You have just learned that your personal life looks the subject of a soap-opera: Your marriage is falling apart. Other than the death of a loved one, this is likely the most serious dilemma of your life. Here are some practical pointers for what to do if your marriage is beyond saving.
You will need at your disposal copies of all financial documents. This includes tax returns, statements from bank accounts, investment accounts and credit cards, real estate and car titles, and paycheck stubs. It’s amazing how often these disappear when someone files for divorce. With a scanner, these all can be saved to a disk for easy storage and reproduction. If you don’t have a scanner, places like Fed-X Kinkos should be able to do that for you.
Cash is king
Any time you are dealing with a life change like this, you will need to have financial resources available. One of you is going to have to set up a new home. The other will have to carry the expenses of the existing one. There will be more money going out than before, and usually the income remains the same. Plus you will need to have cash or credit available for legal expenses. Financial experts all say that you should have six months worth of living expenses available in a liquid account. Now is the time to use it. If you don’t have this available, you should ask family members to help you. You will need to pay for the transition costs and obtain the best legal representation possible. This is not the time to hunt for a bargain.
What to tell the kids?
This area is usually reserved for the advice of counselors. But if you do not have one, keep these things in mind. If your kids are young, say five or under, they will probably not know what’s going on. They will need consistent and frequent access to both parents. If you have teenagers, they will probably already know what is going on and it will be no surprise to them. Seriously consider seeking the advise of a therapist before speaking with them. All children will need affirmation from both parents. Both parents should assure the children that the other parent loves them very much. This may be difficult to do, but nothing is more important than insulating the children from the conflict in every possible way.
Bad, bad spouse?
Did you catch him (or her . . .) doing something he shouldn’t have been doing? Do you want to rake him over the coals in court? Many a story has been told about spouses getting even at their divorce trial. Yes, you can probably embarrass him in court with sordid details about his breaking the marriage contract. But in most states it won’t render you cash. And it won’t give you an edge on custody unless the bad acts somehow affect the children. You don’t need to prove fault in Oklahoma for grounds for divorce. Although it may make you feel better for a while, and it certainly will increase the cost, remember, you will be just as divorced by pleading incompatibility as by pleading adultery.
Drug use? Alcohol Abuse?
If there is drug or alcohol abuse, there may be a real risk of harm to children. If so, and there is imminent harm to them, you need to contact an attorney immediately and obtain emergency custody of the children. If there is recreational drug use, it should not be tolerated. Spouses can be forced to take drug tests prior to visitation under certain situations. You need an attorney who knows what to do in this area.
Domestic abuse should never be tolerated. You should immediately contact an attorney or call Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS). Domestic abuse is not limited to the physical. Emotional abuse can be just as devastating.
The Attorneys of Savage O’Donnell can help you through this difficult time. Contact one of our Family Law Counselors today.