by Amy Lawson, MBA, CDFA®
The Gray Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce
Top 20 Immediate Actions to Take to Protect Yourself
When it comes to divorce, women often try to “be nice,” erroneously believing that if they are sweet and agreeable, their spouse will react in kind. Sadly, this rarely happens and those of us who devoted serious effort to “be nice,” found ourselves with less-than-equitable settlements. Many of us learned the hard way that protecting yourself doesn’t mean you are being unkind.
If divorce is on your horizon, make sure you take the proper action to protect yourself. For some insight, I reached out to family law attorney, Andrea Bosquez-Porter with Smith Debnam in Raleigh, North Carolina. Below are Andrea’s Top 20 Immediate Actions to Take to Protect Yourself:
- Go to therapy. You will need support; your conversations with your therapist are privileged.
- Be very selective with whom you discuss your decision to separate or divorce. While it may be tempting to share your intentions your friends, anyone you confide in may be called as a witness later. Keep in mind, divorce touches a pain point in many people. A well-meaning friend who, for whatever (perhaps even unconscious) reason, hates the idea of your marriage ending may tip off your spouse in an attempt to “help” you stay together.
- Be careful about social media. Do not make any comments about your marriage, or potential separation or divorce on ANY social media, this includes any cryptic remarks that may be interpreted as negative. In the event you have already made comments, do not delete them. Also, do not send any text messages about your marriage or potential separation or divorce to your spouse, friends, or family as they can be subpoenaed in the legal process. A good rule of thumb for social media: Only make positive comments on things you feel positive about – your children, your pets, the awesome brownies you made for the charity fundraiser, etc.
- Educate yourself on North Carolina law. North Carolina has very specific laws about separation and divorce; talk to a lawyer.
- Obtain a separate email account. Don’t use your work email or an email in which your spouse has access to communicate with your attorney or any other divorce professional.
- Change your passwords on all of your online accounts. Most people use the same password or some version of it for all of their accounts, making it easy for a spouse to guess. Make your new passwords long and complex and guard them with your life. Don’t use “password” or “12345678” as your password (both are still the most commonly used passwords).
- Start stashing cash. It’s prudent to have money set aside for an emergency or to cover your short-term cash needs. Put the money someplace safe, such as a separate, individual bank account or a safe deposit box that only you can access; do not keep the money in your home, in your car, or in your purse.
- Open a credit card in your name individually. If you don’t have an established credit history as an individual, you will need to do so and opening a credit card is the best way to start. You may also need a credit card to cover your expenses in the short term.
- Remove your personal journals and calendars from your home. Put them in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box. If you don’t currently journal, don’t start; anything you write is discoverable. If possible, obtain copies of your spouse’s journals and calendars.
- Secure any valuables, such as jewelry or other prized possessions, from the home. Put them in a safe deposit box or storage unit.
- Obtain an extra set of house and car keys. Keep them in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box.
- Obtain copies of all of your important legal documents. This includes birth certificates, passports, social security cards, health insurance cards and life insurance policies for you, your children, and your spouse.
- Purchase an external hard drive and run a backup your home computer. Re-run the backup on a weekly basis until you separate.
- Videotape the contents of our home(s). Smart phones make it easy to videotape your property.
- Make a list of your cars, boats, jet skis, etc. Remember to include the VIN number for each and the mileage of your cars.
- Thinking about buying a new car or having the house renovated in preparation of your separation? Don’t do it. If your car needs repairs to maintain its road worthiness or you need some dental work, then do it, but don’t incur any expense in preparation for your separation.
- Thinking of putting spyware on your spouse’s computer? Or, taping phone conversations? Talk to an attorney first; you could be breaking various federal and state laws and could be prosecuted accordingly.
- Thinking about placing a GPS device on your spouse’s car or cell phone? Know the law, talk to an attorney first.
- Assume your spouse will raid your bank accounts when he learns of your separation and plan accordingly. Talk with an attorney to devise a plan.
- Though the divorce process is daunting, remain vigilant. Make a list of any bank and/or credit card companies that send statements to your home. You may need to subpoena information for these accounts later.
Divorce can be daunting, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Call me, I can help.
Wishing you peace & plenty!
Your gray girlfriend,