Parenting

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.

Keeping Divorce Drama Out Of The Schools

Here are tips for parents, and divorce professionals to help keep divorce out of the schools. Children bringing their parents’ divorce drama into the classroom is disrupting. It wastes teaching time and can cause other students to lose focus on their lessons. It is not fair to anyone.

A first step is informing various school personnel of the divorce situation.   School staff cannot be fully supportive if they have no clue what is going on in a child’s life. I worked with students, parents and staff with divorce issues in the schools. Some of the problems were due to lack of communication between parents and staff.

It can be embarrassing for a child to be asked what they did over the weekend with their parents in front of the other students. They do not want to say, I went from’ Mum’s house to stay with dad. The teacher who is not informed, can put a child in an awkward spot. It is up to adults, not children, to explain what is going on at home.

Teachers and the school secretary need to know to send copies of reports and letters to each parent. Then both are on the same page. When I did not realize a divorce was in progress, an uncomfortable student would ask which parent was to receive the test results. It is up to each parent to make sure the school has their e-mail address for newsletters and so forth. Both parents can check the school’s web site for events and updates. A child is not to be told, by a parent that they were not aware of an event at school. Do not put kids in the middle.

A fallout from divorce is that the student does not have all they require for class. Some leave homework at the other parent’s house. One time a sobbing child was in my office while I called a father to bring in an item left behind at his house the prior week.  It was a crucial piece of a project which had to presented in class that morning. Unfortunately, this occurred with other students as well. Get a system, such as a check list which stays with the child between homes.

Parents, do not overshare divorce details with your offspring. That seems quite obvious, however it is not always put into practice. I had to deal with students who were upset or on the verge of vomiting when distressed over the minutia of their parent’s divorce. One boy spent time in my office while his parents were with solicitors, fighting over a shared care schedule. He did not know if he was moving house, or would not see one parent very much. Just say “we have a meeting with solicitors” and leave it at that. Why does anyone need to know what is on the agenda for each divorce session?

Schools often send home a form to be filled out with contact information and any additional notes about the student. If one parent is not allowed to pick up their son or daughter, or is out of the picture, make sure to write that down. I asked a five-year-old which parent should I call, when he was sick in my office. The little guy got upset and said “mum.” Although nothing was put in the official contact form, his teacher later told me that the father had abandoned his family. In another instance, a form had both parents and their mobile numbers. When the little girl was sick, I called her mum first and left a message that I would try dad.   Her father explained that he was out of town at the moment.

Her step-father later came storming into my office and screamed that the father should never be called. I showed him the form which listed the father. He calmed down when he realized that his wife had never informed the school about this situation. He and his wife promptly took care of it.

A ploy of a divorcing parent can be to try and get school staff on their side. We are not going to get caught up in the conflict and choose one parent over the other. Our job is to be supportive of the students and remain neutral about their parents.

If your child is anxious about the divorce and is bringing it into the classroom, consider short term counselling. My two boys met with a therapist during divorce and for a bit afterwards. It helped them to be calmer and more centred, both in and out of school. Talking to a professional or impartial adult, will help kids sort out their concerns instead of bringing them into school.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine   www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/

 

 

The Role of Father Figures in Your Child’s Life

thumbnail_fatherfiguresIn a perfect world, children would grow up in happy, loving families, enjoying the attention of both their birth parents. Unfortunately, our world is far from perfect and parenting roles keep evolving. Where nuclear families were once clear cut, parents now have to fit in different roles from step-parents, single parents, co-parents and so on.

As a result, many children are growing up without their biological father’s presence in their lives. Regardless of how uninvolved a father is in the life of his child, don’t fret. There are other men who will ably step into that role to provide the love, support and guidance your child needs. These father figures can include grandfathers, uncles, a trusted family friend, teacher or pastor or even a sports coach. What matters is that they are able and willing to be present and involved in your child’s upbringing.

The Importance Of Father Figures

While there are many single parents who do an excellent job of bringing up their children solo, having a father figure there brings added value. Research suggests that children with active father figures have fewer psychological and behavioral problems. Such relationships have a profound influence on a child’s development, positively impacting their moral, social and cognitive growth.

Father figures step up to the plate and create opportunities to interact with your child just as their biological fathers would- bonding through play, reading stories, fishing, sports, movie nights etc. Other than being a positive and guiding influence in your child’s life, having a strong bond with an affectionate father figure has also been shown to somehow inoculate children against alcohol and substance abuse, making them less likely to end up as troubled teens.

Additionally, the relationship your child has with their father figure can affect their future relationships. The early interactions from childhood can act as a blueprint for other relationships throughout the child’s life, influencing their interactions with others as well as giving them an idea of what acceptable behavior in a relationship is.

Since boys typically model themselves after their fathers, they require positive male role models with good values to look up to. The father figure will provide an example of how a man acts towards other men, women and children and also how to behave in different social and professional situations. As your son grows into his teens, he will greatly appreciate having a man who listens, guides and provides advice and support to navigate tricky situations that teenage boys find themselves in.

Girls on the other hand, will use the relationship with their father figures to form opinions of how men should treat women. A loving, kind and gentle male role model will do a lot to boost your daughter’s self-esteem. As she moves into the dating world, she is likely to pick partners with the same characteristics as her father figure because that’s what she’s familiar with.

So even if your child’s biological father is no longer in the picture know that there are other father figures who can step into those shoes and provide the positive guidance, unconditional love, genuine affection and sincere support that your child needs.

Author of this article, Tyler Jacobson, enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative work. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | LinkedIn

 

Interview on the Michael Dresser Radio Show

Click here to listen to my interview on the Michael Dresser Radio Show. Topics include marriage strengths and difficulties, communication, counseling, kids, and the attorneys.

Divorce Talk Radio California

Click here to listen my interview on Divorce Talk Radio California!

I join the show at 17 mins in.

We talk about the different types of divorce, children and parenting, alternative therapies, professional custody evaluations, and my book on Amazon.

 

www.divorcetalkradiocalifornia.com/20140315/