It’s My Money

I am a stay at home wife and mother who now wants a divorce but has no money- should I represent myself because I can’t afford a lawyer? This is a lament I often hear from women. You can afford a lawyer and you NEED a lawyer.

Marriage is a partnership where one or both parties contribute outside employment income. You may be putting money into a joint account or individual accounts- it doesn’t matter because all money earned during the marriage is a marital asset. Don’t listen when your husband says its his money because he earns it. First, you should be offended because he has placed no value on your contribution to caring for the house and the children. Second repeat to him and to you- this is a partnership, 50/50- we each contribute to this marriage.

You can take the money out of the joint account to pay for an attorney. You can take out all of the money or part of it- but you will need to account for the money when the marital assets are inventoried but so will he. (Do take out enough to keep paying bills, buying food and paying for other family expenses.) Your husband can’t leave your family without support but you’ll need a court order to make him continue supporting the family and paying for the house.

I had a client who believed she owned nothing- all of the money in their accounts was “his” and “his” money paid for the house. When she divorced him all she got was child support- she did not have a lawyer because she thought she had no money to pay for legal representation. Because she was”gas lighted” by her husband she lost $50,000 equity in their house, a portion of all of the marital assets, and no alimony (which she was entitled to). A lawyer can handle your case from beginning to end or assist you with the parts of your case your feel that you are competent to handle. You can’t afford not to hire an attorney!

Order of Protection

This is the third beating this month but he always says he’s sorry. I know he means it when he says sorry and I know he had a horrible childhood. He told me his dad used to beat up his mom and him.

When he’s not drinking he’s the greatest husband and father. If his boss wasn’t such a jerk, I know my husband wouldn’t drink so much. I know if I was a better wife and the kids picked up their toys he wouldn’t get so mad.

This is the fourth time this month he beat me and now he is beating the kids. I know he doesn’t mean it. He loves us.

I’m pretty sure we’ll survive the beatings. Besides, what can I do?

Mom Knows Best

I am a single Mom raising 3 kids on my own with no help from that jerk I was previously married to. I know now why he is referred to as my X because I have X’d him out of my life.

I’ve told the kids all about him since they are too young to see how horrible he was as a husband. I believe kids are entitled to the truth no matter how ugly it is. They need to know that the court screwed me on child support because the court favors fathers. When the kids ask me why we can’t do something, I remind them of all their father’s faults and how he doesn’t pay me enough money to raise them properly. I tell them that if he really loved them he would pay me more money so I could take care of them. Sure they cry but it’s better they know the truth.

I don’t always have them home when he comes to get them for his visitation. I have a life you know and besides, kids need their Mom more than their Dad. He complains, but seriously, does he think I care? I tell him to send more money and maybe I’ll be home more often.

The other day the kids told me how much they love their Dad and they don’t like it when I say bad things about him. Kids! What do they know?

Why Do My Kids Hate Me

I don’t understand why my kids hate me. I’m really trying to figure it out, but I’m pretty sure it’s because of their Mom (she hates me). I started a checklist to see what’s the matter.

  1. I’m always late with pay child support so the kids can’t be in sports or other activities.
  2. I never pay the full amount of child support because I have bills to pay and a social life, I’m pretty sure my paying less doesn’t impact my kids.(Why do they keep asking me about stuff?)
  3. I always complain to my kids about child support. (They should know the court ripped me off.)
  4. I always complain to my kids about their mother.
  5. I use my kids as my personal messenger to deliver my message to their mother.
  6. I ask my kids what their Mom has recently bought for the house or about her new partner. (I’m just curious- that’s not making them my spies)
  7. Baseball games, school plays, parent-teacher nights interfere with my plans besides I might see their mother and I hate her. (Sitting in the same stadium is not far enough away for me.)
  8. It’s the playoffs or world series, that only happens once a year and I have a bet in the game. I can see the kids next week or next month. I don’t want to watch the game on my DVR. They understand how much I love sports.
  9. I am not going to a kids movie or event, that’s just not my thing.
  10. This is a really important text- the kids don’t mind if I’m not “present.”
  11. A conversation at dinner- what would we talk about?
  12. This new 75 inch TV is really for them.

