First, read this. Digest it. Do not take the decision to divorce your spouse lightly.
If you just see your single friends and think their lives are so much more exciting and carefree and you think they are happier than you are, know that the grass is NOT always greener.
Being a single parent can sometimes be extremely lonely.
Just being tired of the bullshit and responsibilities of life is NOT a reason to divorce. Life as a single parent is harder and multiplies the bullshit and responsibilities of life.
If your marriage has any chance to survive, work hard to repair the damages and stick together.
Chances are you won't always want to be single. If you should ever decide to re-marry, know that step-family life is complicated and it can sometimes be hard and full of stress. (Nothing is worse than when your child hates, HATES, his step-father. And vice versa. And you are stuck in the middle.)
No one - even the most wonderful and loving step-parent - will ever love your children quite as much as you and their other biological parent.
Once you have children, you will be forever tied to your spouse - no matter what.
Having read and really considered all that, if you plan to proceed with divorce -
Below is a list of what divorce in the State of Alabama has taught me on the off chance it can help you. And for my guy friends, I used "he" as the ex because that is how it pertains to me. Any and all of this information can be used by a man against his ex - the wife.
In most cases, men recover financially much faster and easier than women.
- Any agreement between the two of you that is not reduced to writing cannot be proven or upheld later. GET IT IN WRITING. Have a friend or co-worker witness and sign the document stating that they watched both you and your ex sign the document.
- Once you have made the decision to divorce, separate. Take your time. Don’t make any rash decisions. Give yourself time to think everything through. (What do you want your future life to be? What is best for the children?) Plan ahead!
- Make a detailed listing of any and all expenses you will face once you are single. Be sure to include all costs for the children. (Daycare, after school care, back-to-school supplies, seasonal clothing…) Be prepared – don’t go into this blind.
- A big goal is to only agree to things that will give your ex minimal input or affect on your life once the divorce is final.
- Know that the divorce settlement is important. The younger the children are, the more likely you will have to take your ex back to court at some point in the future. Get every benefit in writing now while you can.
- Sit tight. Force the ex to file for the divorce. (Proof to the court that he is the one that wants to leave you and tear the family apart.)
- Don’t allow your ex to pressure you to settle fast. The longer things drag out, the more opportunity the ex will have to show his ass, the more ammunition you will be able to acquire to use against him.
- Make a plan for how you want your outcome to be and stick with it. Don’t be short-sighted. (What if you never re-marry? How long will it be before the children are independent and self-supportive? How do you want to live between now and then?) Ask for everything, knowing you won’t get everything.
- Alimony in this day and age is rare, but don’t let that stop you from fighting for it.
- Once you have made the decision to divorce, do NOT allow guilt over what your love for the ex once was, or what you wanted it to be, to dictate decisions that must be made in the divorce process. Do NOT make a decision based upon, “I don’t want to do that to him” or, “I want to play fair.”
- Keep this in mind – whoever gets the most emotional, loses. And your ex is no longer your friend.
- Once you have made the decision to divorce, adopt the mindset that you are at war with your ex. No more Mr. Nice Guy! Be a bitch and proud of it! It will be up to you and you alone to protect yourself and to ensure that you come out with the best possible settlement that you can.
- Get your own attorney.
- Get your own attorney.
- Get your own attorney.
- The cost of getting your own attorney, hired to protect you and your interests, will be totally worth it once everything is signed, sealed, and a part of court record.
- Talk to everyone you know that is divorced. Ask who their attorney was and if they were happy with their representation. Pay attention to what attorney gets the best vote of confidence. Then go and retain him/her.
- If you aren’t happy with your attorney’s services, swap attorneys!
- You do not have to file for divorce in the county in which you live. That means - if an attorney in a neighboring town has the best reputation among your friends and acquaintances, go with him/her!
