I’ve been asked to talk about the three ways to protect yourself during a divorce. I’ve thought about this a lot because what do you really mean protect yourself? I chose to talk about it in terms of actual protection. When I work with clients, there’s two safety plans that I design with people if they’re necessary, prior to filing if we can.
One is a physical safety plan. Shockingly, there’s more domestic abuse than you would think that comes up at the time of asking for a divorce. A spouse may respond in a way that you don’t expect, so if there’s any hint with one of my clients about the potential for some sort of violence then we design a safety plan before filing.
That safety plan can go into exactly what you’re going to do the day you bring it up. Do you have a place to go if things do get violent? Where are you going to be doing the conversation? Perhaps in a public place where violence is less likely. Make sure that you have support systems ready if needed. It’s a plan that is specific to the person in their situation, but hopefully, I’ve described it enough for you to get the gist that one would have to have a step-by-step safety plan if violence was a potential or a possibility when a divorce begins.
The second safety issue is financial. I work with many clients that don’t necessarily have the financial resources to be able to forge forward for themselves if their spouse cut them off from financial resources. Once again, you’d hope that that would never happen, but in many instances, it really does. Bank accounts are shut down. Credit cards are shut down, and so if you have any inkling that that might be a possibility, we have a plan.
We design a plan associated with financial resources so that you’re set up if you were cut off by your spouse. This way you can avoid a situation where you would be unable to have funds to live, find a place to live, pay your attorney, pay your bills, et cetera. Those plans can be extremely varied depending on the circumstances you’re in, whether family helps you, or whether there are loans taken out. Again, it’s not worth going into specifics because it really depends on your situation, but a financial safety plan, very, very important, and I would say, is used more often than the physical safety plan. So it’s not uncommon to have a financial safety plan.
The third area of protection is choosing your attorney wisely. I decided that if one wanted to be safe, choosing an attorney wisely would be the third leg of the stool. You need to have an attorney that can listen to you, that can understand your situation, that can adapt strategy to your situation and not just plod through your divorce just like they do every other divorce.
It needs to be someone you can partner with and someone who’s very strategic in their thinking. Every attorney isn’t like that, so if you are planning to perhaps move forward with a divorce it behooves you to speak to more than one attorney. It is important that you get a sense of whether that person can hear what you have to say and can strategize from what you’re saying and look at how to protect you and how to move forward with the case in a way that is very specific to you.