Legal separation is hard. But knowing what to do immediately after it happens can be even harder. Here are 9 things to think about and help you prepare for the road ahead.
1. Get your cell phone on a separate account. Now.
Literally about 30 minutes after my ex walked out, I called our wireless cell provider and had my number put into my name only and put a security code on my account. Thankful I did this, because a few hours later, my ex called and yelled at me for doing this without his permission and then proceeded to accuse me of hiding something. But the truth is, I knew what he would do as soon as he had a chance…he would have my phone shut off to alienate me from the rest of the world. It was a game he played, but I won this round.
2. Go to the bank.
Go to the bank immediately. I cannot stress this enough. Get there immediately! If you have a joint account take half the money out and open your own account. Put either a close family member or your best friend on your account as a signer and make sure that they are the primary beneficiary. If you have any valuables, get a safety deposit box. They are very inexpensive and only you can open it. Doesn’t matter if you are married or not, your ex cannot open it. Period.
3. Make a will.
At times during my divorce, I was literally scared for my life. I had a will made and put my best friend down as the primary beneficiary. I knew that if anything happened to me, she would take my money and my possessions and keep them safe for my girls. It was a huge relief knowing that if something happened, my girls would be taken care of…despite who they had to live with.
4. Take care of household bills.
When my ex left I had all of the household bills put into my name only. I didn’t want him to be able to have our electricity turned off or be able to make any decisions on any bills. He was controlling and this took away some of the power I thought he had over me. Same goes for car insurance. Remove him and his vehicle off of your policy! You are not responsible for him anymore. He’s a grown up.
5. Talk to the local sheriff.
I went and talked with the local sheriff and a deputy about my ex leaving and the crazy things that he was capable of doing as well as all of the threats. I let them know that if I called, someone needed to come to my house immediately. That’s how scared I was. I had two little girls & myself to protect. And my ex was slightly unstable and had guns. Not a good combination. You cannot be too careful in these situations and I would much rather overreact than underreact any day. WE were worth it.
6. Hire a lawyer, pronto.
Hire the best lawyer that you can. Borrow the money if you can’t afford the retainer fee. It will give you a little more peace knowing that you have a good lawyer and that they are working for you…and you only. I borrowed the money to pay for my retainer fee and it was one of the best decisions that I made. He was well worth the money and I would’ve paid more if I had to. Be sure that you are completely honest with your lawyer and tell them everything that might be used against you. Whatever you try to hide will be brought up in court, so be honest no matter how embarrassing it may be.
7. Put nothing in writing.
Do not text, email, or write your ex anything at any time during your divorce. Anything that you send can and will be used against you during your divorce. It’s ok to text or email to make arrangements for your children, but other than that…don’t do it! And they can get your actual text messages from the carrier. They have to get a subpoena and it’s hard to get it approved, but they CAN get them. So be careful about who you are texting. And what you are texting about. If it’s going to be a custody battle, you probably shouldn’t be sending nude pictures to people. Wouldn’t exactly get you on the jury’s best side.
8. It doesn’t get better.
You know those people who keep telling you that things will start to look up and get better? Yeah, they’re stupid and full of crap. Things will get worse, so prepare yourself for this. I wasn’t prepared at all. I filed for divorce, knowing that he would throw a few fits here and there, and then the next thing I knew, he was asking for a custody trial by jury! Divorce isn’t all peachy and sweet, that’s what marriage is supposed to be. Divorce is ugly. So, prepare, prepare, prepare!
9. Don't fear going out in public for the first time after a separation.
I know this one sounds stupid, but it was hard for me. I remember vividly the first time I took my girls grocery shopping after my ex left. I wasn’t wearing my wedding ring which, after years of being married, made me feel naked. And I seriously thought that every time someone looked at us they were feeling sorry for us. I didn’t want anyone’s pity and it was humiliating even though no one was actually even thinking about us. It was the anxiety of being alone and shopping for three instead of four that made me feel this way. So prepare yourself for going out in public for the first time. It’s not easy.