How To Squirrel Away $5,000 & Win At Your Divorce

How To Squirrel Away $5,000 & Win At Your DivorceI know an amazing mother of four children. She is on her second marriage and this time, the marriage is extremely successful. She and her caring, supportive husband are both school teachers. They have two-year-old twins and a house with — literally — a white-picket fence around it. It wasn’t always this way.

I’ll call this woman “Anne.”

Anne’s ex-husband was an obsessive, controlling and verbally abusive police officer. He drank. He cheated. And when Anne protested, he threatened to use his job to take custody of their preschool-aged kids and make her life a living hell. He also threatened to use his position as the sole bread-winner to hire the best lawyer and steam-roll over her in court. Yet, rather than feeling trapped and overwhelmed, Anne seized control of the situation — by taking control of her finances.

But not in the way you might think.

This woman didn’t earn the family’s income or even oversee much of the bill payment. Yet for three years she took charge: Unbeknownst to her husband, Anne set up a savings account and had the bank send the statements to a trusted friend. Then she budgeted everything: She figured out how to trim the cost of the groceries and then pocket the difference she saved — even making excuses for needing extra milk during the week. Tiny changes like switching from brand-name to generic products generated pocket change added up. Anne got creative with white lies about losing one of the kids’ sneakers and needing to replace them, then returning the extra pair for cash. Gifts given to the kids were returned unnoticed or exchanged for less-expensive toys — then she’d save the difference (particularly when the kids were younger and didn’t notice).

During these three years Anne also collected copies of his bank statements, tax returns and credit card bills — proving how much he earned and how much he spent on excessive drinking and other women. She collected cell phone bills and kept records of his drunken and verbally abusive episodes. Finally, when she’d saved about $5,000, she hired a divorce lawyer. Then — documents in hand — she dropped the divorce bomb in her husband’s lap, demanded that he move out and give her the house and the kids. She also told him that unless he got his drinking under control, she would seek supervised visits from the court. She also received his financial support until she could get a job and start earning her own living.

While the husband was trapped by his own bad behavior, Anne’s patience and perseverance set her free to make a better life for herself — and her kids.

Tips from Anne’s situation:

    • Have a bank account in your own name (whether it’s a secret or not). These days it’s even easier to have an account go unnoticed because most banks offer online statements that don’t mail statements.
    • Money can be squirreled away from small changes to your budget: substitute generic items at the grocery store for brand name (you can even refill a brand-name box with generic items –particularly cereal).
    • Look for items that can be returned or exchanged for lower prices — particularly clothing or toys for children (for example: your child was given a Gap t-shirt, take it back and get one that’s on clearance and pocket the difference).
    • Get creative. Anne found ways to save by inflating the cost of items (for example: if the school is asking for $12 for teacher gifts, claim that the gift request was for $15 or $20).
    • Figure out what you need. Contact attorneys — if some offer you free consultations take them up on it and find out your rights. (Note: If your situation involves physical abuse, don’t wait to save money — many organizations offer free legal help.)

This blog originally ran at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/morghan-leia-richardson/true-story-how-to-squirre_b_3230958.html

Divorce Rates Double for “Gray Divorce” (those 50+)

At a time when #divorce is becoming less common for younger adults, so-called “gray divorce” is on the rise: Among U.S. adults ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s, according to a new Pew Research study. Gray divorcees tend to be less financially secure than married and widowed adults, particularly among women. And living alone at older ages can be detrimental to one’s financial comfort and, for men, their satisfaction with their social lives. www.RichardsonLegalPLLC.com

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Rushing This In Your Divorce Can Give You Heartburn

  1. Double Legal Fees.

Jennifer thought my price was too high. She went with her husband to a discount “divorce mill” in another county that promised a cheap divorce in under a month. The divorce papers were filed but her ex- was refusing to move out. Not only that, he was making sexual advances. One night, they got in a fight and the police were called. They arrested Jennifer and put a restraining order in place preventing her from going home! The result: we had to act quickly to transfer the upstate case to the city and make an emergency motion so that Jennifer could see her 2-year-old son. Her fast, cheap divorce turned into a full-out court battle.  “If I had only paid you the first time to negotiate, you wouldn’t have left these loose ends!” she lamented. Instead she paid the divorce mill and then she paid me to clean up their mistakes.

  1. Bad Financial Decisions.

“This is taking too long! I can’t stand it anymore,” Ben told me. We had been negotiating his divorce for two months and were now waiting to be assigned for the first hearing in his case. “I’m ready to sign anything just to get this over,” he said.  But I wouldn’t let him.  He was offering to pay for his wife’s rent indefinitely, an offer that she would most likely be willing to accept. “She lives in a small one-bedroom right now, but what if she moves to Trump Towers?” I asked him. Several months later and his wife had a new live-in boyfriend, and Ben was over the idea of financing their rent. “Let him pay for it,” he said. “You were right – I’d be kicking myself right now if I had agreed to that!”

Tip: Take some time out to think about financial decision-making; there is a reason people say “sleep on it,” because a little extra time can save you big in the long run!

  1. Delayed Fighting.

Judith’s husband Brian had a string of adulterous affairs, including sleeping with her best friend. After a whirlwind of negotiations, the parties signed a divorce agreement that was extremely favorable to Judith, thanks to Brian’s guilty conscience. Judith claimed she was “so over it” but she was still angry texting Brian and his girlfriend. She was at the end of the legal process, but the start of her emotional process.  Judith and Brian started to argue about their agreement. Brian regretted his quick decisions and brought a post-divorce court case. Judith felt that she had “let him off too easy” and countered with her own allegations. Despite being divorced, the couple hadn’t worked through their emotional process – they were still hurt and angry! – and were back to an in-court fight that would take months or years to resolve.

