, open your own checking and savings account. Consult with legal counsel on how much you can take from joint accounts before doing so, but in most states, you are entitled to half of all assets, even as a stay at home mom.
If you’re not working, find a source of income or go back to school to gain the skills you need to provide for yourself. Alimony is not always dependable, is taxed by the government a great deal (at least in the U.S.), and is not guaranteed to anyone (many variables are taken into account before it’s requisitioned).
Now is not the time to make big purchases. If your husband wants to purchase a new car or a vacation home, refuse to sign with him. This will not make him come back, no matter how much he’s trying to manipulate you to sign. He’s probably thinking about himself, so you need to think about yourself too. I’d also let any lenders know that you’re facing divorce and you don’t want to be held responsible for a debt that you didn’t agree to.
Know what marriage assets you have. Take inventory of everything, locate all possessions, take pictures, and get things appraised for value. (My Divorce Survival Tool Kit will help to collect this information and keep it all organized during this time.) Don’t forget about all retirement and other savings accounts.
Also, pull credit reports to see all of your debt. Find out what you own and to whom, and check that accounts weren’t created without you knowing. And that everything is being paid. If you don’t know about the budget or all the bills, find out. Ask for help if you need to. You have a right to know these things and they’ll help you be prepared for the divorce process. Don’t rely on your lawyer to do this work. (I offer coaching, if you need it.)
You may not feel like doing these things to prepare, maybe you think you’ll be seen as wanting this divorce, but without knowing everything there is to know you can’t make the more informed decisions or protect yourself. (A divorce can be canceled later after the paperwork is done. I know because I’ve been there, done that too.)
Which leads me too…
Protect yourself and your future.
Take advantage of free legal consults and legal advice from wherever you can find it. Interview lawyers before hiring one. Even see others while going through the process, if you can. I consulted with several, even after I committed to my lawyer because I had made a quick decision in hiring her; a decision I later regretted. Talking to other lawyers helped me to assert myself better during the process, especially at the end.
Not all lawyers are a good fit for you or your situation, even one who comes highly recommended. The most expensive lawyers are not always the best either. They could just see you as more money in their pocket rather than caring about your case. Like in my case, free (pro bono) lawyers don’t always work well for you. Make the right decision for you and your situation, especially knowing how much the lawyer charges before you hire one. This may feel like a pressing time, but take all the time you need to make the right decision because you need someone supportive on your side rather than against you.
Find out what your state (or country) divorce laws, and tax implications, are. Talk to a tax advisor about your situation before counter-offering what you’d like from the divorce. The more you can learn the better you can protect your future.
Start planning where you’ll live and other changes you’ll need to make after divorce. Know the costs of living and other expenses. This will help you plan for how much you’ll need to survive once everything is final. Compromise where you can but know what is most important to you. Obviously, being able to survive and rebuild your life should be the top priority. But also trust God to fill in the gap – He is our Provider – after divorce. (More on “Surviving on Less” in the coming months. Until then, check out my resources page and my “Divorced Moms” Pinterest boards.)
Find out how your health insurance will change as well as what to do with your life insurance beneficiary. Ask for a “status quo” order to keep these things in place. Get all of that in writing before making any changes and you decide what will be best for all parties. In my case, we’re both required to leave our life insurance as it was during marriage until our youngest child turns 18. This protects the other party in case of our untimely death.
Collect your thoughts and know what you need.
It may be very hard to know what it’s like to be a divorced woman, starting over and a single mom but the more you know the better. Decide what’s most important to you and to your children.
Should you stay in the marital home? Is it even worth the money or the sentimental value? Would a new start be financially or emotionally better for you (and your children)?
What will you need in 5 years or 10 years (if your children are young)? Assess how things will change and what you’ll need in the future.
Lastly, don’t make decisions out of anger, hurt or revenge. Make knowledge-based decisions rather than in the heat of the moment. Sometimes lawyers forget to tell us the needed information so it’s important to ask questions and find out what you need to know. As hard as it is, the more you know the better things will go for you and the better your future will be after the divorce.
What advice have you learned, to be prepared for the divorce process, protect or provide for yourself now and in the future? Feel free to share your story. (Real name not required.)
God bless your healing journey,