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Do It Yourself Divorce — Good Idea or Not?

A lot of chumped people wonder how on earth they can afford a divorce. It’s one of the many crap sandwiches of infidelity — taking a huge financial hit to rid yourself of a cheater. In the video above (look at Chump Lady being all fancy! Video recordings!), I talked with family law attorney Regina DeMeo about Do It Yourself Divorce.

It’s a thing. Besides from going to the courthouse to petition for divorce yourself, there’s also a host of DIY legal services providers like Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom who claim you can divorce for as little as $299. But is this something you should cheap out on?

Turns out there’s a lot of middle ground between DIY and a costly court case. Yes, even when you’re divorcing a litigious FW. I learned from Regina a few years ago that it’s actually a small majority of cases that go to trial. Over 90 percent of cases settle. I didn’t have that experience, unfortunately, but I sure wish someone would’ve clued me into litigation abuse 20 years ago. Thanks, Regina!

We discuss how you can save money and be prepared when you visit a lawyer. How she determines between cases that can be mediated and when she’s dealing with a FW and has to litigate. And what resources exist in family law for people who need low-bono (sliding scale) and pro-bono services. We also discuss how fucked up child support enforcement is.

Caveat — this is a general discussion and shouldn’t be construed as legal advice for your particular situation. 

Regina is a member of the DC and Maryland bar. She’s been a guest lecturer at area law schools, and teaches at George Washington Law School. And she has her own terrific blog here, covering many family law and relationship issues.

Check out the video for more of the discussion and let me know in the comments: How were you able to afford divorce? Any tips for the newbies? Or would you just like to share your enormous relief that you’re on the other side of the shitshow? IT’S WORTH IT!


And hey, look at me getting hip to video recordings. A bit of a tangent on this topic — when I redid the site I included a video page. I had once done a slew of videos for Viyoden, on different topics, at the urging of my then-agent. And they’ve all disappeared, so I guess that place went belly up. Or people are bootlegging them on youtube. Anyway, I’m finally getting around to recreating the content.

Meanwhile, you can see what I’ve got on the Chump Lady Video page — an interview Regina did with me a few years ago about surviving D-Day, this one on DIY divorce, and — bonus content! — a book trailer I produced for the original Chump Lady Survival Guide — where I go around Lockhart, Texas and ask friendly citizens to repeat Stupid Shit Cheaters Say. God, they were good sports.

Even the cattle weigh in. MooOoove on.

Stay tuned for more videos to come.

P.S. I’ve bought a ring light since I made this and please don’t rate my room. Or my hair. Or my dorky glasses. There’s a reason I stick to writing and drawing. But I’m finally dragging my ass into the video era…

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Making terrifying, complicated things comprehensible is a service to humanity.

    Oh, and never mind dorky glasses and such. You look like the college-age daughter of Nicole Kidman (if she had a college-age daughter). I suspect Voodoo or at least sunscreen since birth.

  • I’m looking forward to more videos and interviews. Is it possible that the infidelity narrative will change in this decade? Hope so!

  • That book trailer was a scream.
    “I thought you’d be okay with it because you’re a liberal.” The way she delivered that line was priceless.

  • Thanks for finally dragging your ass into videos lol. Unfortunately where I live wait lists are long for legal financial aid. Also, divorce lawyers wouldn’t touch me without a $5,000 retainer (there was no payment plans whatsoever). I suspect a lot of chumps get screwed over (again) by not having retainers & being too distressed/traumatized to navigate a DIY divorce.

    • Interviewing attorneys and understanding fees & retainers are part of the strategic pre planning chumps must do. Chumps need to keep their game face on when pulling info, money and legal team together. This was one very important piece of $500 legal advice I received. It seems so simple and a way to exploit the Chump…maybe.. anyhow the advice was simple: build your defense quietly. Play the long game and get your house in order before you set legal in motion and before you confront the cheater.

      • Mine said get your own credit card while still married and use it for small purchases, something so simple that hadn’t occurred to me.

    • YES! As unapproachable as it seems , new laws are needed to help and protect in divorce after abuse trauma .

  • In my state, if there are children involved, at least one of you is required to hire a lawyer. Not that it is a bad idea, but due to my FWs financial abuse it nearly made it impossible for me to hire a lawyer. We had just gone through bankruptcy and I had less than nothing. My mother wanted to help but had no money, my father had money but didn’t want to help. It was a mess. I still managed to find a lawyer who said as long as there was no contesting going on, she’d do it for $1000. I managed to scrape that up from our tax return and filed.

    Best choice ever.

    But I do see that this law in my state, while it is well intentioned, can trap people in abusive marriages. If we hadn’t had a child I could have filed on my own for less than $100.

  • UK. Decree absolute 2018

    Refused mediation – would have collaborated with a local solicitor, but ex was using an internet solicitor at the start of the process. I didn’t see the point in paying £150 an hour for a mediated agreement which would then have had to be written up at £250 an hour by a solicitor.

    My view is paying for a solicitor is worth it because a) you need the financial agreement to be in place before the divorce agreement and b) there is some legal language around pensions etc which would be a nightmare to research.

    Every ‘phone call and email and meeting is charged so I was not a client who was really on my solicitor’s radar. No harm done but I was annoyed when my ex saw sense and deigned to take time off work and change to a local solicitor. Documents had been copied and sent over and discussions had for a fortnight before I knew anything about it. Obviously the ex dropping me a text would have been nice but ….

