A good outcome when leaving an abusive marriage requires preparation and protection. Here are 14 tips for women to follow before they divorce their abuser.
1. PREPARE TO LEAVE YOUR ABUSER AHEAD OF TIME.
Be prepared for your husband to take punitive action. He is very likely to drain joint bank accounts and hide financial assets once he becomes aware that you plan to divorce him. Read the free brochure, Breaking Bonds 11 Step Prep Guide, that is available on the Breaking Bonds website and take necessary steps listed there before you file for divorce.
2. KEEP DETAILED RECORDS OF VERBAL ABUSE, PICTURES OF PHYSICAL ABUSE, HOSPITAL RECORDS, AND EMAILS.
Keep well documented evidence of abuse and/or infidelity in a safe place outside the home. Your husband is likely to destroy any evidence that he can find once he becomes aware that you are leaving him. Give a copy to your attorney and bring these records to any negotiation, mediation or trial that you attend.
3. DON’T LEAVE YOUR CHILDREN WITH YOUR ABUSER IF YOU HAVE LEFT THE HOME.
You may lose custody of your children if you leave them with your husband once you have left the home. The court may consider your leaving them behind to be abandonment or that you may be lying about the abuse. Call the police if your husband tries to intimidate you to leave without your children.
Do not leave without them.
4. DON’T USE THE SAME ATTORNEY OR FINANCIAL ADVISOR AS YOUR ABUSER TO SAVE MONEY.
Find an independent professional to represent your interests. Using the same one as your abuser, who may be sympathetic to him, may cost you a lot of money in the long run.
5. DON’T CALL YOUR ATTORNEY UNLESS IT IS REALLY NECESSARY.
It will cost you money every time that you call your attorney’s office. Read books on divorce and do research online for basic questions you have. If you have a dispute or problem, make sure it is important enough to increase your attorney bill. Deal with his paralegal when possible. Keep in mind that you will still be charged for his or her time, albeit at a reduced rate.
6. DON’T NEGOTIATE WITH YOUR ABUSER.
Disengage. He will try to wear you down through intimidation, protracted negotiations, and pointless arguments. You may think you have finally reached an agreement with him, but he will not keep his word, anyway. Don’t let him waste precious time you need to spend elsewhere.
7. ENFORCE A RESTRAINING ORDER IF IT IS VIOLATED.
Have the restraining order in hand when the police arrive. Write down
the date and time, and name and badge number of every law enforcement officer involved. Take pictures and go to the hospital if your abuser hurt you. Document everything. Don’t let him get a free pass or the next time may be a lot worse.
8. ANTICIPATE YOUR ABUSER’S ACTIONS TO PREVENT THE DIVORCE OR PUNISH YOU FOR LEAVING HIM.
Your abuser’s behavior may be fairly predictable, but he may become erratic when he realizes that he is losing control. Do what you can to protect yourself, your children, and your assets. If you suspect that he may become violent, leave immediately with your children.
9. BE REALISTIC ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO RECEIVE IN THE DIVORCE SETTLEMENT.
It is unlikely that you will receive more than half of the marital assets. Get professional advice and be realistic about what you can expect to receive as your share of the assets so that you are not wasting time and driving up divorce costs. In most states, inherited assets and gifts are not part of the marital estate. If you signed a pre-nuptial agreement before you married, your lawyer will advise you as to your rights.
10. DON’T TAKE THE HOUSE IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO KEEP IT AFTER THE DIVORCE.
If neither one of you wants the house, insist that the house be sold as part of the divorce agreement and that you split the proceeds. If you take the house, you will have to pay the expenses of maintaining it until it is sold and be at risk for a decline in housing prices. You will also have to pay the closing costs by yourself, which is patently unfair.
11. DON’T RELY ON YOUR ATTORNEY TO REMEMBER EVERY IMPORTANT DETAIL.
He or she is busy with other clients. Keep a log of the expenses that you are to be reimbursed for in the divorce. Bring it to the negotiations. Request that credit cards and other debts such as car loans be paid off before the assets are distributed in the divorce. If yousigned for a card or car loan, even if the divorce agreement requires your husband to pay the debt, you are still liable if he fails to pay it. Creditors do not care about the terms of a divorce agreement. You signed a binding contract with them, so you will still owe it. Don’t let his debts become your problem and affect your credit score.
12. BE PREPARED WHEN YOU GO TO MEDIATION AND TO COURT.
Dress appropriately and arrive ahead of time. Act respectfully with the judge, the mediator, or opposing counsel. Limit your answer to only the question being asked and stay calm.Bring a typewritten list of how you expect the assets and debts to be divided. Make sure that your lawyer is on the same page with you and has a copy of your proposed division of assets in hand.
13. READ THE FINE PRINT CAREFULLY BEFORE YOU SIGN THE DIVORCE AGREEMENT.
Make sure that everything you discussed with your lawyer is in the document. If it is not in there, you won’t get it. Take responsibility for the outcome of your divorce. Protect yourself.
14. PRACTICE SELF-CARE TO STRENGTHEN YOUR RESERVES.
You need to keep your wits about you for many months until the divorce is final, so eat properly, and get enough exercise and rest to be at your best. Take bubble baths, listen to uplifting music, spend time with friends, meditate or pray. Do whatever you need to do to replenish your reserves when they become depleted.
If you do make a mistake, immediately forgive yourself and rectify it, if at all possible. If not, learn from it and let it go. You are human and will make mistakes. I hope that this information will help arm you with the information you need to prevent most of them. A good outcome in your divorce requires preparation and protection. You deserve to be happy!