How to take care of your money in a high conflict divorce
Any divorce will come with a certain amount of disagreement and falling out. But if you’re separating from a high conflict personality you can be sure the heat will be turned up. Add to the mix controlling and manipulative behaviour and you can have a dangerous financial situation on your hands. In How to take care of your money in a high conflict divorce we explore the big issues and learn how to take care of your money in a high conflict divorce.
Understand your money story
In high conflict marriages, it’s common for the high conflict spouse to have taken control. This can take various forms, for example:
- They are the main breadwinner and give you an ‘allowance’
- You both work, but they take charge of the finances
- You earn most of the money but they make decisions on what happens with it
- They review and criticise your spending
- They make you feel guilty if you make any financial decisions yourself
So take a moment to think about the financial dynamics of your marriage. Do you feel clear and confident when it comes to money? Do you know what assets and liabilities you have in your marriage – or know how to find out if you don’t know?
If so, great. If not, don’t be alarmed. You’re not alone. You have no need to feel ashamed of the position you’re in. Narcissists and other high conflict personalities are experts at taking control and undermining confidence. And it’s not too late for things to change. Now is absolutely the right time to understand and change your money story.
Take your place as CFO
I regularly tell the ladies in The Absolute Academy that they need to act as CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of their divorce. They need to have a vision and set the direction, otherwise their soon-to-be-ex will do it for them.
And as part of that CEO role, you need to have a good grasp on the finances. You need to become CFO (Chief Financial Officer) as well. Does this mean you need to do a crash course in accounting? No. It’s more about mindset. Realising that, whatever your history, you have what it takes to manage the finances in your divorce and life after divorce. This can be a difficult belief to absorb if you’ve had years of being controlled and undermined.
But it’s true. However unconfident or ignorant you feel right now you can step up and manage your finances. In fact, if you’ve been coping on a limited budget or managing money despite your ex-spouse’s negativity, you’ve already shown you’re capable of the CFO role. But now you get to do it on your own terms.
Know your numbers
One of my mantras with any divorce, not only high conflict cases, is that you need to know your numbers before you agree to anything. And it’s especially true in high conflict cases. What do I mean by this?
Knowing your numbers before you act is about understanding exactly what your wealth position is. What are your monthly and annual living costs – how much money do you need to live on, at your current standard of living? What do you owe? And what assets do you own?
Getting answers to these questions can be a long job, but it’s worth it. And in high conflict cases, it’s especially important to stand your ground. Your high conflict ex might push you to go along with their numbers, and tell you they have everything sorted. But you need to know for yourself that your financial position is fair.
So how do you find out about your finances if your ex isn’t cooperating? First of all, remember you have a right to information about bank accounts and other assets that you own – either individually or jointly. You don’t have a right, though, to play detective and go through your ex-spouse’s files. This is illegal and could result in action against you.
Your best course of action is to instigate court proceedings. As part of the court process, both you and your ex-partner will be required to make full financial disclosure. If you suspect your ex-partner is hiding assets your legal team will be able to challenge them through the court system.
Protect your assets
What if you suspect your ex-spouse will hide assets to prevent them from being considered as part of the financial arrangement? You can take steps to protect them. For example, you can request that assets be frozen, or that money can only be withdrawn from joint accounts with the consent of both signatories.
Depending on your wealth level you may want to engage a professional asset tracer. They will be able to investigate your soon-to-be-ex’s financial situation to determine whether there are hidden assets. You can then instruct your legal team accordingly. You can read more on how to protect your assets here.
Don’t be pushed into decisions
It can be so tempting to just want the divorce over and done with so you can get your soon-to-be-ex out of your hair and get on with your life. So many of my clients tell me they are tired, they don’t care about money, they just want to be free.
And I get it, I do. When you’re in the middle of the storm, calm waters are the only thing on your mind. But think about your endpoint. Do you really want to be scrimping and saving for the rest of your life, when you don’t have to? It’s fine to take a break, to let yourself rest. But this is your future we’re talking about. Take a rest but don’t quit. Don’t let your soon-to-be-ex manipulate you into decisions that aren’t in your best interests.
‘No’ is a complete sentence. If your ex-spouse is saying they know the finances and can come up with a deal, and it will save you both time and energy to leave the courts out of it, simply say no. If finances are tight and you do want or need to divorce without legal representation or financial advice, you can still do it on your own terms and your own timescales. ‘No’ might be a scary word, especially when saying it to your high conflict ex, but it’s absolutely within your rights to use it.
A trusted ally
If you don’t know where to turn when it comes to getting started with money in your high conflict divorce I can help. So many of my clients come to me feeling embarrassed and ignorant about their financial situation. Some have not recognised their spouse was controlling, and need to come to terms with that realisation too.
Whatever your story, know that I won’t judge. I have supported hundreds of women through divorce. While every divorce is different, just as each of us are unique, you can bet I’ve supported someone else through a situation similar to yours before. Whatever thoughts you have about yourself, or fears about your money, know that there is a way through this for you. And I am here to help.
To get started, simply book in a free 30 minute consultation. You can become CFO of your divorce, and I’m here to show you how.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com