  • I did a DIY divorce with xFW #2. I wanted out so badly, that I gave him all of our jointly acquired assets in exchange for him assuming/affirming all debts (mostly acquired by HIM and his idiocy to the tune of 300K). The only item I fought for was the piano I paid for, which was necessary for my work. He didn’t play the instrument AT ALL, but dug in his heels about it until I threatened to sue him for alimony, get attorneys involved, divulge what he had been up to to his kids and his mom.

    Then I got to work. I found a book re DIY divorce for the state I was in, and followed the directions to the letter. There were minor fits and starts, but I got it done.

    Fast forward to 9 months after the divorce was finalized. xFW decides he needs to file for bankruptcy, so tries to foist all of his credit card debt back on to me. I think it was around 14K. I called the number in the book, and the helpful person on the other end told me that, in some states – including MINE! – credit card debt was no longer dischargeable if it was assumed as part of a divorce settlement. Apparently a LOT of FWs would pull that stunt – take all the assets then screw the chump with unpaid debt in an effort to destroy the chump’s credit.

    Still, I had to hire an attorney where FW was living to force him to reaffirm the debt and make him pay. My out of pocket on that one was $750, which wasn’t too bad. I asked the attorney if that fee could be rolled into the cc debt, but he said, no, I would have to pay. I was mad at the FW, but paid the attorney, and several years later the FW managed to pay off the debt…but not before trying to wheedle me out of paying the final $450, I don’t know why. I never responded to his requests for me to do so.

    Could I have gotten more? Maybe. But just getting out, and living a FW-free life was worth more than any material item I could have negotiated for. I knew I would be able to replace those.

    About once a year I do an internet search on him, honestly hoping to see an obit. That man was/is a pyschopath, and I consider myself fortunate I got away. He still scares me, over 30 years later.

  • I haven’t finished the video yet but I’m dying. FW did the following:
    1) propose we use some cheap online divorce website despite being married for 15 years (very entangled finances) and having two young kids
    2) texted me with “see you in court” after he discovered I retained a lawyer
    3) tried harassing me into admitting how awful and retaliatory I was to request he pay my legal fees (should we go to court)
    4) told me that he wouldn’t have to pay child support because we would have split 50/50 custody. And yet he knew the AP received child support from her ex despite making a much more even salary and also having 50/50 schedule. Oh, he also wanted the exact same custody schedule as her.

    I joked about there being some cheater handbook after discovering how common “ilybinilwy” is but now I’m beginning to think there really is a handbook.

    • My XW is not a native English speaker, so when I got ILYBINILWY it really made me think there must be a handbook out there. But I later learned that XW’s AP (who *is* a native English speaker) had had *exactly* the same conversation with his then-wife the week before I got mine, so now I figure they just got together and agreed on a common trite phrase to use. IMO it’s more like an oral tradition, passed along from cheater to cheater through the ages.

      • IG– Wow. Similar experience. I was also married to someone for whom English is a second language and, because of this, one of the first tip-offs of a potential affair was that he was coming up with all kinds of curiously new relationship-themed phrases and expressions in English that, A) he’d never used before and would probably bungle or mispronounce if he’d come across them organically; B) are mostly spouted by female North American Cosmo readers who are into trendy, self-helpy psychobabble; and C) sounded suspiciously rehearsed.

        The only men I can think of who use some of those expressions are new age white Rasta potheads from Portland and I was pretty sure FW wasn’t hanging out with that type. Plus the individual therapy he went to wasn’t conducted in English so that wouldn’t be the source of sophomoric relationship buzz terms in English. By deduction, that left a probable AP.

        One of the only upsides to getting sucked into the RIC vortex was that FW eventually tripped on his own lies and at least finally leveled about a few things. It undid some of the gaslighting and proved my intuition correct here and there. For instance, it came out he was being coached by the AP or, as you put it, had been coming to an “agreement” with the AP over what should be said to me or how I should be “handled.” That was interesting and made me think of the line from the Marquise de Merteuil character in Dangerous Liaisons: “When one woman strikes at the heart of another she seldom misses, and the wound is invariably fatal.” Except it was more nauseating than fatal.

        Some FWs try to blame affairs entirely on APs but, for whatever reason, FW was the opposite at first. I suspect macho vanity had something to do with him resisting casting himself as a whipped wuss and probably also because, immediately after D-Day, he was trying to use comparisons with the AP to dissuade me from being assertive or protecting myself. By depicting the AP as a pliant, unaggressive, whispery bunny, he hoped to trigger me into the pliant, unaggressive, whispery bunny version of the Pickme dance. But eventually that initial depiction of the AP was completely reversed. Her creepy aggression didn’t absolve him of his in any way though it was a little funny thinking him being out-narced by a fellow narc and out-bullied by a fellow bully. They tend to find their own level, don’t they?

  • Great post, and you are so lovely, CL!! How to have strategic oversight of your case and keep costs manageable when you are being abused through the legal system. This is the question.

    I’ve been a litigant in family courts in 3 states (FW moves all the time), and my preferred strategy has been to immediately ask around to the clerks at the courthouse to find out who the most aggre$$ive local lawyers are and “conflict out” (by consulting with them) the ones who typically run up fees. This is maybe 1-2 lawyers who notoriously fit this bill in most bigger places. Meet with them. Get their tips. Then my ex can’t hire them.