- Do not agree to use one attorney for both you and your ex to draw up a “fair and equal” agreement. Your ex will argue that it is cheaper, but the attorney’s hands will be tied so that he/she cannot advise either you or your ex and the agreement will not protect you.
- Once you have made the decision to divorce buy a notebook, keep it with you at all times, and start keeping a journal of all misdeeds by your ex. There will probably be many. You will need dates, times, and lists of any witnesses or copies of any evidence. Err on the side of too much information and detail. If the ex leaves hateful or harassing voice mail – make a copy of the recording!!! If he leaves ugly notes or sends ugly text messages – print a copy!!! But don’t tell him – surprise him when everything hits the fan in court (or in depositions.)
- Lay off Facebook and Twitter and any other social media for the duration of your proceedings. Something will always be posted by yourself or someone else that can and will be used against you.
- Do not agree to joint legal custody of the children. If you do, should the ex decide sometime not to give the children back after their regular visitation is over, you will be at the court’s mercy. This means the police cannot force the ex to return the children to you, and they cannot force the ex to allow you to see your children. You will have to wait until you can hire an attorney and get a court date and then wait for the judge to decide that the children should be returned to you or at least that the formerly agreed visitation schedule should resume as agreed upon in the divorce. This can take months.
- Do not agree on an every-other holiday schedule. For instance, if your family traditionally gets together for Christmas Day lunch, make sure your divorce decree states that you get the children every Christmas Day. Let the ex have the children every Christmas Eve. You get the children every mother’s day and let the ex have the children every father’s day. Each of you get the children every year on your birthday, etc.
- Give your ex visitation rights for every-other weekend. Stipulate that should he decide not to exercise his right, that you are under no obligation to swap weekends.
- Try to avoid swapping designated weekends with your ex. It will discourage him from springing a change in plans on you at the last minute. (You have to plan around when he is supposed to have the children - limit his ability to screw with your plans.)
- The State of Alabama has a formula to determine the amount your ex must pay in child support. This is the minimal amount. If he offers more than the formula amount, take it. And get it in writing; notarized. File that offer with the court.
- Do not trust your ex to pay his child support as agreed. Do not give your ex the power to pay if and when he chooses. When the divorce settlement is filed, also have your attorney file a withholding order with DHR that allows them to garnish your ex’s pay from his employer from the very beginning. It will take the responsibility and choice away from him - as far as what to pay and when - and it will ensure that you receive payment on a regularly scheduled basis.
- Having DHR involved with collecting your child support will give you leverage against your ex in the future for any non-payment or arrearage. It will also ensure that you have an accurate record of how much support you have received and when without you having to be responsible for keeping record yourself.
- If you choose not to involve DHR, be sure to start keeping detailed records of all child support received at the very beginning. Dates paid, amounts paid, amounts unpaid.
- The age of majority in the State of Alabama is 19 but push to get child support until the children graduate from college, or until age 21.
- Do not agree to future payout due to stock income. Force your ex to sell and split the money at the time of settlement. If he is blocked from cashing-in due to company policy, force your ex to provide a statement for record of the stock value at the time of settlement and make arrangements for immediate payment even if he has to take out a bank loan in order to do so. Get the money while the getting’s good!
- If your ex has retirement benefits, go after as much of it as your attorney is willing to go after.
- Before your ex moves out and takes the computer, the filing cabinet, the financial records - study the household budget. Get copies of your bank account statements and his payroll statements.
- Research and know exactly how much debt you and your spouse have, as well as how much money may be stored in a savings account or some other type asset.
- If your ex quits his job so that he “cannot afford” to pay child support, refuse to settle the divorce. If he is the one that wants out, he is the one that will be ready, willing and anxious to move on with his “new” life.
- Be aware that, if at any time after your divorce is final, your ex gets a pay raise or promotion or changes jobs for much higher pay - you can take him back to court to request an increase in child support. (Of course that goes both ways - if his financial situation decreases, he can go back to court to ask for a decrease in support obligations.)
