Today’s guest post is by Vickie Adams, a certified financial planner / certified divorce financial analyst discussing the financial risks of reconciliation. Men, this advice goes for you too. Please forgive the gender pronouns. Finally, the professional advice and opinions today belong to Vickie (who has way more sense than chumpy me ever had at D-Day…) Enjoy!
By Vickie Adams
The very first spouses of those named in the Ashley Madison hack are just beginning to turn up at my office for financial advice. Any other group of readers might wonder why the betrayed waited so long to start proceedings.
“Didn’t that happen like over 3 months ago?”
The uninitiated believe they’d be lawyering up in 3 minutes.
Chump Nation readily acknowledges that the disordered have “odd and confusing” reactions and responses to everyday stuff. Little things like marriage vows, empathy, impulse control, boundaries. Like when you find your spouse has had multiple partners for decades and their monotone response is: “So what’s the problem? You know it meant nothing.” Odd.
But did you know that that those close to you see chumps as having “odd and confusing” reactions too? Specifically, a lack of appropriate action or anger when dealing with infidelity, deception, or just plain being screwed over.
It’s painful to point out, but on some level you know this is true. Have you ever lied to friends or family members about what’s going on in your marriage post D-day? Ever skirt the truth rather than out the cheater because even you can’t say without hurling: “Yes, he’s been a horrible husband, but he’s such a good dad!” Odd response.
Early on in divorce financial planning, I noticed chumps had a special ability to suspend belief rather than act in their own best interest. It was a clearly a case of that old saying, “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?”
Chumps go overboard to show they are “good and fair people” who possess an unwavering sense of honor and commitment. Because you believe in love, family, and unicorns, chumps hold themselves to insanely unreasonable standards. There is no prize for this. Instead you damage yourself emotionally and financially in the process. Everyone who cares about you hopes that you will go from D-day to Dump His Ass Day — instead you’re more likely to go from D-day to Beating Yourself Up Day.
Chumps are more likely to tell me, ‘I did everything wrong. I got by angry and I reacted and now I’ve ruined it. I should have understood his disease, his family of origin issues, his need for strange. If I would have embraced hot yoga threesomes, we might still be together.”
I’m sure he was a stellar catch. Besides that unfortunate day that he was caught in the prostitution sting, I can see why you’d fight for that.
Here’s a typical timeline of events post-D-Day and some tips to minimize your collateral financial damage. It is my fondest hope that you will catch on before you are out-played.
Week 1 – 4 — Let the games begin! If a cheater had a high-profile job, he enters rehab and is upgraded from common cheater to someone suffering from a Sex Addiction to save his ass and job. If the career was not so sparkly, you search for a marriage counselor while he critiques your choices and or may or may not show up.
Chumps charge in for the rescue. Reading, attending support groups, and accepting blame for their contribution to the problem. Wrong focus, people. Instead of googling “Do sex addicts recover?” use this brief period of “contrition” to start gathering and preserving assets, while preparing for the worst. Don’t focus on “fixing it” — focus on protecting yourself financially.
Instead of being the marriage police, be the money police. If there is a chunk of money from any community asset you can put in your own name alone, do it now. It can be equalized in divorce settlement. If reconciliation blows up, you will need money for retainers, therapy, living expenses, etc. Spouses mistakenly think that because the higher earning spouse has always put their check in a joint account, they will continue to do so. NOT TRUE. Because someone’s never drained a bank account before, don’t assume they won’t. Don’t wait for this to happen. Act first.
Week 4 — Are you going to meetings or are you going to a hotel? You may hear “how can I recover when you don’t trust me?” Rather than accepting the undeserved title of co-addict that the marriage counseling /rehab industry has anointed you with, recognize you’ve been had by someone with a personality disorder. That means their personalities aren’t organized in a way that makes sense to most people. That extends to money and those promises they make in front of others — “I swear I’m not with her anymore”, “I didn’t take that money. The bank made a mistake and I’m waiting for them to fix it.”
While you are waiting to see if they’re serious run a credit report, get tax returns, bank statements, see a lawyer, a financial planner. Ask important questions Use this brief period of ‘transparency ’ to extract as much financial information as you can. Trust but verify. Actually I wouldn’t trust but it’s not my first rodeo.
Week 8 – 12 — It’s not so shiny anymore. Rehab is over, counseling is boring. Meetings, what meetings? The facade starts to crumble. Chumps waste months in counseling, negotiating for symbolic crumbs that prove they are first in the pick me dance, like requesting lists of dating websites and passwords or deciding on the exact definition of full transparency. By now the cheater has often returned to affair partner(s) and is now moving money out of accounts and possessions out of the house. While you are “standing your ground” for access to ALL of the cheater’s email accounts and passwords, bank accounts are being closed, money is being diverted, new debt is being incurred. Again, the focus is on the wrong issue. Don’t waste time waiting for some sign that your love and time has meant something to him. GIVE THAT TO YOURSELF by securing your financial future.
Week 13 — You get tired of going to marriage counseling by yourself. You realize you are back to square one. Most of the initial promises of “transparency” and “working on it” are blown off. You can continue to search for ways to change yourself enough to win the pick-me dance or you can make a plan to “leave a cheater and gain a life.”
Week 14 — The stall of “working on the post nup.” At Chump Nation, we stress post-D-day actions. “Get tested, run a credit report, get a post-nup.” Just this week, an unsigned post-nup landed on my desk that was was being worked on until the day someone unexpectedly moved out. “He really wanted to do it. We just couldn’t agree on semantics.” It also was missing huge amounts of valuable assets. It was all just a stall tactic while he figured out where he was going.
If you aren’t aware of your complete financial picture, can you negotiate an accurate post-nup? If someone is sincere in coming to the table with a post nup, 45 days is a fair amount of time for completion. Be sure you know what you are signing.
Week 16 — Someone moves out and you are left holding the bag.
Chumps mistakenly feel that protecting themselves financially telegraphs “you didn’t believe in us.” Translation: you didn’t want to hurt his feelings or rock the boat when reconciliation was still possible. Meanwhile they were deciding on Plan A or Plan B (also known as you if you were the bigger earner.) This is where we are the chumpiest: Financially.
What happened in these few months is they only pulled you closer to get a better shot at you.
Let’s hear it Chump Nation: What have you done financially for yourself during the D-Day time line? Did you do something ballsy during your divorce that helped you avoid financial disaster? Any financial questions?
Vickie will be checking this post over the weekend, so feel free to weigh in with your comments and concerns.
Over two decades ago, she founded a client-centered, boutique wealth management firm in San Pedro, CA., located south of Los Angeles.
During her own divorce, she realized that while her attorney was an expert in family law, he lacked the specialized skills necessary to structure a strategic divorce settlement that considered the long-term financial effects.
In addition, the practice of fighting over individual, unrelated financial issues, combined with the siege mentality of divorce, led many of her clients to be exhausted, confused, and often devastated by the monetary implications of their divorce agreement.
Vickie took a proactive stance in advising clients to plan for their economic future before, during and after their divorce. Her practice is focused on assisting others to navigate the life-changing transition of divorce successfully. See more of her articles at www.MyDivorceFinancialPlanner.com