If you are presently in a relationship where you are being abused, everyone can tell you to get out-now. But most of the time, even though friends and family mean well, they just do not get it. It is just not that easy to get out of a relationship where there is a major power imbalance. Where will I go if I cannot get him out of the house? Will I have enough money? How can I protect my children? He is hiding the assets, and I will never get my fair share, will I?
These are among the questions you have been asking yourself, and it is paralyzing. There is no magic pill here, but there is a process, and if you follow it, you can break free of your abusive relationship and move forward in your life, more often than not.
Here is your non-inclusive to do list to get you started:
1. Get to an experienced divorce attorney for an initial consultation. Think about it. If there is any non-judgmental person in the world who has the training, skill and experience to give you a road map to freedom, it is an experienced divorce attorney. Just because you get some advice does not mean you have to take it, although keep an open mind. You will learn more than you knew before.
2. Talk with a CPA conversant with divorce. You might receive advice to stop contributing to a retirement account because half of it might go to your spouse. You might be advised to adjust your withholdings on your paycheck to get more money in your paycheck. You never know until you ask.
3. Open up one or more bank accounts in your name only. You are going to need them. Just because you open them does not mean you need to use them just yet. Your spouse does not need to know what you are doing. Do you really think they will approve? Of course not.
4. Open up several new credit cards. You will need all of the credit you can get. Credit can pay for new home furnishings. It can help pay for legal fees. You can often take cash advances to help you with your monthly expenses until you either get to court or your fair share of the money.
5. Increase your privacy. Get a new private secure email. Change all of your passwords and pin numbers. Consider getting a safe deposit box. If your spouse is abusive and tech savvy, chat with a private investigator to see if your spouse has put spyware on your technology. That includes computers, cell phones, and more.
6. Round up all the important paperwork in your life. That includes all deeds to property, car titles, bank statements, investment account and retirement account statements, and everything showing evidence of ownership, value or debt. Keep all of these documents out of the house, such as your safe deposit box. You can also scan them and put them in the Cloud, such as Dropbox, which you can access from anywhere.
7. Think about joint debt. Once you open up new credit cards, get your name off of any joint credit cards and any other joint debt you have. This is very important so you do not start your new life with your spouse’s debts incurred before and during the divorce process.
8. Consider purchasing prepaid debit cards. These can be a great source of money you will need during the divorce process.
9. Obtain counseling. You cannot do this alone.
This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Getting out of an abusive relationship is a most difficult thing to do.
No conversation about domestic violence would be complete without a reference to 911. If you are abused or threatened, call it! Equally important is your right to file for a domestic violence protection order. You can obtain these 24/7 through the courts (during business hours) and the commissioner’s office (after hours). You should be accompanied by your divorce attorney to obtain these orders. You will be questioned by a judge about your domestic violence petition, and that is nothing you should have to endure on your own.
Your first stop should be to a reputable experienced divorce attorney, who can walk you through this process, guide you and be with you so that you are not alone.