He or she is everything you always dreamed they would be. So charming. So supportive. *SIGH*. Everything is great. You are talking about moving in together or getting married.
Before you get married or agree to live with someone, get something in writing about what happens if this love you feel doesn’t last. Cohabitation agreements outline what belongs to whom, how things will be paid while you live together, and how things are divided if you split up. Prenuptial agreements do the same things but address broader issues of marriage. Prenuptial agreements cannot legally prescribe or eliminate child support: that right lies with your child, and neither parent is immune, depending on the circumstances, to having to support any children that come out of the relationship. However, prenuptial agreements allow you to spell out under what circumstances “mine” and “yours” becomes “ours” and has to be split if the marriage falls apart. Don’t suggest a prenup a week before the wedding, and don’t sign one if that’s your partner’s idea. You need to time to get an attorney to look it over, on both sides. Start this talk months before the wedding. While you are at it, get your attorney to look over or create your estate plan covering one another as spouses.
Well, you moved in/got married. Everything seems to be going well. Okay, he sometimes leaves his socks on the floor. She sometimes doesn’t put away her toothbrush. But overall, it’s going fine.
Know Everything, Keep Everything: This sentence should begin your fiscal relationship with your loved one, “I love you, and I am happy we are together. But I need you to know that I take this partnership seriously, and I want to know everything that goes on financially within it.” Know what your partner makes. Know what the bank account numbers are. Know what the bills are. Pull out credit reports and compare and talk about solving any problems you see on either side.
Keep Notes of Significant Events: Something isn’t adding up? Keep notes of anything that seems suspicious, or of any dates of anything significant that happens in the relationship in case you need to refer to it later.
Domestic Violence: If there is abuse going on, develop a safety plan. Even if you are not ready to leave, make sure you have squirreled away your important papers, and have some basic essentials in a bag at a friend’s house or somewhere else in case you need to leave in a hurry. Find out what the laws in your state are regarding domestic violence. Know where you can go, and who you can go to if you have to leave in a hurry.
Assess with Objectivity: Whether it is a serious problem like domestic violence, or simply that you can’t stand the way the fork scrapes across his teeth when he eats, if you are having problems in the relationship, think seriously about how to assess the problems in the relationship and the problems you may have leaving. Talk to an attorney, a financial planner, an accountant, a counselor, a friend…whoever is talented in ways you are not…to help you come up with a plan to get out. If it turns out you don’t need it because you can make it work, at least you are armed with information.
AFTER THE BREAKUP
Well, it didn’t work out. Okay. It happens. Now what?
GO! See an Attorney as Soon as Possible: Don’t wait until after you’ve packed his bags and sent him on his way. The moment that idea flashes into your head, get to an attorney and find out what your rights are, what information you need and how to do this so as to best protect your legal rights.
Plan as though You Will Get Nothing: You May Not. You might walk out the door with nothing but a suitcase filled with blue jeans and tshirts. It’s possible you can get temporary or long term support from your former partner through equitable distribution, alimony, child support or temporary spousal support. However, sometimes it takes quite awhile to get these things. Additionally, he may try many tactics to hide his assets, or he may simply have a lot less than you knew about. So if you have the time to plan, plan as though you won’t get anything out of him. Work, get the support of family, put some money aside….whatever you need to do to ensure that when you leave, you can take care of yourself.
Prepare Your Children: Although some separations/divorces are gentle and even loving, many are vicious. Perhaps there will be a boyfriend or girlfriend of your former partner’s that may become involved in your children’s life. Perhaps there will be slurs made against you in their presence. Perhaps YOU will slip and make slurs about your children’s other parent in front of them. Prepare them as best you can to know that this is not their fault, that they are still very loved, and that things will get better. If you have access to mental health services, it never hurts to get your children in to talk to a therapist if they are old enough, so they can work through their pain about the situation without feeling they have to lean on Mom or Dad, both of whom they will perceive as hurting (they are smarter than you think).
Self-Care: Throughout this time of trauma, remember to take care of yourself. You are someone special. You deserve love and happiness. This, too, shall pass.
For a free consultation about your legal matter, call us at (856) 227-7888, or contact us at [email protected]. We have locations in Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester counties, and are happy to discuss your options.
The above is not specific legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship. Do not rely upon it without consulting an attorney to see how the information presented fits your unique circumstances.