    I’ve observed that a lot of ppl get triggered by not hearing back from their lawyers for extended periods where there is no court date on the horizon, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had the conversation about how good lawyers are also good stewards of your trust account. They are not going to waste your money charging for status updates when there is nothing to report because there is no court date in sight. Know the difference between a reasonable busy lawyer saving you money, and the kind who misses court dates and fails to prepare you.

  • Being your own advocate gives you a purpose, when the rest of your world spins off its axes. The laws of each state, on divorce, are on line. Divided into assets, child custody etc, along with tips and explanations. It gives you list of necessary paperwork. List for declaring assets from boats to dish towels. When you can’t sleep, discover your rights. Make an organized notebook with every aspect of your divorce life. Your lawyer can then deal with tweaking, not doing the housekeeping work. It’s cheaper to pay an expensive bulldog, when you’ve done your work. Then a so-so lawyer multiple hours of basic housework, of your life. IMHO
    P.S. telling your lawyer, lawyer office, in tears, your tragedy is expensive. Get a therapist or best friend, or chump nation.

  • I’m one of the best lawyers in my field. I’m licensed in two states and a dozen federal courts. I graduated at the top of my law class and I do litigation- I’m in court weekly. However, my field is not family law. There is no way I would have tried representing myself when I had two minor children, two homes, two law practices, a few side businesses, and a serial cheating, abusive (physically and emotionally) XH who was diagnosed as a narcissist with BPD – perhaps even a sociopath. XH was stuck on the rage channel after Dday when I established my boundaries. He was bent on destroying me financially and emotionally. I feared for my life. My kids were suicidal from his abuse. It was worth every penny to hire the best family law attorney I could get. We had a 10 day trial. I was awarded way more than 50% and I got full custody. My fees were 8% of the value of the financial award. I put the retainers on two 25k credit cards and then re-fi’d my house after the divorce was final and paid off the lawyer. It increased by mortgage by $500/mo. I got extremely focused after the divorce on getting a better paying job, in a hotly in demand field, got a license in CA where all the highly paid jobs were located, and hustled. It’s been 6 years since divorce was final. I’ve become friends with my divorce attorney- I’m so grateful he took my case because he was a tremendous advocate. My fiancé divorced 8 years ago — before I met him. He got the cheapest attorney possible — she was very elderly and retiring — and did the minimum to save costs. He lost his business and almost all custody – his X, sadly, devolved into schizophrenia and addiction and abused his kids terribly. He regrets the decision to hire his cheaper attorney almost every day. His kids are grown but scarred by the abuse. He cannot undo that. 😭😭😭😭😭

    • Amen @Motherchumper99, I’m also an attorney in a different practice area than family law, and NO WAY would I ever litigate as a mom in the corrupt family court system without a vetted, local family lawyer who has earned my trust. Nothing is more important than having custody of my kids and my ability to run my business. Period!

      I realize not everyone is similarly situated however, and there are times when going Pro Se makes the most sense for the individual. Tina Swithin of One Mom’s Battle is the authority on this type of litigant, and I value her highly!

    • Same, Motherchumper. I did my own divorce from my FW because were young, married only a couple of years, and had no kids and no real assets – and he didn’t fight me because he was terrified if he did, he would have to publicly admit to cheating. So it was a matter of very simple paperwork. If it hadn’t been? Lawyer, no matter what.

    • Thanks for your professional take on it. I just wanted to pipe in about something I was thinking while reading your comment and which I often think when reading comments from smart and accomplished chumps, particularly those from professional backgrounds that are assumed to give people some special edge in spotting abusers and con artists (psychology, law, etc.). You know how bystanders to intimate abuse will question the credibility of a survivor who’s deemed “too smart/accomplished/etc.” to “let” themselves be abused because, “of all people, they should have known better”? Here’s the thing: Why do blamey bystanders never take into account that smart people tend to get into relationships with other smart people? Plus, there’s such a vast difference in types of intelligence. In the case someone has the misfortune of getting involved with an abuser with a few extra brain cells– in other words, someone who’s not only basically smart but also highly specialized in a particular type of predatory intelligence that normal people with normal characters don’t tend to develop to that degree– the victim is automatically outstripped simply by virtue of… having normal character. And I think that’s going to be true even if the survivor has a higher functional IQ than the abuser. There’s a distinct disadvantage in not being evil when first dealing with real evil.

      Anyway, I couldn’t help thinking this while reading your sage remarks. I know blaming bystanders will snatch at any arbitrary excuse to blame victims based on any random trait (“You wore red on Sunday! You forgot to signal when changing lanes!”), but I’d love to see a Friday challenge on this theme– chumps who experienced added censure, criticism, invalidation, shaming or suspicion from the peanut gallery simply because they were deemed “too smart/strong/accomplished” to be viewed as truly innocent and undeserving of abuse.

      I think accomplished women survivors are particularly singled out for this kind of attack on credibility but I’ve known male chumps who’ve gotten similar bs for “letting” their partners cheat/abuse as if it’s an option to commit felony assault or hire a goon squad to prevent it.

      • Thank you SO MUCH for bringing this up. I am an attorney, not in family law, and my settlement is a train wreck — because I should have recognized up front that my lawyer wasn’t going to the mat for me. I think there was an assumption that because I was a lawyer, I didn’t really need the kind of basic background information a non-lawyer would need. My husband was an assistant general counsel working at a very high level; he’d been a partner in a major white-shoe law firm before that, graduated from an Ivy League law school, started his career at Cravath (and manages to work that into the conversation in under two minutes whenever the occasion should arise). Going into the settlement conference, my lawyer absolutely underestimated him and was completely unprepared. And this is what only chumps understand: we are NOT at equal footing in these situations. We are still adjusting to the falsity of the narrative. The betraying spouse always knew the truth of the narrative, but we are completely blindsided learning it for the first time. And, at our absolute weakest and most vulnerable point, we get shoved into the viper pit and we’re expected to function as effectively as our abusers function.

