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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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).

My Four Reasons Why 2016 Didn’t Absolutely Suck.

2014-03-08 14.04.57-2There’s a shared feeling that 2016 has been a terrible, horrible, no-good year. While some curve-balls hit me in the gut (*cough*election*), this year was far from my worst. Here are my four reason that this year didn’t absolutely suck:

  1. At the start of this year I left an abusive relationship with an alcoholic. I’ve navigated many people out of bad situations, but never myself. It is much harder than I previously understood. I get that now. But I ended the relationship – as difficult and embarrassing as it was – and if I had not, then 2016 would have been truly terrible.
  2. I have worked very hard to own my responsibility for what happened – to the extent that I am responsible for enabling his behavior, lying to hide the situation and trying to ignore the truth. I realize I cannot be responsible for his side of the relationship. Shaking the manipulation and the harm to my self-esteem has been a challenge. But, I feel good about myself again. I’m not perfect, but I’m not afraid to breathe anymore like I was before. This year gave me the time and space to move forward and understand myself again.
  3. These refocused efforts have helped my work, my kids and even my relationship with my ex-husband. I have become very in-tune with the struggles my clients face and that has allowed me to be a better lawyer. While I’ve lost some relationships that turned out to be unhealthy, I’ve gained faith and trust in myself. Being honest with yourself is a threshold to having honest connections with others. I am thankful for finding so many new (and rekindled) friendships that have come my way as a result.
  4. During my darkest moments this year, I was able to write a body of work that I believe will help other people deal with the loss of their relationships (whether healthy or not, sometimes relationships fail). I hope to continue pushing myself in this endeavor as we come to the end of 2016. Look for news about my publication efforts in the year to come.

Looking forward to 2017, I have sorrows from the losses we suffered culturally and politically this year. I am concerned about social policy changes that might harm my friends and loved ones. I am concerned about this country and our place in the world. But I am ready. It was a hard year, which means it was an incredible opportunity for growth and change. Thank you, 2016, for helping me find my strength.

Count-down is on for January 1st!

What will you achieve this year? What made 2016 a good year? Discuss in the comments.

Ladies: Three Red Flags The Relationship Is Doomed (And Why You Should Run!)

2012-09-16 13.25.44Over the years as a divorce attorney I’ve seen hundreds of relationships falling to pieces in a variety of creative ways. Time and again people come up with new ways to screw up their marriages. But too often my clients knew they shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place! Rather than walk down the aisle, they should have run the other direction. Here are three serious red flags that you shouldn’t stay in the relationship (or heed my warning: your story will end the same way!) Continue reading “Ladies: Three Red Flags The Relationship Is Doomed (And Why You Should Run!)”

Interview: Child Support and Divorce: 8 Experts Give Their Best Advice

value questionA number of divorce professionals — including yours truly — spoke with Glass Jacobson’s Divorce Advisory Group about top tips in dealing with child support during your divorce. My number one tip: Continue reading “Interview: Child Support and Divorce: 8 Experts Give Their Best Advice”

Huffington Post: The 1 Thing That Made Kelly Rutherford Lose Custody

huffpoMy piece about Kelly Rutherford’s continued custody trouble with her ex-Daniel Giersch has generated much discussion over on the Huffington Post.

Custodial parents must look out for the best interests of their children, and one of the most important of those interests is having a relationship with the other parent.

Do you agree? Should the children be returned to the US? Has the U.S. Court system been fair? If you are following the story, tell us your view in the comments.

Full story after the jump, or click to see the Huffington Post story & comments.  Continue reading “Huffington Post: The 1 Thing That Made Kelly Rutherford Lose Custody”