How many horror stories have you heard when your friends break up their relationship or marriage? We even have our own horror stories. It is not enough that we are separating and starting lives on our own, which can be as frightening as the relationship we have left. It can feel like a tornado blowing through our lives, spinning everything up in the air and spitting our most treasured things in our lives out, dismantled and broken. We hold on tight to what we believe is important, only to find we just couldn’t catch it all. It can lead to more anxiety, depression and stress.
When I left I thought I had managed to get everything in order only to find I had dropped some of the most important pieces that I needed. Oh yes, I made lists but I forgot something or simply just hadn’t for seen some of the things I would have needed to have taken care of.
We juggle our new homes, settling children in or going for custody and work. We try and keep everything as “normal” as we can, which is tough when you are leaving an abusive marriage because we ask ourselves “What is normal” We struggle with it because our abusers would take control over everything and I mean everything! So I’m here to tell what I missed, so you don’t make the same mistakes I did. I’m going to talk_ finance! Yes, I know it can be boring when you feel your life is being ripped apart but believe me, you’ll thank yourself after when life has calmed down a little.
You can google finances and yes, there are plenty of sites which offer advice about pensions, Muny Bonds, PEP’s ISA’ 401K’s etc and they are good but what I’m talking about is the simple things we miss so easily.
When I looked back now these are the things I really wished I had thought of or acted on.
Before you leave:
Are you on the mortgage?
Simple. Are you on the mortgage of the home you share? How will it be managed when you’ve gone? Will your spouse/partner keep up with the payments? Will you want the home sold? If yes, then here’s something we forget when calculating it, does it have a Redemption Penalty? If so, is it a simple 3-2-1? Three months payments back in the first year, Two months payment back in the second and one month's payment in the third and last year of the redemption term. Or is it calculated with a simple percentage interest payment? Why do you need to think about this? Because if you think you’re mortgage amount is the total, it might not be! You need to know so you know if you are using the house in the settlement, you want to know what you are looking at financially. I speak about these penalties and fees and a lot of people just look at me blankly. Most of the professionals won’t even mention it to you, let alone explain it! Why am I mentioning this? Because I was a mortgage broker and saw it happen too many times.
Before you leave obtain a fresh copy of your credit report. See, what you and your partner have jointly and what is solely in your name. Make a note of everything in it and make sure that after you leave your ex doesn’t decide to go out and get more credit. This will affect how much liquid cash there will be left to divide. I know, it has happened to me.
Do you have a joint bank account? If you do it’s time to start thinking about your own account, yes in your own name! I know a lot of people don’t have joint accounts and keep everything separate, but if you are in an abusive relationship, it has probably been a joint account. Now is the time to be you, the real you with your own account. Start it and start putting money into it before you leave, if you look around you can do it very easily. You will have to declare it once the divorce starts to push through but it might make all the difference between eating and going hungry, seriously! Back yourself up financially as best you can before you go, even if that means leaving your savings or bank card with someone you know and trust. It might not be hundreds or thousands but every little helps. When I left mine, we had separate accounts, we banked at the same bank, his name was Chris, mine Claire, the check books both had the same signature name: C. Coplestone. You can imagine just how much fun he had with that when checks payable to me came in! See, I had forgotten to tell everyone my new address in the turmoil. How easily it all happens.
TAKE yours! Hide them! Put them somewhere very safe. If you can ask a friend or family member to hold onto your documents, do it! I had mine in what I thought was a safe place in my home after I left. He got into my house and took them, even my car’s documents. I say 'cars' plural because I had four, I know, crazy, but I had leant one to his son, one to him, one was in the garage and I drove one. I went away for a break to find he had given the one his son was borrowing to his son, on paper, he gave one to his friend with documents and one he part exchanged in a dealership. Yes, he had forged my signature to the UK DVLA and had all the docs transferred to him. Could I prove it? No, because he had stolen all my documents! Along with everything else, which brings me on to the next topic:
Make sure you change the locks to your house, especially if you’ve shared the house, in the turmoil I thought I had every key to my home, turns out his son had one and while I was away, they all went in and took everything. I say, everything… He did leave me with a knife, cup, spoon and fork, neatly laid out on the counter top. I couldn’t do much with them, after all, he had taken my stove, fridge etc so it wasn’t like I was cooking anytime soon. The Police told me because he got in with a key, it wasn't theft, it was a 'domestic dispute'.
This is simple and a must do! Change your passwords! We all think we will remember to do it but… Do it! Don’t wait for them to get into your personal email, Facebook, Twitter. It will be a nightmare that will be so difficult to unravel once the damage is done!
There was something I did remember, though, and that was to change my name back to my maiden name quickly! I needed to be me again.
I know what you are thinking, those are simple! Everyone would and will remember those. No, sadly, when it comes to it, we don’t. It all flies out of the window when we are grasping for survival. I supported mine financially for years, when I decided to leave he said he would “f*^k me nine ways to Sunday” I told him he had, I just didn’t realise the extent of how much further he could go, and did. I felt bad for leaving, after all, he and his family had ‘gaslighted’ me for years, I thought I owed him something. I didn’t. I left with very little, I re-built my life and my little cottage, furnishing it, making my stamp on it, thinking I was bold, courageous and strong. I was but I just didn’t think of the simplest things. What I built before I gave him and what I built after he took.
Don’t feel guilty about protecting yourself, I did, learn from me, it isn’t worth it. Take the simple steps and protect you!
Have you protected yourself?