Whether you left or someone left you, here’s your to do list.
#1. Buy two memory sticks with heaps of memory.
You will make a due diligence investigation and you need to store the information somewhere and you need to back it up for when chaos reigns.
You and your ex are going to come to a deal. Even if you end up in court, less than ten per cent of cases end up in a judgment. Every business deal starts with due diligence i.e. everyone knows what they’re getting into. The same goes for your financial settlement.
Before you go out the door or get cut off from the electronic banking details and email passwords copy everything you can. It’s not sneaky and it’s not wrong. Either you do it or your lawyer does it later at the hourly rate. It’s going to happen. You’re going to cough up your details and so is your ex.
(So for heaven’s sake, change all your passwords and get your snail mail delivered to a post office box, especially when you hire your own lawyer.)
#2. Remember you are playing a zero sum game.
There is one pot to be divided. It’s not going to get bigger. What you get the other side loses and vice versa. Don’t pursue anything that promises to make the pot bigger. Spend the least amount of money on lawyers and investigations you judge to be correct. Every cent spent on the fight makes the pot smaller.
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#3. Work out where you’re going to live.
This is probably different to where you would like to live. How much money is it going to take to get there? Talk to a mortgage broker or rental property manager and an accountant to see what’s doable. As soon as you see a “good enough” deal on the table from your ex you can go there and then – and stop reducing the pot. Remember the court/lawyer process is about two years long if there’s a fight. A “good enough” deal taken early on gets you started again, maybe months or even years ahead of schedule.
#4. Put yourself in your ex’s shoes.
You can see what sort of a deal is going to work. If you have been left, there is probably a deal of guilt on the other side. This gives you leverage. Cut a realistic deal early on. If you go for revenge, you’ll like smash your leverage.
If you initiated the separation, be business like. Put realistic deals. Do it yourself negotiating can be problematic because your ex is angry and or in denial. When you are “nice” in negotiations your ex might perceive this as a step to reconciliation. When you make it clear there will be no reconciliation your ex will be angrier and less negotiable than ever.
Use a mediator to structure the conversation into deal making and not relationship mending. Check your lawyer’s letters over before they are sent. Maybe they are legally correct but how is the other side going to react? Use your judgment and your editor’s red pen if you think a letter will hurt or inflame.
#5. Look after yourself.
When you separate you are starting the next maybe thirty or forty years of your life. Take the long term view. New relationships started in the turmoil of a separation often break down. Stick to family and friends if you’re lonely.
One day it will be over and everything will settle down. Pour your heart out to a psychologist and neither of your lawyer (wrong professional and at an astounding hourly rate) or Facebook (you might as well shout it from the rooftops or give it on a platter to your ex for use in court).
It’s common to move two or three times after a separation (don’t forget your memory stick.) Second hand furniture will do for now.
Keep fit. Whatever else happens your number one asset is your health and you need it years to come.
If you have a job it’s your second best long - term asset. If you don’t have a job, even if it’s not realistic to have one just now (e.g. you’ve got littlies to look after) plan to get one by doing courses and volunteering or starting something small from home. Getting a job long term is often about confidence and connections and anyone can get these.
Separating? Strap yourself in for the ride. No one can tell you what’s ahead. There is no definitive how-to guide but forget any one of these tips and harsh experience will teach you anyhow.
Gerard Thistleton is a freelance writer. He’s got scars to prove he used to work in the divorce field. These days he prefers the company of his wife, children and a lunatic dog.