Why do my kids hate me? It’s can’t be anything I’m doing.

Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day. There’s a difference between being a father and being a Dad. A Dad is there for his kids. He takes full advantage of seeing is children and he takes full advantage of talking to his children. Sure I know that you’re tired after a long week at work or maybe you’re working a second job to support your children but those are adult issues. Kids only know that they see you or hear from you. They only know that you take the time to ask about their day and share parts of your life with them. To your kids you are the most important man in the world.

But your EX is a horrible person that you can’t stand to see. Wow, that’s original! Divorce does not mean divorcing your kids. Can’t stand to see your EX then make arrangements to do a kid exchange at McDonald’s were making a scene would make her look like a jerk. Get your kids in the car before you engage in a limited conversation and that conversation should be “I’ll text you later.” Use a parenting text service and keep all of your communication through that service. If possible, arrange to have a relative pick up or deliver your kids. If you have to pick up the kids at their house, then ring the bell and wait for them outside (always be cordial to their Mom- hello goes a long way in front of your kids). Your kids are watching you and listening to you and it’s important for you to set a good example because your kids will carry that message all of their lives.

This Father’s Day be a Dad. Put your phone down because no message or phone call is more important than your children.

This Father’s Day be a Dad. Have patience with your children because they are learning from you how to be loving and responsible people.

Happy Dad’s Day.

Talk To Me

Why do we divorce? It’s better to start with why do we get married. While there are some who shared a few too many drinks and headed off to the Chapel of Love in Las Vegas, most of us dated and thought this person was our soulmate (a term I find so disingenuous) and we overlooked all of those big and little annoyances (s/he is so cute when…..). Some of us thought our marriage clock was winding down fast and better march down the aisle before the alarm rang (no one wants to hear the alarm bell). Some of us got married because we said yes to the proposal (or offered the proposal) in those heady first months (or year) and then you were afraid to hurt your partner’s feeling by saying your love had changed and marriage was no longer right for you. Then there are the expectations of family and friends- they love your intended- and you can’t possibly let them down (not a good answer!). Or the wedding invitations have been sent out and the reception venue booked, might as well go through with it (you can get refunds so draft the contract with enough wiggle room for you to cancel the venue).

The key to why we divorce is the lack of communication. Communication is not just talking but actively engaging in the process. Communication includes listening. When you began to be unhappy was when you should have started talking- actually, if you could recognize changes in you, or your relationship, that was really the starting point of your discontent and the should have been the impetus to start communicating. Communication is self-reflective not finger-pointing. It’s an opportunity to change your relationship, your future, for the better. If you don’t know how to start the conversation, there are plenty of self-help books and there is therapy  (for you). I am not a fan of couple’s therapy (I find them to be bitch sessions) but it may work for you (you can always stop). Communication during dating and then, importantly, during the marriage may prevent you from divorcing. 

What about family and friends? Yes, have a conversation with them and let them know you have changed and the relationship has changed. No big details and don’t try hurting your spouse through 3rd party communications. Social media- save the nasty statements for your therapists or bartender.

Start today.

I Hate You-Merry Christmas

Not every marriage ends with both parties agreeing that they were not the perfect match. Usually each party feels they have been duped, or taken advantage of, or treated badly AND they are right. Each person views the breakup of the marriage their their own “rose colored” glasses. It may take years (and possibly therapy) to realize that rarely is the breakup of a marriage one sided. So what do you do while you are waiting for your realization light bulb to occur? Be cordial.

I can hear you now, “Me be cordial after what s/he has done! No way!” I get it, but think of how you would react to a coworker you detested but had to interact with- you’d be cordial. When opening the horrible present you got from a family member-you’d be cordial. If you don’t have children together chances are you will not be speaking after the divorce order has been delivered by the court but if you have children-be cordial.

