DIVORCE FOR BEGINNERS (women only!) with appreciation to author, Corrine Edwards
“The house was listed for sale and we were looking for a new place, when he sent me an email telling me he wanted a divorce. Can you imagine? An email!”
“She was 30. Beautiful, smart, skinny, hip and “only his business assistant.”
I’ve always been suspicious of the relationship. A woman always knows. I was 50. Just a little overweight – but what do you expect after six children and catching food on the fly as I drove the kids to all their activities in the suburbs? A typical hockey mom who needed a hair cut and who did not have “manicure and pedicure please” in her vocabulary.
We had been married 25 years and I had gone through all the bad times with him. Now, he was at the top of his game. Powerful, rich and still very attractive. He was out of town. I called him immediately to see if this was some kind of a crazy joke. He said he still loved me but he was not “in love” with me anymore. I still don’t know what that means. And he “needed a change.”
Obviously, the only antidote for this news is suicide. NO. We have no time for that kind of thinking. No one is worth your health or your life. No one. And if you think this will bring him back – you are wrong. He has probably already made up his mind. It also gives him a wonderful excuse. Who could stay with such a “crazy lady?” You are not a crazy lady.
Your strength at this point is he knows you very well and will underestimate your capability of playing hardball. But you must. In spite of the SHOCK – there must be a stronger word but it will have to do – you have to act immediately. Speed is important. No more Mrs. Nice Girl. If a miracle happens and he changes his mind later, you can always apologize.
Here is your initial plan. You go to the bank. Go to your broker. Get certified checks – not cashiers – for half of any liquid assets available that include your name and have them made out to you. If anyone questions you, tell them it is for a real estate closing. Then, you go to a different bank, open a new account in your name alone and deposit the checks. Why are you doing this? Because men use money to control. And you don’t want to have start begging for money for groceries and your kid’s school trip. I know you think your husband would never do this to you, but they do. If he has already drained the accounts, you need to get an attorney immediately. But you may be beating him to it because he doesn’t think you would do this. Just do it.
Next you go into his home office. He did not get where he is today by being disorganized so all his IRS, bank statements, stock market statements will probably be neatly stored. Remember, he does not give you credit for being so clever so they are probably there. Put all the records into a garbage bag and go to Kinko’s. Have everything copied. Every piece of financial paper you can find. Information on pensions, contracts with his employer. Take these copies to your mother’s house or your best friend’s and put them in their basement. Return his records to his files. Sure, you can get these later but your having these records will save time and money later because your attorney will not have to subpoena for them. Attorneys charge you by the minute not the case. You are not allowed the luxury of having a nervous breakdown yet. There is more to do.
Look at your credit cards. Are they in your name or are you a signature on your husband’s account? If you don’t know, call the credit card companies and ask. You want them to issue cards in your individual name. Tell them it is easier for you when a store asks for an ID. Pay extra for FEDEX to get the cards immediately. Next. Stay with me. I know this is hard. You have several friends who have been divorced. Call them up. You don’t have to tell them this is for you. You want the names of the top divorce attorneys in the city – maybe for a good friend of yours. They may have been the lawyers who represented their former husbands. Gather three or four names and call their offices and make an appointment to see them. Right away. Divorce attorneys do not usually charge for an initial visit.When you get there, it is time for you to listen to your intuitive gut. You will get a feeling of who you can work with in the future if you need to. This could be a long, drawn out process so you want someone you like – someone you feel is capable of protecting you and your children financially. You don’t have to hire anyone just yet but make a preliminary decision. It will make you feel more powerful and you need this now. This is not a good time for you to move – so if your house or condo is for sale, cancel the listing immediately. Don’t worry if you have signed an exclusive listing with an agent for six months. You can still cancel. It has happened to the agent before, so don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings. According to the rules in most states, you are not liable to pay a commission to that agent unless you sell the house during the period of the agreement – either by owner or with another broker. Things are too unsettled right now to consider or even make a good decision on where you might want to live in the future. Keep things status quo for you and your children at this time. You need to maintain a stable environment. Everything else in your life feels like it is going up in flames.OK. You can fall apart for now. You have done some tough work. Work out of your comfort zone. The fireworks are about to begin. At some point, there will be a meeting. Perhaps he will have second thoughts. Maybe even agree to marriage counseling. And, who knows? Maybe even a reconciliation. For a moment or a while. Do the best you can with what is for now. Even if the counseling doesn’t work, the therapist could act as a mediator in an eventual divorce and help you and your family to adjust to this radical new situation. In addition to a couples therapist, get one of your own. You need someone to talk to besides your mother, sister or friends. In any event, don’t back off from the actions you have taken financially until you have a bullet proof legal agreement. One cardinal rule. Do not bad mouth this man to your children. It is tempting but it will hurt them. And it will not help you. They will have their own angry feelings, maybe even blame you, and you don’t want to add to that by tearing them apart by choosing sides. He is their father and hopefully, will continue to act as such.
Now, stop. Let time pass. Your inclination is to sit in your chair and stare at the ceiling. And that is okay for a while. You feel as though your life has ended and although it has not, no one will be able to convince you of that just now.
Try to force yourself to get up and do something. Even if it is just walking to the corner to mail a letter. It doesn’t have to be a lot right away. But, be kind to yourself. You have post traumatic stress disorder. Fortunately, you have to take care of your family which will force you into some semblance of activity. You have to shop, feed them and do the laundry.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross, in her many books, talks about the five stages of grief. They don’t always happen in this order but you can plan on all of them to happen to you.
Denial. “This can’t be happening to me.” Not accepting or even acknowledging the loss.
Anger. “Why me?” Wanting to attack or get even. Lots of blame.Bargaining. Trying to make deals with the spouse who is leaving. Making deals with God. Begging. Wishing. Praying that he will come home.
Depression. We’ve already mentioned this one. Feelings of hopelessness. Mourning the future you will not have now.
Acceptance. Not resignation. Just realizing that it has happened.
You need help with all these stages with your own therapist. Get it. It not seem possible but you will survive. Healing will come in its own time. Don’t let anyone tell you when it will happen. You have your own time frame. You will survive.