If you find yourself struggling to keep it together during the holidays, you should know that you are in really good company. When you feel that you have nothing left to celebrate together, and you dread spending the holidays as a couple, that is a pretty clear indication that it is probably time to part ways. But before you say adieu, here are 7 things to consider:
1. Get legal advice. Beyond asking a friend, who may play a lawyer on tv, you really should consult with an attorney to learn about your rights and obligations;
2. Prepare a budget. You need to understand what it will cost you to be out on your own, so based on your income and/or available savings you can determine what you can afford in rent, etc.;
3. Explore Housing Options. We all need someplace to crash at the end of the day, and do not feel humiliated if you have to move back in with your parents or use a sibling’s basement for awhile. Many of my clients have had to do this on a temporary basis, and I have found that they all benefited from the love and support of their relatives during a very trying time. Having a great family network that can spare you from going bankrupt is nothing to be ashamed of, but rather should be viewed as an admirable quality.
4. Secure Your Mail. To protect your credit and privacy, you want to make sure your mail is safe– and I’m not just referring to snail mail, but email. Change all your online passwords to email, FaceBook, etc. asap and notify the post office to get mail forwarded elsewhere, even if it is a PO Box.
5. Take an Inventory. Go through your home and list all the things of value, maybe even take pictures. Also try to get a snap shot of your family’s finances, including all assets and outstanding liabilities.
6. Establish Separate Accounts. Set up your own bank account and credit cards independent of your spouse. Even if on a temporary basis, you continue to use joint accounts to pay joint bills, eventually you will need to do your banking separately.
7. Disconnect on Social Media– There is no reason to remain friends with your estranged spouse on FB or to follow each other on Twitter. Seriously, remove all opportunities to snoop on each other, and try to lay low with others on social media, at least until your case is over.
If you are lucky, you will be among the 70% of couples that are able to divorce in a cooperative, if not amicable manner. Nonetheless, I urge you to rely not just on family and friends, but to find a counselor for emotional support during this emotional process. As you grieve the loss of your partner and the life you envisioned together, it is critical that you realize you are not alone and that once you get past this rough transition phase, things will get better over time. Indeed, after about a year you should feel a thousand times better, looking ahead to a new year and a new you. In the meantime, hang in there and just take things one day at a time.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq. in Bethesda, MD
Focusing on Family Law for 17 years