If your mate blindsided you with a demand to divorce, you may be confused and heartbroken. However, there are four things you need to do promptly to protect yourself and your interests even if there is a chance of reconciliation. Doing these things will give you a sense of power, get your mind on a constructive activity, and help you have a more secure future.
Get Your Financial Affairs in Order and Hire An Attorney
It is possible that your mate has been planning this for some time and may already be in the process of hiding things from you. As soon as you have a hint that he or she may considering divorce, you should start looking out for your own future interests. if you don't do this, you could end up in a difficult financial (but avoidable) situation following the divorce.
You will want to do some detective work on your own, or if there are significant and complicated assets/debts you may need to hire a forensic investigator to get a true picture of your shared finances. Even if the marriage is salvageable, you should not be naïve about these matters. Keeping up-to-date on your financial matters is a protection for you, should your mate start trying to hide assets.
You will want to gather these things:
- Birth certificates, social security cards of yourself and your children (and passports if you have them),
- Copies of your last three years of tax returns,
- Information on your marital assets and liabilities.
You should also consult a divorce attorney in your area who can give you some specific legal advice on your situation and help you avoid costly mistakes.
Stay in Your House
You may be strongly tempted to move out of your home because of the memories plus the current heartache or even due to pressure from your spouse, but this could prove to be a serious mistake if your name is on the mortgage or lease. Some of the reasons this is true are:
- You could be forced to continue paying the bills while also having the additional expense of a separate residence, especially if you are employed and make more than your spouse,
- It could result in higher child support payments,
- It could affect your chances of getting full or shared custody of your children, and
- It could be considered abandonment of your family.
The best course of action would be to tough it out and live in a different part of the house or apartment than your spouse.
Seek Counseling if You Need It
To sort out the complicated issues that brought you and your mate to this point, you could engage in a short-term marital therapy called discernment counseling.
This five session process is aimed at helping couples to clarify what each person wants out of the situation and also to guide them in deciding on a appropriate direction for the marriage. Partners can opt out of the counseling at any time but if they finish the sessions, they may continue on to engage in traditional marital therapy, and/or make a plan for staying together, or they may decide to progress on to a collaborative divorce.
So, to recap: gather your important papers and put them in a place that is inaccessible to your spouse for the time being. Talk to an experienced family law attorney and follow their advice, which may include staying in the family home. Seek short-term marital counseling to see if the marriage can be preserved or else result in a non-acrimonious (and costly) divorce.