I started dating my high school sweetheart when I was just seventeen years old, and he was 16. Our families were friends since childhood. Our relationship got serious rather quickly. He was the guy that checked all the boxes for the type of man I thought I was supposed to marry.
I had a ring on my finger when I was 19, and married before I even graduated college at 21 years old. We pretty much grew up together. We were still kids trying to figure out life. Everything we had, we built from the ground up. Nobody gave us anything that we didn’t work for.
Our relationship lasted 19 years; with two beautiful children to show for it, a custom-built home, a pretty substantial real estate portfolio, and a marriage that most people thought would last a lifetime.
Except that it didn’t.
I was the mom that ran the household. I worked in real estate part-time (a career that did not light me up) so that I could be there to raise our children. I cooked all our meals, I made sure the home was clean, and I brought the kids to and from school and volunteered in the classroom. Managing our home was my first priority.
I WAS A STAY-AT-HOME MOM
Everything changed the minute our marriage was over. It was as if this person I built a life with suddenly became someone I needed to protect myself from. I was dumbfounded that we instantly became strangers. I went from a life that felt safe, to thinking “what else could possibly be taken away from me?”
I am the one that asked for a divorce, but I was beat to the punch with divorce papers. I was suffering and processing the loss of my marriage, I wasn’t thinking that I needed to “protect” what was already mine. I hired my own lawyer being that I was left with no other option. My lawyer suggested I check my bank accounts to see if our funds were left untouched. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling that washed over me when I logged into our joint bank accounts only to find that all the accounts had been closed and credit cards canceled. To say that I felt terrified is an understatement. How did “our money” all of a sudden become “my money?”
Had I not been savvy, and blessed with the grace of God, I would have been at the mercy of a stranger, a person I was intimate with for 19 years, but none of that mattered anymore. I was left to fend for myself, completely unsupported by my family, awaiting a court date in order to have a judge determine my fate. I still had basic survival needs. “How do I pay for gas, groceries, the kid’s necessities, etc.?”
What came next was waking up one morning only to find my car key missing. A car that I had been driving for a year…vanished. I was told it was a “company car” that I was no longer entitled to drive. No warning, no conversation, just gone!
Everything changed overnight. I was no longer the primary caretaker of our children. He went from running a family business fulltime to instantly becoming 50% dad, bringing and picking up the kids from school, and when he couldn’t he enlisted his family’s help during his “custodial time.” There was zero communication in raising our children. It was your time and my time, and on my time, I will do whatever I please. Mind you it was never my intention to take the kids away, I believe children need both mom and dad in their lives. None of this was a topic of conversation, just action taken fueled by shattered pride and ego.
We were both instructed by lawyers to stay in our home until the divorce was finalized, which lasted a year. It was excruciating. It felt outer body. I was a stranger in a home we built ourselves, a home we raised our children in, and where we hosted many family gatherings. Nothing felt comfortable anymore. We both avoided being home when it wasn’t our custodial time. Everything was calculated and documented down to the day and the hour. It was what I call divorce purgatory. Stuck between two worlds; life before divorce and life after divorce.
I write this in no way to place blame or to make myself out to be the victim, because to be completely honest, my attorney advised me to do the exact same thing, but I didn’t want to believe that we had become these people. I didn’t want our children to be placed in the crossfire of two people who felt the need to defend their ego and pride, but I also wasn’t going to stand around and allow someone to pull the rug out from under me.
My story is in no way unique. I have heard countless women in this exact predicament, especially when it comes to finances. Begging for money in order to buy tampons. Meanwhile, their lawyer is unable to do a darn thing without getting in front of a judge, which could take months. Withholding money is financial abuse, and I don’t wish it on anyone. I was grateful that I had other sources of income that he was unable to withhold from me in the long run, but not everyone is that lucky.
This is what many bulldog lawyers instruct their clients to do… ACT FAST, PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR ASSETS, MINIMIZE FINANCIAL LOSS, and in some cases make the other person out to be unfit and unreliable. It’s not a lawyer’s job to do what is in the best interest of all parties involved, including the children. Their only job is to “WIN” for the client. They have no interest in who gets burned in the process. I say this having experienced it firsthand.
I want stay-at-home moms to be fully aware of the possible outcomes. If you are financially dependent on your spouse and you want out of your marriage please be aware of the situation and consult a lawyer, preferably a lawyer that isn’t out to win at all costs. Don’t ever think to yourself that this will never happen to me, that was my first lesson. This can easily be you, too, if you are in a relationship with someone who is fueled by fear and has a bruised ego. Remember healing doesn’t happen in courtrooms, that’s your own personal journey. Until you are in a desperate state of mind, you have no idea what you are capable of doing.
If you find yourself in this situation feel free to reach out to me for a complimentary strategy session. Do not try and handle this alone.
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