        I was only just learning, over a year into the process, that my husband had stolen so much money for so long. I learned this after he dragged his feet producing bank statements, until two weeks before the settlement conference (and my lawyer was out of town). That was when I’d first seen that he’d been systematically skimming 40% of every dollar he earned, whether salary, bonus, whatever … for the entire 24 years of our marriage (in California, this was community property). It went into a bank account I had no access to, and vanished. I spent hours drawing up a spreadsheet of these fund transfers, going back ten years. My lawyer never even looked at it. Neither did the VSC judge. It was like I’d brought a knife to a gunfight.

        I am so, so sick of people who think that just because I’m a lawyer, I don’t actually need a real fighting lawyer in my corner. I should have fired my lawyer and walked out of that VSC, and I regret that more than just about any other mistake I’ve ever made in my life.

        • High IQ and a great career won’t protect people from catastrophic heartbreak. In fact I think there’s a kind of “Bathsheba Everdeen” effect where especially strong, accomplished people feel even more ashamed of having been hoodwinked, particularly when those around them expect them to be bulletproof. From Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd (to modernize the text, I replace “recklessly throws away her strength” with “is gaslighted and frog-boiled into dependency”):

          “Bathsheba loved Troy in the way that only self-reliant women love when they abandon their self-reliance. When a strong woman recklessly throws away her strength she is worse than a weak woman who has never had any strength to throw away. One source of her inadequacy is the novelty of the occasion. She had never had practice in making the best of such a condition. Weakness is doubly weak by being new.”

          I think most people don’t like to realize that, for every person alive– no matter how strong, brilliant, accomplished or high self-esteem’ed– there’s a correspondingly canny predator out there who can sniff out their Achilles heels, get the better of them and completely fuck up their lives. Seeing accomplished people felled is particularly threatening to bystanders because it means it can happen to literally anyone. Because of this, many people knee-jerkedly distance themselves from victims of misfortune and spew blamey feedback like, “If *I* were in your shoes I woulda (seen it coming/ warded it off/dodged bullets-fists-blades-character-assassination-blackmail/leapt tall buildings in a single bound…).” Blaming victims is just a side effect of how people delude themselves that bad things can never happen to them. The name for this logical fallacy in psychology is the “safe world” or “just world” effect.

      • I think you are right. I thought I understood people and family situations from having been a teacher, but I didn’t have a clue about how to deal with the adults in my ex’s family.

    • I’m one of the best public law librarians in my field. We will help you navigate the family court system like nobody’s business. For free! Please reach out to your local county law library for resources and information.

      That said, I hired a pit bull lawyer to deal with my abusive ex. It cost my dad 60k (because librarians are poor) but I got sole custody of our son. He did sue me after the divorce for custody of the dog.

      • Are you serious? I’m already post divorce, but my ex is still refusing to help pay child care expenses and I’ve wanted to alert the court, but I’m afraid the attorney costs won’t make it worth it – so talk to a law librarian?

        • Law Librarians provide information, not advice (I can feel the lawyers breathing down my neck, lol). We have access to lots and lots of resources that will help you determine the steps you should take. We have state-provided forms for Enforcement or Modification. We have the toll-free number for the state and local child child support office. We have info about free legal clinics and the the bar association legal helpline. We have lib guides to read and free access to Westlaw. We also know all the players in our local courts, from the court co-ordinator to the filing clerk.

          So, yes, please start by talking to us at the public law library. We will still be trying to help you as you run out the door. Come back, we have more info! Let me hellllllllllp you.

          • Brilliant tip, thank you. It sounds like the field of law librarians is the “secret bastion of passion” for the law. Considering how jaded and monetized every other legal field is, this resource could be incredibly valuable to people trying to learn the lay of the land. Now I wish someone would produce a legal thriller with a plot involving a law librarian who feeds critical information to some embattled justice warrior beset by evil corporate attorneys.

        • I have the utmost respect for law librarians, but they are not lawyers. Heck, even lawyers who do not handle family law cases are not, for your purposes, the lawyers you should be talking to!

      • My dog died as I was lining up ducks. She was old and had a lot of health problems. As sad as I was, I was relieved that he couldn’t try to take her. I can’t imagine….

    • Yes when fearing for your life and having been mentally traumatized it is difficult to become your own legal rep, learning all aspects of divorce through any means available the QDRO the types of support laws etc. But had I not I would not have got the little I did. I made the list of items decided included in paperwork also. My lawyer did not take due diligence to protect his client and ignored my requests doing a settlement spur of the moment half shod. But I had no means to pay for ongoing legal costs either .

  • I represented myself, saved a ton because we didn’t have much assets. Could I have pushed for more? Yes, but attorney’s would have eaten anything gained. Bonus, I received a copy of the decree before her, even though she filed because they sent it to her attorney. That made her mad 😂.

