It’s not pretty, but if you know you are heading to Splitsville, here are some top tips to follow that I wish I’d known before my divorce.
1. Get a lawyer and an accountant
I was lucky in that my divorce was awful but amicable. However, if you can smell blood in the water and think things will get ugly, hire the best lawyer and accountant you can find, and make sure they are working together on your case.
Leah Oliver, founder of Minnik Chartered Accountants, doesn’t mince words: “This whole process is about money.”
“You might think it’s about your child’s future or it’s about where you are going to live etc,” she explains.
“Once you start to realise the behaviours of the other side and what kinds of things will play out, you will realise that right at the core of every single behaviour in every single action that a person takes is money.”
2. Numbers don’t lie
Lawyers will need full disclosure of your financial situation. As the saying goes, “numbers don’t lie”. Correct! Legal cases are based primarily on data. Financial data.
“So financial disclosure is all about transparency, presenting the numbers and presenting the truth because you get situations where people will tell lies to try to come out on top than the other side,” Oliver says.
“So, what the numbers do is that they smash those lies apart. Accountants work with the lawyers to present the financial disclosure to the court or at mediation and those numbers tell the truth. We can literally unravel a web of lies that the other side has created. So, it’s all about transparency.”
3. Don’t put it in writing
I don’t think people realise that when you’re texting, emailing or using social media, it is considered publishing!
“We’re seeing a lot of people come undone because of this. Because communicating via texts, social media and emails, all that’s become normal rather than talking face-to-face,” Oliver explains.
“We utilise our gadgets and utilise our devices to communicate, and especially if you’re emotional, some stuff can get said that can really work against you. So the whole legal world is relying on that data now because it’s evidence. Making comments on these tools is putting it in writing and can actually be quite damaging to your case.
“I suggest anything to do with finances, or anything to do with your emotions, just go complete cold turkey and stop communication. At that point in time, you would then rely on the lawyers to do all the communication for you because they are representing you.”
4. Be Fonzie
In other words, be cool. Easy to say, but hard to do, and that’s to try and take your emotions out of it.
“The trick is to kind of push everything aside, get some time to yourself, just really kind of go out in nature or whatever soothes you. What will happen is the other side’s lawyers will try to throw things in front of you like obstacles or things that make you feel guilty or make you feel emotional. So, the trick is just to get yourself on your own and push those emotions aside and to really focus hard on the financial side of your legal case,” Oliver says.
5. Look after your mental health
I don’t think I would have survived my divorce without my counsellor. It took me a couple of appointments to find the right counsellor I clicked with. Don’t just expect it to work with the first person you google.
“Attend counselling with a reputable psychologist or psychotherapist with experience in separation matters. Attend alone,” Oliver says.
“We find that a lot of people going through separation will offload on their lawyer, offload on their accountant, offload on sometimes even the person who they’re in the case with, or their friends and that can be really damaging to your relationships and also expensive if you do that with your lawyer,” she says.
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