Finances

How to Prepare Your Finances to Leave an Abusive Relationship

If you are in an abusive marriage, you may not know where to turn or what to do. Abuse comes in many forms, and financial abuse is more common than you may think. If you’ve been the target of financial abuse, it can make it exceptionally difficult to gather your assets before you leave.

Financial abuse is likely not the only type of abuse you’ve experienced; it is often found in relationships where physical or emotional abuse also exists. In fact, of those who have suffered violence at the hands of a romantic partner, 98% have also endured financial abuse. However, the fear of unstable or inadequate finances can sometimes supersede fear of your own emotional or physical safety. A feeling of instability generally accompanies financial abuse; it can be such an overwhelming feeling that victims are unsure of where to turn. This guide will help you financially prepare yourself to leave an unhealthy marriage.

As an attorney, my experience is in retaining assets for my clients and helping them navigate the financial and emotional aspects of separation. However, your safety should always come first. If you are uncomfortable or feel unsafe following any of the following advice, consult someone who is knowledgeable about domestic violence before proceeding with these steps.

The Tactics of Financial Abusers  

Financial abusers regularly try to control their victim’s ability to acquire and use financial resources. This may mean you have been encouraged to not work or have been completely prevented from doing so. It can also mean you have limited access to bank accounts and financial resources, even if you earned the money yourself. All these abuse tactics are attempts to control someone and make it difficult to leave. Often times, these gaps in employment, unpaid debts, and low credit scores keep the victim in an abusive relationship simply due to fear of the unknown. Common fears amongst victims of financial abuse include:

  • Where will I live?
  • How will I find employment?
  • Can I afford the high interest rates I’m offered as a result of my poor credit score?
  • How can I financially support my children until I start getting paychecks?
  • Will I need to prioritize my basic necessities and give some up to survive?

If you are in an unhealthy marriage and have found the strength within to leave, you’ve already overcome your biggest hurdle. A brighter future is ahead, and you will find support from friends, family, and community members at every turn.

Preparing to Leave an Abusive Spouse  

Before making any changes to your finances, consult a victim advocate. The role of an advocate is to provide information to anyone who is dealing with domestic violence, including helping victims who are planning to leave an abusive marriage. They can help you find housing, transportation, and financial assistance when you leave your relationship. Someone who is trained as a victim advocate will have had extensive safety training, so he or she can help you make safe decisions regarding your finances. There are many online resources for finding your own advocate.

After you’ve consulted a victim advocate, you should begin to save as much money as possible. Whether it’s through a job, some kind of lump sum (like a tax return), or another source of income, having savings set aside when you leave will help ease the financial burden.

You should keep this money in your own bank account–one to which your spouse doesn’t have access. If you work, see if you can have part of your wages directly deposited into your new bank account. You may be able to adjust your tax exemptions and get more money each paycheck; you can deposit the difference in your personal account.

As you’re preparing your savings, make sure to keep any important financial documents – including any you can find from the past several years. This could include tax returns, paystubs, car titles, and more.

Finally, consult several divorce lawyers prior to leaving your spouse. A consultation is the perfect time to get a feel for whether you feel comfortable with the attorney and learn more about how their legal experience applies to your own case. Find an attorney who will fight to help you retain all the assets you need to start rebuilding your finances.

Rebuilding Your Finances After Leaving Your Spouse

The first financial move you’ll want to make once you’re over the hurdle of leaving your marriage is to review your finances, including your income and expenses. You may need a new job to pay for your new housing situation, for example, or it may be wise to get a second part-time job to build some savings.

You can also take time during the divorce to familiarize yourself with your credit report and resolve any debts that accrued. If you haven’t been privy to financial information for years, it’s possible your spouse has been hiding both income and debt from you. By creating a budget that addresses your monthly income, bills, and unpaid debts, you’ll put yourself on the path to financial security and  freedom.

Once you’ve safely left your marriage, it may be necessary to obtain a harassment restraining order or an order of protection against your spouse. A domestic violence lawyer can help you support yourself and your children by negotiating and litigating these legal protections. Consult an attorney if you feel your situation requires either of these orders.

Finally, a financial planner can be a tremendous help when you’re getting back on your feet. While a professional would be ideal, not everyone can afford it. If you’d like the benefits of financial knowledge without the price tag, you can use online resources, books, and even community education classes to learn more about handling your own finances.

About the Author   

Allison Maxim is a collaborative attorney St. Paul MN whose family law firm is Maxim Law PLLC. Allison believes strongly in the benefits of mindfulness in family law. Her background in psychology has given her a greater awareness of and empathy for the difficult situations faced by her family law and divorce clients.    

Article Summary 

Financial abuse is a powerful force keeping many victims in unhealthy relationships. This guide outlines how a victim can prepare his or her finances for long-term prosperity when faced with leaving an abusive relationship. It offers actionable steps to follow both before and after leaving an abusive spouse.

Starting a Small Business: Tips for Parents with Disabilities

starting small businessStarting a small business comes with a lot to consider, from figuring out whether you want a storefront or a solely online company to making sure you have the motivation and energy to put into running everything yourself. When you’re also a parent who is living with a disability, it’s important to also think about the best ways you can make life easier for yourself during the process of getting things off the ground. For some entrepreneurs, working from home is much easier than going into an office every day, but this can present its own set of challenges, especially if you’re a stay-at-home parent.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to get the ball rolling smoothly. First, think about the details: a brick-and-mortar store can bring a lot of benefits, such as bringing in lots of foot traffic, but it can also come with a lot more issues and responsibilities than an online business. Will you keep your stock on-site or dropship? Once you’ve figured out the details, you can move on to the big things, such as securing the necessary financing.