  • i started in mediation, X’s choice, no doubt because he wanted to manipulate me through a quick settlement. when i started learning and asked for pension consultations etc. etc. he was flabbergasted. he thought i would be “easy” to deal with and do as i was told. i stayed in mediation until the final section of spousal support. he agreed to 50/50 split after stalling for several months, then withheld monies until i signed the separation agreement “as quickly as possible”. right. that’s when i officially engaged the services of a lawyer, who, i will say, i’d been consulting by telephone all along. the matter was sorted out effectively.

    a pension issue was resolved in my favour, and i’m thankful for the consultations. i would have never figured that out on my own.

    the agreement was signed, the house sold, and for six months, spousal support flowed into my account with ease. i filed for divorce. then he emailed to say there’d been a “mix-up” with forms for tax-withholding (he filed the forms) and he would have to decrease spousal support for approx. 6 months to accommodate, but it was “no problem”. uh huh. i went straight to my lawyer and she threatened him with legal action, and now it’s sorted.

    last week, X sent an email saying he was “quite disappointed” about how inflexible i was being, etc. etc. they just expect you to accommodate every request/demand/direction, don’t they?

    i anticipate this kind of thing will happen again, and that is why i have a lawyer. to handle the overall picture. to keep tabs on when payouts occur re: yearly bonuses, etc. etc. to be my back-up in the face of an entitled prick who, frankly, isn’t that smart. i mean, it’s a contract. you follow the contract. if you don’t follow the contract, you go to court.

    i probably should’ve used my lawyer from the start. if i had to do it all over again, that’s what i would do. definitely. but here we are.

    i have so much life to live, and i feel resentful how much time and energy gets sucked into the X-VORTEX. i’m taking a screenwriting class out of UCLA, working on my physical health, parenting my young adult/adult kids. and that’s what i want to spend my time on. but the X-VORTEX gets in the way.

  • I didn’t have much in savings, but I was “fortunate” that I was able to pay the retainer with my credit card. My lawyer gave me a break and only charged me a $1,000 retainer and allowed me to make payments. Our case was pretty simple… no kids and only assets were my home (that I owned before we met), our cars, & the retirement accounts.

    My ex didn’t get a lawyer so that worked in my favor. He consulted one but claims that when the lawyer found out who was representing me, he raised the retainer. LOL! Not sure if it’s true, but it still brings me joy.

    All in, my uncontested divorce cost me about $5,000. There were extra calls to my lawyer and paperwork from the ex that I ultimately paid for, but it was worth every penny and my new life is better than I could have dreamed.

    • It’s great that it worked out in your favor that your ex didn’t get an attorney, but I will say that both parties being represented can be very beneficial for the chump, provided opposing counsel is competent. I believe my ex-FW’s attorney helped keep him in line and more rational as to what divorce would look like. Just throwing it out there because there’s a lot of advice out there to new chumps to try limiting FW’s access to attorneys through conflict of interest by meeting with them first, and it may not always be advantageous. You want both of you to be represented by reasonable attorneys.

      • I understand what you are saying but I repeatedly asked him to get his own attorney and he refused, claiming it was too expensive. I only consulted one attorney and she was the one I hired, based on a friend’s experience with her and how comfortable I felt with her in the initial consultation. My friend had told me that she is the nicest person, but get her in a court room and the she turns into a pit bull. LOL! We settled outside of court so I didn’t get to see it. Bummer.

        • I hope I didn’t come across as trying to argue with your experience or suggest that it was the wrong course of action for you, but rather assure people new to the process of divorcing that typically strong, competent attorneys will keep the FW from going too crazy with demands. The worst scenario is an attorney that will indulge them and waste everyone’s time and money.

          • I would say the worst scenario is trying to divorce your slimeball husband who IS a family law attorney! He knew every dirty trick, and skankenstein (who’d been married 5 times) helped him too. It cost me $$$$.

          • I agree with you. I consulted several attorneys trying to find one who was very experienced and also was on board with my overall strategy. I told him the name of the attorney I had interviewed first who is considered one if the best and said well, I guess klootzak won’t be using her now. My attorney laughed and said that if klootzak did want to hire that attorney, he would encourage me to sign off and allow it. Because that attorney is a super pit bull but also fair and knows a good deal. Apparently she has turned to her own client in court and told them to stop being stupid. LOL My attorney thinks that one would put a boot in klootzak’s arse. I think it highly unlikely klootzak would hire a female attorney, anyway, but it would be great for him to get someone to stand up to him. But knowing klootzak, he would likely fire such an attorney. He thinks he knows better than everyone.

  • That was so well done!! Nice to see you on video CL! 😊👍

    I’m already divorced and made plenty of mistakes, but I’m very happy to think that others may be much better equipped to navigate through the tsunami with lots of great and sound advice. Great job Tracy and Regina!

