by Anne Janda, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist, Collaborative Coach
- Tell the truth. If you’re having an affair, it’s time to spill the beans. If you’ve been squirreling away marital funds in a secret savings or investment account, it’s time to share that information and to share the money in the divorce settlement. Spouses often suspect secrets, and if they are exposed later during a financial review in the legal process, it will get ugly. Hell hath no fury like a woman (or a man) scorned or lied to, and keeping secret relationships and accounts is lying no matter how you rationalize it. Fury becomes distrust leading to complicated and expensive investigations which you can avoid if your spouse trusts you to tell the truth.
- Spell out in simple terms what your assets and bills are. You will be asked to fill out forms called “disclosures.” These forms ask you to list all your assets and debts including retirement accounts and separate property you may have inherited or brought into the marriage. You will be asked what you spend now and what you think you will need in the future. List all your expenses. No one will judge you, even if your spouse has complained that you are careless with money. If you get expensive massages or if you drop a few hundred at your hair stylist or buy designer clothes put these down. You can decide later if you want to cut back after your monthly income is decided.
- Keep anger, resentment, and feelings of betrayal out of your divorce process. These ugly emotions (I didn’t say they weren’t justified) can only prolong an already painful process and cause needless bickering that builds up attorneys’ fees. Take a look in the mirror just after you open your attorney’s bill. It won’t be a pretty sight. Find a therapist or divorce coach and vent to them instead.
- Be straightforward in your self-interests regarding finances and child-sharing. Know what you think is fair and best for your children, for you and for your partner. Don’t try to obfuscate or use leverage or tricks to get what you want. Keep it simple in terms that your spouse can comprehend. Present clear options. And if you can’t feel that you have his or her best interests in mind, well, put them there anyway. You’ll enjoy the result when your partner is more willing to work co-operatively and quickly through the negotiation with you.
- Don’t try to make your attorney into your avenger or champion or decider. Your attorney works for you. You need to decide what your preferences are. Attorneys can explain your legal rights, and they can go over the pros and cons of your preferences, but they don’t walk in your shoes. They can’t tell you what your values are or what your vision is for the future. Think creatively and be ready and willing to compromise with your spouse as you work toward your financial and child-sharing goals.
Remember, if your divorce turns ugly, your kids will suffer. And your co-parenting future will suffer. If you keep it plain and simple, your children will remember that you put your best face forward for them and your family as you experienced an upheaval that could’ve become an ugly mess.