Well, s/he is not cordial to me…ever. OK, so ignore s/he and just be cordial. Being cordial is a gift to yourself and to your children.

Being a Parent

Visitation is an odd word for being with one’s children. You aren’t visiting with the kids, you were being with them, parenting them, supporting them as they grow. The new term of art is parenting time and child access both of which still sound so formal and distant. No matter how distant the words sound, the key is to be a parent in every sense of the word.

Being a parent means showing up at soccer games, applauding the Oscar-winning performance at the school play or dance recital, lending a shoulder to cry on, and providing advice on how to maneuver the social pitfalls of today’s Facebook and other  social sites, and being there to snap photos of your son or daughter in their school prom best.  Being a parent means you’re there at the birth, the graduation ceremony, the wedding, and the birth of grandchildren. You make each occasion about your children and not your divorce.

If you can’t stand your former spouse, stand on the other side of the room, sit a few tables away at the reception,  but do offer to share the costs of receptions and graduations because you’re a parent and not a “show-off.”  Slip your kid a few extra bucks, not just child support.

You and your former spouse created this wonderful child and your child loves you both. Every event doesn’t need to be a challenge or a recitation of past grievances, be a parent.



Do I Need a Lawyer?

I am often asked, “Do I need a lawyer, it’s so expensive.” The answer to that question is yes and no- I hear you laughing, “that’s a lawyer’s answer.” True!

Are you comfortable with public speaking? Can you communicate your ideas clearly? Have you taken advantage of your court’s self-help center? Are you organized? Have you Googled divorce, alimony, and child support to begin educating yourself? Can you speak to your soon to be Ex so that you can resolve issues? If you answered no, you need a lawyer.

Do you own a home? Do you have children? Are you disabled or have a serious illness? Do you have a retirement plan or a complicated financial history?  Are you over the age of 50? If you answered yes, you need a lawyer.

BUT, you may not need a lawyer for every step of your divorce. You can hire a lawyer to perform only certain tasks or draft certain documents, or just advise you as you move forward with your divorce. This type of limited representation will reduce your legal costs while providing you with support.

The most effective way to reduce your legal expenses is to create a Marital Separation and Property Settlement Agreement and BE REASONABLE. Zillow is not the actual value of your home, the black velvet painting of Elvis is not worth as much as you think, and you may not be entitled to alimony no matter that s/he was unfaithful.  You will need an attorney to help you through the drafting and negotiation of the agreement but you will reduce your costs if you come prepared and willing to settle with your soon to be Ex.

A divorce is the ending of a “business transaction” so don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.  A divorce is more time consuming that researching your next car or your kid’s college so be ready to put in the time or live with the results.


Civility – An Attitude Adjustment

There is much talk across the country about the lack of civility. When we are under stress or angry, we often become uncivil. Divorce is a decided stress on each spouse and on the children. Divorce is also a stress on the extended family and friends of the divorcing couple.

When you are angry it’s hard not to lash out. There’s also the constant fear that if you express your anger the child support or alimony check may be delayed. A delayed support check can be devastating for those living paycheck to paycheck.

So what can you do?  (1) Don’t immediately answer the call from your spouse, let the message go to voicemail. (2) Don’t immediately return a nasty text (it can be used against you in court). (3) Think about your children. Lashing out at a spouse hurts your children more than it punishes your spouse. (4)Meditate or do yoga. (5) Go for a run or a walk. (6) Tell your troubles to your dog or cat.  (7) Call a friend and bitch. (8) Distract yourself by joining a Meet-up group, or read a book, drink a glass of wine (or ice tea), cook a batch of cookies – anything that allows you to cool down. (5) Answer your spouse in your own time and be civil. You will catch more flies with honey than vinegar and your blood pressure won’t boil.

I know this will not work every time but it will work most times. Civility starts with you and in your home. Don’t let a jerk define how you respond to his or her incivility.