    I’d say the most difficult job during those dark days was definitely the emotional management side. It’s soooo overwhelming and as much as there are ppl that love you out there, you feel so deeply abandoned and alone anyway. Let no one really gets it.
    You know you need to pull it together, but you feel pretty broken, hurt and really depressed. That was my experience.
    The absolute worse thing you could imagine happening in your life, besides some tragic sickness or death of a loved one, is actually really happening to your family! It’s incomprehensible!!
    Your brain stops functioning properly, you don’t really feel too sane at all and you trust absolutely NO ONE on the planet, with a desperate paranoia about who else is out there to hurt you that you didn’t see coming for you! It’s so horrific!
    Your innocence about life was just shattered to smithereens and you find even the guy that slept with you for 38 YEARS is not a safe person.
    There is no way to process that kind of info, it’s a scorched earth level event for sure.
    Why would you trust anyone at all seemed a more logical reaction to me. You certainly are not up for going lawyer shopping. You barely can get off the bathroom floor!
    That was the most difficult part for me, trying to be sane while feeling the earth was no longer under my feet.
    I pulled in to protect my core, as one does under attack, when I should have put on my strongest armor to prepare for battle I guess. It’s so damn intense!
    I really don’t beat myself up about it though. I’m very glad I’m human and I care about things that matter.
    I did the best I could manage for the situation I was presented and I’m proud of myself for that.
    You get through it, you don’t know how you do, but you get through it.
    It’s not all magically better in a year or two either for any newbies out there. It’s a slow slow process out.
    I’m five years divorced in April and there’s still blow your mind fuckery events coming from this stranger I could not have possibly loved more. So bizarre!
    The procedural, legal elements of the divorce is only the beginning of getting to the other side.
    But it does make you feel a bit safer to get that all done, get the wall up and well bricked, so you can keep the circus from tenting up in your backyard ever again.

    • I was trying to compose what I was going to contribute when I read your entry. It is so spot-on to what I would have wanted to say. The hardest part for me was to rally my energy to fight in a divorce I didn’t want to go through. One of the reasons I didn’t file was because I feared how difficult it would be, and actually said to my ex we couldn’t afford a divorce. He bullied me for three long torturous yours in our crap family court system and it cost me approximately $100,000 in legal fees. $55,000 of those remained after the divorce was finalized. It took some of my awarded assets and a couple of years to pay that off, but it was worth it to me to get a fairly good settlement. There are things I am still frustrated that I agreed to, but my abusive sociopathic ex wasn’t going to budge and I didn’t want to incur a $40,000+in additional fees to go to trial and risk an appeal of a judges ruling. Settlement agreements can’t be appealed in my state thank goodness. Four years later we are back in court. Long complicated story, but my ex has been hiding money and my share. It is 10’s of thousands and my awesome attorney is no longer charging me. I would have never pursued litigation as I couldn’t afford to have justice brought forward. I actually can’t wait to see what happens now. It’s a long treacherous game that no one “wins”.

  • I did my divorce all on my own, so my cost was just the normal fees. I served him myself since we were together still. He pushed a bit on filling out the forms so I made it a thing we did together.
    Of course this was before he became so irrational and cruel, so that helped. And since I found out about things on our honeymoon our assets were always separate; never even changed my name!

    After the divorce my therapist, during a session edith both of us, asked how we felt:
    Me- “relief and free”
    Him- “…sad..?”

  • I really lucked out in that The Colonel was beyond desperate to get rid of me before Captain Crunchface started getting impatient and dumped him. (My window to act was a small one as the Army had also started to notice the clandestine affair). I called a military lawyer who did uncontested divorces. In addition to the standard verbiage, I had very specific Contractual Agreements written into the paperwork with everything I wanted (which was basically everything). Hit FW with the surprise paperwork. He was dumbfounded that I had hired a lawyer. He did not. Idiot. (An idiot with 5 degrees, one a PhD no less). I gave him the joyous news that “You are only 3 signatures away from your dream life! Sign here!” He couldn’t sign fast enough.

    My advice to the newbies is to use what you know about the FW against the FW. In my case, I knew he was deep into limerence and already euphorically planning the design of the new his & her monogrammed towels. Having a discarded ex hovering around threatening court appearances was going to be such a buzzkill. He left with basically his underwear.

    • Wow. Good for you. Mine didn’t want to give up anything – I think he thought the double life would go on in perpetuity and if I wasn’t ok with it, I needed to walk away from everything that was his (which was apparently, everything).

  • I definitely do not think I could have had a quick DIY divorce. FW lied about EVERYTHING. He used joint assets to pay for his primary Schmoopie and additional massage parlor hookers. He thought he had hidden everything so well. It turns out that he did not. I started by doing a lot of pre-work and lining up ducks while investigating. I had pictures and videos of him and Schmoopie (courtesy of FW erroneously downloading his home-made porn to our adult son’s photo account, and son saw them all). I retained an attorney, hired a PI to be 100% sure that evidence was gotten with Schmoopie while he was on vacation with her (having a reliable PI only added to the case) and then retained a forensic accountant. FW dragged out everything and lied all the way.
    Finally, we went into a court ordered settlement conference with a retired judge. It was interesting because we presented our entire case (in all the gory details about his adultery (in a fault state), his dissipation of marital assets and his perjury). When the retired judge talked to them, he must have been very hard nosed. In less than 48 hours FW was ready to settle for everything and a bit more than what I had originally asked for and wanted. I let FW stew in those juices for about 3 days. I got the marital home, a bit more than half of the retirement savings, all the money he dissipated (it was a lot), vacation points, and some other nice assets. It took a long time to get to that point (19 months) but I was finally divorced in Nov 2022. My attorney later told me that FW caved when he found out that could bring perjury charges against him (he was obviously convinced that we would pursue that and I probably would have if this had gone on any longer).
    I sold the marital home (I knew I could not get the cheater stink out of it) and came out with a tidy profit. Now I am working on the gain a life portion. I am just so happy to be out of that divorce phase. It seems like it took forever but I kept reminding myself with Chump Lady wisdom that it was finite.
    For newbies, get the best lawyer you can even if you don’t have much in assets, get advice from an attorney. You can do a lot of work by yourself to save on fees but if you have a FW who cheats, lies and steals you need the protection of a good attorney.