Keep reading for some helpful tips on how to start a successful small business when you’re a parent with a disability.

Understand What It Takes

Starting your own business may sound like a dream come true, but it’s much harder in many ways than finding a job with an established company. You need to be self-motivated, a problem-solver who can minimize distractions at home and get things done even when there’s no one giving you direction. Being able to give your all even when you’re sick or have lots of things going on at home will help you find success as an entrepreneur.

Consider How You’ll Support Yourself

Financing a small business is no small feat; there are many things to consider, from startup costs to maintaining your home and lifestyle until you begin making a profit. Often, new businesses don’t turn a profit for at least a year, although those run exclusively online can save a lot of money by not having a storefront. You might think about a loan or grant for disabled business owners to boost your funds, but make sure you find the right one for your needs. Look online to find out more about the resources available to you.

Think About Your Family

As a parent, you want to ensure that your family is well taken care of while you’re getting your dream up and running. This might mean securing daycare for your children if you’ve been a stay-at-home parent in the past, which can be a big change for everyone. Sit down with your family members and talk about your goals, and plan for the future together. Allowing your children to be involved in the preparation process will help them feel a little bit in control.

Take Care of Yourself

Starting a business can be a dream come true, but it’s also a lot of work, and it can be very stressful even if you’re organized. This is especially true when you’re living with a disability. Practicing self-care can help you reduce stress and anxiety when things become overwhelming, so take time out for yourself when you find things are getting busy. Ask for help when you need it. Get plenty of exercise and eat right, even on busy days.

Starting a plan for your future can be scary, but if you keep in mind that it’s a big step in the right direction when it comes to your goals, you’ll be able to stay motivated no matter how difficult things get. Start with some prep work and do some research online before you make any decisions. As a disabled business owner, juggling parenting and your dreams might sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to stop you from achieving your goals.

Author of this article is Ashley Taylor   ashley@disabledparents.org

Splitting Shared Assets when Divorcing

Divorce proceedings can be extremely stressful and traumatic for everyone involved, even more so when shared assets need to be split. When tying the knot, the last thing couples anticipate is divorce and as a result, few actually plan what would happen to their shared assets should they get divorced.

Over the years, you and your partner will have invested together, saved together and perhaps opened joint bank accounts, and in order to make financial settlements fair, there are a number of factors that have to be taken into consideration before splitting your assets.

Before we continue, it is important to note that how assets are split between a couple will be determined by the relationship. Simply put, the rights of a cohabiting couple will differ from those of a married couple, so bare this in mind.

Step 1:

The first thing you must establish is who legally owns what assets. If you’re in a cohabiting relationship then any investments or savings in your name will belong to you and your partner will not have access to these assets. Likewise, savings or investments made in your ex-partners name will be theirs and you will not be granted access.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. You may be entitled to beneficial interest if you have made contributions towards something in your ex-partners name, such as investing your own money into one of their projects. If this is the case, then you should seek legal advice.

On the flip side, investments or savings made throughout the duration of the marriage will be taken into consideration and divided as part of a financial settlement. Whilst assets amassed prior to the marriage aren’t typically subject to financial settlements throughout divorce proceedings, there is still a chance that your assets are at risk and you should seek legal advice to make sure your savings and investments are protected.

Step 2:

Next, it is time to find out what your savings are really worth in the eyes of the law. If you save money into a savings account such as a cash ISA or cash deposit, it should be pretty easy to get a rough idea of how much your savings are worth as you should be receiving regular financial statements.

However if you have invested in the stock market, or own shares and investment bonds, then it may not be as straightforward when it comes to determining the worth of your assets. This is solely because the value of your investments will differ from week to week, even day to day especially in a volatile and quick-changing market. You should talk to a financial adviser about finding out the value of invested assets tied up in the stock market.

Step 3:

It can be difficult to make sense of the whole process when splitting assets and couples often aren’t aware of how to split their savings and investments. Generally, it depends on where your savings are kept. Cash ISA, shares, investment property or savings accounts – there are a number of ways in which your money can be invested and each will differ when it comes to paying out financial settlements.

Cash ISAs

Cash ISAs can only be held in one individual name and therefore money cannot be transferred from one party to another. If the court has demanded you pay a financial settlement to your ex-partner you must withdraw the money from the account.

Shares

You have a bit more flexibility when it comes to shares as there are a number of different options in which you can pay off a financial settlement. Simply hand over control of the shares, sell the shares or give the value of the shares once sold to another party – it is your choice.

It’s easy to transfer shares, just fill in a J30 form which you can get from the company you initially brought the shares from. Alternativley, if you decide to sell your shares you will need to use the same service you used when buying those shares.

Investment property

If either you or your partner owns a property, then that asset is legally yours/theirs and the other party will have no claim to it – unless contributions have been made. In that case, you will both need to come to an agreement as to how the appropriate party will be paid back.

If you jointly own the property, then you may choose to sell your share to your ex-partner, or buy them out.

Savings accounts

If you plan to transfer money to your ex-partner as part of a financial settlement from a fixed-rate account, then you must first notify your bank so that you do not lose interest. If you are transferring from a normal savings account then you don’t have to give notice.

You should now be fully are of all your legal responsibilities and the claims you can make when it comes to splitting both shared and individual assets when divorcing. We understand how distressing divorce proceedings can be and that is why we have put together this comprehensive guide so that the process can be as amicable, straightforward and stress-free as possible for both you and your ex-partner.

Kerry Smith is the Head of Family Law at K J Smith Solicitors, specialist family law solicitors in Reading that deal with a wide range of issues, including divorce, domestic violence, civil partnerships, and prenuptial agreements. Kerry has over 15 years experience in family law and is recommended by the Legal 500 guide to law firms in the UK.