Financial Intimidation in Divorce

It would certainly be ideal if all divorces were civil and conflict free.  In reality, this is almost never the case.  However, with proper planning your life after divorce can be productive, fulfilling and financially stable.

Unfortunately some divorcing spouses, in the stress of the moment, manage to confuse money issues with emotional ones or use money as a threat.   For example, a spouse may threaten to take children to another city unless alimony changes in their favor.  This can leave you vulnerable and scared.

So what should you do to respond to such threats? These steps can help you to gain control so you can decide which financial threats are real and which threats are pure fantasy.

1. Write down when, where, and how you felt financially intimidated by your spouse.   Just the act of writing down how you feel about these threats will lessen their power over you and help you cope.

2. Educate yourself about your state’s divorce laws and financial matters.  Quality resources include Divorce Magazine, Nolo and Divorce Source.

3. Consult with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst in your area like Divorce Planning of Austin.  A CDFA will help you organize your financial issues so that you can focus on the emotional ones.  A CDFA will help you understand what money you have, the difference between your separate and martial property and have a good idea of whether an account or income can be divided.  And a CDFA will prepare you to have a productive discussion with an attorney.

4.  Talk to an attorney.  If your income qualifies, you may be able to discuss your divorce with an attorney from Volunteer Legal Services of Austin (www.vlsoct.org).

Some spouses will hide assets, lie about their financial situation or worse – spend every cent they have on an attorney – to make sure their spouse gets nothing.  This is a fact, but know that assets are difficult to hide from legal and financial professionals.  You have legal remedies to uncover assets, investments, accounts, or funds. It’s well worth the short term cost of employing a divorce team for the very long term benefits of securing the assets or income you deserve.

While it may be nearly impossible to maintain your composure, don’t go toe to toe on any kind of bullying.  Inevitably you’ll or say (or do) something you will later regret.  You have to stay the course and maintain your stamina. I would hate for you to give up, only to realize a year or two years later that there was something significant missing from your marital financial picture.

Of course, if you are emotionally or physically abused in your relationship, you need to take very different steps.  A controlling, abusive partner (more often the husband), often insists that his or her spouse be entirely dependent financially, and likely to keep that spouse completely in the dark about financial matters. Ending a marriage like this may seem impossible.  If you can do so safely, please make copies of financial and legal documents, change your bank card PIN, get a checking account in your own name and consider adding a post office box.  Also, attempt to get a credit card in your own name (not as an authorized signatory) and consult an attorney even if you have to borrow money to do so.   If you feel like you cannot do any of these things safely, please seek help from an attorney or organizations like SafePlace in Austin.  SafePlace works with people at all income levels that find themselves in abusive domestic relationships.  For more information contact safeplace.org at (512) 267-7233