  • LOVED the video on stupid shit cheaters say, that was so funny!! 😝
    Looked up your book on Amazon after that and this is what I saw. ( below) It’s being listed for $300 with an additional $4 shipping charge, lol!
    I found it on a used book website maybe last year and bought it for $42 and I now think that was a bargain price, haha!
    It’s a great book too, enjoyed both your books and have shared and bought LACGAL many times for other chumps. You are a superstar CL!
    Doing the most good out there. Thanks!

    Amazon listing:

    The Chump Lady &
    Survival Guide to Infidelity
    How to Regain Your Sanity
    After You’ve Been Cheated On
    You Sick
    by Tracy Schorn
    • O
    Only 1 left in stock – order soon.
    $3.98 deliverv Thursdav. Februarv 16. Details

  • At the time I left my cheating husband, we had been married 18 years and had three teenagers. We had no significant debt (because our credit was too poor to have access to high-limit credit cards) and one major asset – the marital home, which was your basic suburban tract home.

    He was employed in corporate middle management, and I was a self-employed housepainter.

    After D-Day, we did a 10-month in-house separation. It was actually easy, because by then we had been living separate lives under the same roof for many years.

    That sounds suspiciously like something a FW would say, doesn’t it? In this case, I had kept making frequent bids for connection over the years, each one rejected by my husband, until I just decided to spare myself the heartbreak and stopped.

    During our in-house separation, I came up with a plan for moving forward, and he agreed. My plan was that we stay legally married until our youngest turns 18, he keeps me on his employer’s health insurance (no extra cost to him but a massive benefit to me as I was self-employed), and the biggie: I give him the house.

    I had my reasons, too many and too convoluted to expound upon, but in short, I did it because not doing it would have destroyed him. The house, to him, represented a stable foundation he provided for our children – something he lacked as a child. He based his whole identity and self-worth on being that dad.
    And he was, for the most part, a good and involved dad.

    We agreed that the kids (18, 16, and 13) could move freely between his house and my eventual apartment.
    During our in-house separation, I even thrifted replacement furniture for the house, so that I could take some cherished pieces to my new home without leaving gaping holes behind.

    This all happened in 2009-2010.
    And it pretty much all worked out fine.
    Yes, my ex-husband was a cheater. But in my amateur assessment (and lived experience with disordered FWs later on) he is not character disordered or high conflict. He’s a man burdened by a rough childhood and lot of FOO baggage, doing the best he knows how. I trusted him to be an honest broker and vice versa.

    In 2017, he initiated the divorce and paid a few hundred bucks to some business that advertised on roadside signs. We both showed up in court for the judge to sign our divorce decree, and when that quick formality was over with, we high-fived each other and went our separate ways.
    All in all, I consider us lucky. Our dysfunctional marriage damaged our kids, and in retrospect I should have left much sooner. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
    And as for how we handled the separation and divorce, we took the only path that we could financially handle.

    I give myself most of the credit for the good outcome. But I couldn’t have done it if my ex hadn’t held up his end of the bargain.

  • Read LACGAL, got a couple of recommendations for family law attorneys. Was still hopeful but went for consultation. Attorney gave me lots of good advice in that consultation ($350 I paid in cash) about what to expect with divorce and someone self employed and with addiction issues (later on he said he takes everything with a grain of salt but realized I was accurate about FW).
    I was so freaked about retainer of $7500 Jan 2019, but was pleased to find he’d take CC. We had a joint account that I managed with an $18,000 limit and no balance. I put the retainer on it and quickly had statements sent to my email instead of hard copies to FW office. FW did not have possession of a card, BOA had sent new chip card to house. First electronic statement came just before he was served. 😅

    After reading the book and doing research I realized how important it was for me to get an attorney. We also had a condo in Costa Rica, plus our home and the office space. He hadn’t filed the business takes for 2017 or started 2018.
    I know every case is different & the divorce took too long (uncooperative FW + Covid) but I feel I made right decision for me.

    Make sure attorney will take emails, I know of other attorneys that required visits for questions.

  • I JUST got divorced from FW and even without kids (ours are grown), it was brutal, mainly because he dragged his feet on every damn thing. He wouldn’t provide discovery until his bank got subpoenaed, he fought every little thing. I could not believe how insanely expensive divorce was—I literally maxed out four credit cards and my credit took a huge hit, even with a well-paying job. But it was worth it because a good lawyer cut through the crap when needed (ie: “we’re done asking for documents…subpoena the damn bank”). If I didn’t have a badass lawyer, he would have run me all around, especially in the slow-moving courts where I live. So if you can manage it, get a lawyer. Even if there’s no real money to get on a settlement, it’s good to make sure the FW didn’t take loans out in your name and do anything else like that.

    But sure was expensive. I got a settlement (which is still being finalized), but so stressful for the year and a half it took. But, the result? Priceless!

    • My XW’s AP did this during his divorce: he resisted all discovery and showed up in front of a judge multiple times without the documents he was required to produce. It was enormously expensive, but the expense was a feature, not a bug: he has a lot more money and income than his XW, and was hoping that she would go bankrupt and lose her lawyers. That strategy ultimately failed only because his XW had friends who lent her money to keep her lawyers. According to her it was, indeed, brutal and frustrating.