- Keep tabs on your ex. If he starts dating during the separation period, discreetly stake out the house. Be sneaky and follow him around to see what he’s up to. Get time/date stamped photos showing his vehicle in the girlfriend’s driveway. Hire a private investigator if you can to get the proof you will need. Or talk to your attorney to see what you can do that will be admissible in court.
- Do NOT start dating until you have a final divorce decree from the judge. No new relationship is worth what you could lose in your settlement. Even if your ex doesn't care WHAT you do, don't be stupid enough to think he won't use another man against you to better his outcome in the divorce.
- Do NOT give your ex any ammunition on you. During the divorce process your life should be work, home, and kid-oriented places only (such as the ball park during their ball games.) The divorce process won’t last forever and it is in your best interest in the long run!
- Close all joint accounts yourself. Do not trust your ex to do so, even if you are only the co-signer on a credit card or bank loan.
- Understand that a divorce settlement is NOT accepted by any financial institution regarding who is responsible for payment. If your name was on the account or loan or mortgage at any time, they will come after you for payment if your ex defaults.
- If there are balances on joint credit cards, call the company and have the cards frozen so that you and your ex are only allowed to make payments toward paying it off. This will keep your ex from being able to make any further charges that you will be held responsible for.
- Keep records of the date/time/representative’s name you spoke with/account number and balance when you call to request freezing the account so that they are at fault if your ex is later allowed to run up charges. Request something in writing from the account representative outlining your phone conversation. (You may or not receive anything, but it doesn’t hurt to make the request.)
- At the time of separation, if you are renting, call the landlord and see about signing a new lease, removing your ex (and his rights) to the property.
- If you have a mortgage, the best case scenario is to sell the house and to split in half any equity there might be. (According to the circumstances, you may want to try getting all of it! Won’t hurt to try…) If you wish to keep the house, refinance the home in your name only if you can. Or ask your attorney about making the ex include a deed in the divorce settlement giving you full right, title and interest in the property.
- Stipulate that your ex be responsible for paying you over and above alimony and child support the amount of your mortgage or lease payment until the youngest child reaches the age of majority (or graduates from college, or age 21).
- Change your utilities, cable and phone into your name only so that your ex cannot have your service turned off in the future. (Having the service turned off at 5pm on Friday afternoon can make for a long weekend.)
- If you have a car loan on the vehicle you receive in the settlement, refinance the loan into your name only. Make sure your ex is taken off the title so that he can’t come back and take it away from you later.
- Get a copy of your credit report from the credit bureau and check to see what is being reported. Seek the assistance of the credit bureau clerks to help you clean up your file.
- Do not agree to any “cohabitation with a member of the opposite sex” clauses regarding termination of alimony. It gives your ex too much power over your life after he is no longer a part of it.
- Do not agree to your ex being responsible for payment of day care, after school care, or other such expenses in exchange for payment of child support. Make the ex pay you the full child support up front and then you be responsible for payment of any expenses related to your children.
- Force your ex to provide health insurance, dental insurance, and life insurance for your children.
- Force your ex to agree to purchase life insurance on himself with the children (and children only) listed as sole beneficiaries, to be split equally among them.
- Demand that you be allowed to claim all the children on your state and federal tax returns until they reach the age of majority (or graduate from college.)
- Force your ex to pay all attorney’s fees and court costs accrued during the divorce process.
- Do not agree to pay your ex anything.
- Keep in mind that all judges are former attorneys, and all attorneys are friends. They may duke it out in court, but they’re buddies after-hours. They socialize with one another on a regular basis.
- No one will care about your situation as much as or more so than you do. Be involved with your case every step of the way until the kids are grown and gone.
- Realize that, at the end of the day, your divorce is merely a means to a paycheck for your attorney.
- The process can be long and arduous. Stay strong and firm as long as you can.
- Be realistic and know when it's time to make allowances. You will not get everything you asked for.