Thursday, September 9, 2010
Divorce Advice: My Half-Dozen Rules
Even if you think you were married to the most upstanding, moral, wise, and essentially kind human being, he has probably changed. At the very least, he's in a crisis and not thinking with the "big head." The head he is thinking with is no longer the least bit concerned with you or your well-being.
1) As you prepare to move out--or as he moves out, be absolutely certain you have made copies of everything--or just take the originals. You can make copies later and see that he has whatever paperwork he needs at some later point if you are feeling generous. You need everything. Bank statements (or access to on line banking--and if you do have online access change those user names and passwords before he does), credit card statements, insurance documents, absolutely everything financial. You need to continue to keep tabs on all financial transactions from the date of separation until everything is settled. I wish I had taken the entire filing cabinet. Don't forget to take his cell phone records.
2) If separating your finances is going to take some time, consider canceling all credit cards. If you need the credit until your spousal support kicks in, think about adjusting the credit limit. I now could be liable for tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt racked up by my ex because I didn't take any action. You have to think clearly about what you need and what could happen as an outcome of any choice you might make. I wish I had simply taken half of every liquid asset immediately. It would have been appropriate to my circumstances--30 years of marriage, 20-some years of raising children while not working outside the home, community property state.
3) Don't be overly patient. A reasonable amount of time for Mr. Ex and me to settle our financial affairs might have been 6 months or so. I've now spent so much on attorney fees that I could have gone to trial at the 6 month mark and ended all of this. Go to trial if there's a possibility of things dragging on and on.
4) If your ex is planning to remarry, use the time pressure inherent in this situation. DO NOT BIFURCATE. Bifurcation means that the dissolution of the marriage is on a separate timetable from the settlement of financial affairs. Don't let your marriage be dissolved until he has paid up by dividing all joint assets and agreeing to alimony. My attorney suggested bifurcation. It's common. It's what people do. Don't do it.
5) Don't be so damn nice.
6) Don't be nice at all.