The Divorce Process, Day Zero
Preparing For Doomsday
When asked about the best divorce advice for men, I instantly think about the importance of those first few days in the divorce process. Actions, agreements, and assumptions made at the beginning of the divorce process can easily come back and bite you when your head clears. When it all hits the fan, you have two ways to deal with it; either you are pre-prepared or you react and clean up.
What you need is a Survivalist mentality. Survivalists are groups planning for the collapse of society, the great disaster. Either in their homes, or in some cave on their property far away, they are storing up food, water, guns, and ammo. When doomsday comes, they have a bug-out bag packed at home and a plan to get to their hold-out to live through the disaster. If the survivalists are right, those not planning for the end times will have to react to the problem and clean it up as best they can.
Divorce is a the same kind of emergency and there’s a good chance it’s going to hit well before the Survivalists’ End Times. So you better be prepared or you’ll get hit in the face and left to react and clean up. And since 80% of divorces are initiated by women, odds are as guys you are left in the react and clean up group. Most of us don’t have a bug-out bag in the closet waiting for the day our wife tells us “it’s over,” but maybe, just maybe, we should. But there’s good news, too, that with just a little stalling, you can be seriously prepared no matter how much your wife’s announcement shocked you.
There is one very clear founding point that you must accept for day one; the world just changed focus from ‘us’ to ‘you’. Once the concept of divorce is out in the open, the road ahead for husband and wife instantly forked. Sure, you both care about the kids and hopefully you’ll will work to decide a plan for the future that is best for them. But the only one looking out for you at this point is you. You need time to sort through your options, gather professional advice, and determine your best options. Your normal method of sorting through all your options prior to the divorce notice will not work though. You have to set up alternate means of action that will give you privacy.
When you are in trouble, you need a COP. That’s what you need to remember: COP. It stands for the three things you have to be able to do on your own, with privacy, from day zero in the divorce:
At this point, everything that is joint or common is tainted. Your phones have records, your joint bank accounts have records, and every space and desk drawer in your home is public domain. You need to be able to move, think, meet, analyze, and handle all the facets of your divorce in sheer privacy. As an example, you may both want to work out the terms and settle without using attorneys and becoming adversarial. That’s a great goal and as adults and lifetime parents to your kids, it should be your starting premise. But to do that without having your own, independent legal advice is not wise. No one understands your rights and the likely outcomes in your region better than a local attorney. You need the advice of local legal counsel. You may not need them to do battle in court, but you need them on your side to make the best decisions for you and your kids. The fact that you are seeking advice is none the ex’s business, so you need a way to communicate and pay your attorney in private. It doesn’t take long to cover the steps, and when complete, you will have all the aspects of your private world in place so you can move forward with your divorce decisions.
Communicate. Today there are three main ways you need to communicate independently and untraceably:
The first one, telephone, may seem odd. You likely have a cellphone already. The problem you may face depends on how the account is set up. If your cell phone is an independent account, meaning your wife’s name is not on it, then, you’re likely ok. Most of us, though, have a family plan with a major provider. In those cases, every phone number you call or text is on record. Your texts themselves are even available for her to request. In a few minutes she can look online and see your phone history. You need a phone and phone number that you can use independently and in private. The good news is they are pretty affordable. Go to your local bulk department store and look at the pay-as-you-go phones. You buy the phone and buy some minutes. There’s no contract and they are simple to set up. In a few minutes at a computer (not at your house, more on that later), you can have a private phone number and be up and running.
The phone company will want you to supply an email address, so while you are at the library using their computer, set that up too. There are a host of free, web-based services out there, including Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo to name a few. They all have advantages and disadvantages. For your purpose, just pick one and move on. You have plenty of other decisions to make.
The last communication means, snail mail, may seem pointless today. You have a phone and email, and who sends letters anyway?! You will need some form of mailing address for banking, for your lawyer, and for many other miscellaneous things. For obvious reasons, you can’t have mail coming to your home and consider it private. There are a few options. If you have a friend or family member, you can ask them if you can use their address. You can check with your supervisor at work and see if they mind you using your work address. If none of those are available, post office boxes are an option. They are just over $50 a year through the US Postal Service. Some local mail shops may have better deals for you. These work great, but you need to be careful with your key. Hard to keep it private if you have a big USPS key on your ring.
Operate. There are many aspects of operate, but they all center around a base. You’ve now got the means to communicate privately, but you can’t use any of those means at home. Every aspect of your home operations base is compromised. As long as she’s living in the same house, or even has legal access to the house (like if it is the marital home and she’s on the title), you can’t privately operate there. You need a place to use your new phone, have access to a computer for email, make your plans, and store your paperwork. Similar to an address, maybe you have family or a buddy that has a spare area in their house you can use. Your office may be a good location for keeping records. If you can’t come up with some of these free options, a storage facility is fairly affordable. You can rent the smallest rental space, get a cheap chair, table and lamp, and set up a basic area to operate.
Purchase. Bank records, like cell phone records, are not going to be your friend when trying to carry out your private operations. Joint money is available for both of you. If she has access to the joint account, then she can see at any time where the money is coming from and where it is going. If you are buying a post office box, or putting in a retainer for an attorney, she’ll see it. It is fairly easy for you to take out some cash and go create a new account at a different bank that is just for you. You should even consider getting a new credit card. Small ATM trips or cash back during debit card purchases are a good way to get some cash without gathering too much attention, as opposed to a single giant withdrawal.
Remember, though, this is all joint money. Do not think that it is first one to the pot gets to keep it. You absolutely must keep good records of what you did with all the marital assets. She has every legal right to ask for all your financial records, and at that time you will need to provide your private account info. It is wise for both of you to stop all joint accounts from the start. Any credit cards you share, for example, are your liability. Cancel them or pay them off. Too many divorced guys before you have had to eat large credit card bills their ex’s ran up on the joint account, or witnessed their joint banking account drained instantly. Protect yourself and your money, but keep track of it so you can show in detail later where it all went.
Once you’ve completely worked your way through COP, you will have a private means to communicate, a space to handle your planning and operations, and a private means to pay for divorce advice and other necessities. All these methods will be linked, such as your new bank account using your new private address. All of these items will need to be revealed someday if and when your divorce gets really ugly and you are stuck in court. But with your records, you can trace exactly what you did. The important points, though, are that you can get the advice you need, and you have a place and the means to determine your best options before you start working on terms with the ex. Trying to handle your divorce proceedings at home without some means of privacy is like playing poker with your cards face up on the table!
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