Can I Even Afford to Leave?

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Thank you so much to Thomas & Gill for bringing us this important information.

Even if you have a great job, the thought of juggling work bills and kids all by yourself after you leave your spouse is scary.

Let’s pick up with Attorney Lisa J Gill and the story of her divorce as she was in law school, raising a kindergartener, and working as a paralegal.

I was incredibly fortunate to have such a supportive family. I moved my son and I into my father and stepmother’s house while we were divorcing. I share my story because I wasn’t an attorney at this time, and I learned so much after I was able to leave my husband. There is a lot that I would have done differently.

I continued to work, go to school, and raise my child. My dad and stepmom were wonderful and helped me with getting my son to and from school, and my dad, who is by no means a cook, would check on me at 2am while I was studying. He would bring me coffee and offer to make my breakfast.  This was not the man I grew up with; he’d never been that attentive growing up.

I can tell you, as a professional what you SHOULD do, but here is my story and what I did. Don’t do this. It worked out ok, but it could have been so much better if I had known more about how to prepare to leave my husband at the time.

I was paired up with attorneys that did not specialize or devote most of their practice to family law. This was mistake number one. Always consult with a few family law attorneys to find a good fit for your situation, and make sure they know family law. It is different than business law or other areas of practice.

The attorney that I was working with let me borrow the money for my divorce and pay him back, which was incredibly nice. However, I would recommend getting a good understanding of how much your divorce will cost, and either save up that amount or open a credit card to help with the expense of divorce. I was so young at the time of my divorce and have learned so much over my past years in practice. Calculate not only the divorce expense, but the odds and ends that sneak up on you while you’re divorcing.

Like I said, I did not hire a family law attorney in my divorce, and I didn’t request everything I could have.  I really could have negotiated better. Make sure you hire a family law attorney familiar with cases similar to yours.

I’d mentioned that we were being audited. Fortunately, all of our paperwork had been gathered, and compiling our budget wasn’t as hard as it could have been. When you are considering leaving your spouse, you’ll want a good tally of how much you earn as a household, who you owe, what your monthly expenses are, and what you currently spend living your life. If you aren’t planning to stay in the home, see what a home, apartment, or condo will cost you each month in your neighborhood to keep your children in their school after you leave.

Make sure to adequately calculate your spending. This includes all of the kids’ expenses, like field trip money, if your teen gets her hair and nails done, sports expenses, the Chik-fil-A and Sonic before or after practice a few nights a week. All of that adds up, and you don’t want to short yourself.

Take your last year’s tax return, your credit report, and a year of your bank and credit card statements with you when you leave to get a real snapshot of your money and spending.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I could have filed to have my husband pay for part of my divorce. There is a lot that I could have done to save myself time and money.

If you haven’t been the one keeping the finances, enlist the help of a friend that is good with numbers and budgets to help you. You don’t have to do it all by yourself. However, you can save yourself a lot of time and money doing it yourself, and not have your attorney’s office do it for you.  This is also a big part of the Second Saturday workshop.  We give attendees checklists to help them know what documents and information to gather to take to initial consults after you leave or provide to prospective attorneys or financial experts.

The first thing your attorney is going to ask you for is your budget so that you can file an Affidavit of Income and Support.  If your spouse is the primary breadwinner, you will want and need him to keep household finances at “status quo.”  This means, you will want him to keep up any financial support of the household, monthly payments, and children’s needs after you leave. Neither of you should drain any accounts, and good pre-planning and negotiation can help avoid a costly Support Hearing. Your attorney cannot negotiate as well without good numbers and documentation to assess both your need and your spouse’s ability to pay.

to leave your spose, you have to get your finances in order

In summary, yes. You can always afford to get out. But you need to get a good understanding of what the dollar amount is, what you owe, and what a life post-divorce will look like and how it can be achieved.

The Second Saturday™ divorce workshop for women includes a session with a forensic accountant, Cindy MacAulay, and a financial planner, Dollie Halford, to best explain how your investments, inheritance, school savings accounts for the children, and your income can be impacted with divorce and how to safeguard your assets and lifestyle during divorce.

The next workshop will be held April 10th via Zoom from 9am to Noon and you can register here or read more about it if you aren’t quite ready.

Join us Friday to hear more about Lisa J. Gill’s divorce experience and her retrospect nearly 20 years later as a family law attorney.

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