  1. Extended Living Together.

Marjory was elated. “He says he’ll agree to anything I want so long as he can stay in the apartment for the next eight months.” She felt like the benefits of a fast agreement outweighed the negatives, despite my warnings. Four months later and Marjory was not a happy camper. “You were so right!” she said. She thought that his presence in the apartment would help the kids adjust, but it only caused upset. “And, he’s going through all my things and talking about getting back together!” The agreement was signed and the divorce was already final, but the parties hadn’t separated delaying the upheaval in the home for themselves and the kids. Now Marjory’s ex- had to face the divorce, and he was dragging his feet, which led them to post-divorce court fights to get him out of the house.

Tip: Avoid post-divorce fighting: don’t agree to live together after the divorce is final!

 

Did you or someone you know rush parts of their divorce that resulted in added costs? Join the conversation in the comments!

“I Do” Podcast: Tips From Divorce To Save Your Marriage

dry rose bouquet on white blackgroundJust in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s my interview with Chase Kosterlitz and Sarah Byrne, hosts of the I Do Podcast, a forum aimed at inspiring young couples to create positive and happy relationships and successful marriages.

The Divorce Artist

IDo-Final300pxThe other day, I had the pleasure of speaking with Chase Kosterlitz and Sarah Byrne, hosts of the I Do Podcast, a forum aimed at inspiring young couples to create positive and happy relationships and successful marriages.

So why did they want to talk to a divorce lawyer? One benefit of seeing individuals and couples in the midst of divorce and family crisis may be finding common patterns and things to avoid. I provide my tips on how to avoid landing in my office.

Listen to the interview:

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Ready for Valentine’s Day?

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Divorce? You aren’t alone. Statistics show that January through March each year there’s a surge in Divorce filings. Questions? You can contact me 24/7 through my online schedule system at http://www.RichardsonLegalPLLC.com

How to REALLY Win Your Divorce

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All of your reasons for getting divorced are totally valid. But what do you tell your friends? And how do you respond when your coworkers or your mother says “not to throw a good man away” or “she’s not so bad, try harder.”

I’ve seen it in my practice a million times — a spouse comes up with a million reasons why their ex- is a horrible person, shouldn’t see the kids and should be in jail. (The term “narcissist” is trending but I doubt the numbers of diagnosed narcissism has risen.)

The real culprit: Divorce guilt.

I’m not talking about serious cases of domestic violence — we all know that it isn’t acceptable. Not every divorce involves that sort of abuse. But cases of unnecessary conflict are pervasive.  What happens when there is extreme court fighting? In the end, the kids are hurt by lack of access to both parents and both parties suffer in a torrid, expensive court case.

In New York, as in all states, you can file for divorce under “No Fault” grounds by showing that the marriage has “irretrievably broken.” This means that the reasons why you are getting divorced aren’t so important – all we need to know is that the relationship can’t be fixed.

Very few people are 100% certain about divorce. But the lingering sense of guilt or doubt can lead to trouble. Some people, rather than dealing with these feelings in a healthy productive way (like personal therapy, meditation, exercise or chocolate), start recasting the marriage in an ugly way. Every argument was “verbal abuse”; that beer after work was “alcoholism”; missing the monthly piano recital was “total disinterest in the children”; and that time your ex- accidentally bumped into you is now “assault.”

This nasty portrait helps justify the divorce, so that when they explain “why” the marriage failed, they feel better about it – because it wasn’t their fault. This justification for your decision to divorce is expensive: as the court conflict escalates, the abilities of both parties to communicate deteriorates, often permanently. Maybe one spouse didn’t listen that the marriage was in trouble until it was too late. Maybe one spouse is a stubborn jerk. Maybe the communication sucked from the start. But being a jerk is not grounds to warrant a restraining order. And communication cannot improve by a lengthy, expensive, vicious airing of each other’s faults in court.

If you feel like your guilt is getting in the way of having a lower conflict divorce, explore those feelings with a therapist and try to get over it in a positive way. Even if you are justified in your anger over the divorce, the court isn’t a place to punish your spouse. With the shift towards “No Fault” the courts are refocused on dividing stuff and helping parents develop a custody schedule.

Try to avoid a scorched-earth approach to your divorce. Letting go of the hurt, anger and guilt is the best gift you can give yourself. Coming out of the divorce as a stronger and smarter version of you is the only real win in any divorce case.

A few pro tips for avoiding guilt:

  1. Make a list of the reasons that your marriage isn’t working and the ways in which you’ve tried to fix the situation — sometimes seeing your efforts on paper will reassure you that divorce is the right choice.
  2. Remind yourself that 50% of marriages (and 67% of second marriages) end in divorce.
  3. Reconnect with your old hobbies and activities or try new experiences — remember that you are a whole person.
  4. Talk to a therapist — if you can’t find one you like try an App like TalkSpace.com (text a therapist whenever or wherever).

January: Divorce month

Divorce? You aren’t alone. Statistics show that January through March each year there’s a surge in Divorce filings. Questions? You can contact me 24/7 through my online schedule system at http://www.RichardsonLegalPLLC.com