    • Mine got tired of the information trickle and subpoenaed banks and life insurance company & deposed guy allegedly paying no rent in commercial property (FW, so dumb to think that was believable).
      My Attorney wouldn’t set up mediation with the lack of cooperation. He told opposing attorney we’d go to trial, AP would be a witness after deposition and the drugs would be brought up. We ended up with marriage settlement agreement.

  • The retainer was $7500, but they took credit cards. Thank God. And also, a tip? Do it all super secret. He had no idea I was divorcing him until I left. He thought I was still a chump until I had all my ducks in a row and safely ensconced in my new apartment 🙂

  • I’m an attorney but don’t practice in family law and my brain was too fried to focus on learning a new area of the law and doing it myself. So I hired the lawyer that had filed our 2012 divorce but that i hadn’t followed through with.

    The cheater never hired a lawyer which was great for me. He spent his mother’s money on a lawyer for his DUI case that was pending at the same time. This was great for me because I was the primary breadwinner and owned the house. I would have had to pay him out of my retirement and part if the equity in the house if he had gotten a lawyer. As it was, he walked away with nothing. Which was actually quite equitable considering the financial trauma he had put us through while married.

    A good lawyer is worth it. I can’t say that mine was great but I knew enough to be able to keep an eye on what was going on. Don’t use your lawyer as your therapist. It’s too expensive. Have your paperwork at hand and organized.

  • Credit cards with zero interest. That’s how I covered the costs of my divorce. I can’t imagine going at it alone – my attorney watched her father do the same thing to her mother my FW did to me, so she fought to get me everything she could – without driving up my legal costs for things that would be fruitless – I’m grateful I had her. Best $20k I ever spent. I too had to go to trial because FW didn’t want to pay anything. To date, divorce is a year out and I have about $6k left to pay off. Took Financial Peace University through a single mom’s group at church and it really helped me make and stick to a budget. I’m just really glad it’s over (the toxic marriage and the divorce).

  • So great to see CL on video!! I haven’t finished it but just wanted to toss in my own two cents.

    I hired the best lawyer I could find (after interviewing 3). x hired an inexpensive lawyer who didn’t specialize in family law. Big mistake! We did mediation, and I got 55% in a no-fault state.

    When x balked at things, I threatened to go to court and depose the AP. That seemed to get FW to cooperate.

    I started to send all of his emails to my lawyer, which pissed off FW in part bc he couldn’t mindfuck me anymore and because he then had to pay his own lawyer to respond. Of course, I had to pay my lawyer, too, but it was worth it to me.

    He reneged on the first mediated agreement that he’d already signed because he must have realized he got the short end of the stick. I threatened to ask for MORE if we re-mediated the case. Again, he fell in line, although he was becoming increasingly angry and agitated. Apparently, he and the AP had convinced themselves that the divorce would be easy-peasy. I understand that her own divorce the year before was a walk in the park. That she and her x had fewer assets must have helped.

    Btw, I filed within two weeks of D-Day. I think it was an oh-shit moment for x who didn’t think I’d act so quickly. I was off to the races and focussed all my anger and energy on getting a good settlement.

    I saved my tears and hand-wringing for my therapist, family, and friends. I did not use my lawyer for any of that.

    Good luck, fellow chumps. And thanks for all the work you do, CL!!

    • “He reneged on the first mediated agreement that he’d already signed because he must have realized he got the short end of the stick”

      Can you elaborate on this? I am in the beginning stages, I have had a free consult with a lawyer, but haven’t paid the $7500 retainer yet to really get the ball rolling. My STBX seems very agreeable to doing this fairly (I know that could change) and has asked that I consider mediation over a lawyer to save $. I think what I really want to know about your quote is… does going through mediation mean that they can agree to something now and then in 7 months just renege? Like it is not legally binding the way it is with a lawyer? (I suppose I should have asked the lawyer this in the free consult– but at the time I was not open to mediation at all) We don’t have much. Savings, 401k, a house and 1 kid. He is agreeable to a 50/50 split. I am in a no fault state so that is what I would be going for anyway. But the word “reneged” just concerned me a lot. (Or do you mean that all was going well in your mediation and then BEFORE it was finalized, he started reneging?)

      • Replying to my own comment. I googled Mediation in my state and found that if you successfully go through the entire process and get your agreement filed, it is just as enforceable as it would be if you had used a lawyer. (So my guess is that in Spinach’s case, he agreed to things and that backed out BEFORE it all got filed. Which obv is still super frustrating and sucktastic but just not quite the same as what I thought.) Also, I assume that if they don’t abide by the agreement, you then would need to get a lawyer to get that sorted out. I am very unsure what I want to do. On the one hand, saving the $ sounds great, especially if he is not going to fight me on anything. I am extremely angry at him but am only going after what is fair, and he seems to agree on what is fair, so in theory, we could be good candidates for mediation. My biggest misgiving is that mediators do not give legal advice and while I obv won’t go in there and say “he can have everything”, from what I read, if I do and he agrees to take everything, the mediator would 100% not tell me that I shouldn’t do that. I don’t know what a fair deal LOOKS like. Certainly splitting the house, splitting savings and in MA there is a calculator for child that part is easy. But we both have 401ks. I am not sure how much is in his… but I suspect it is a LOT more than mine. Had I not had a free consult with a lawyer, I would not have known that we should be splitting that. And I don’t think a mediator would say “hey, don’t forget to discuss the 401k!”

  • I divorced 10 years ago with only a 2-hour consult with a lawyer. No-fault state, so her infidelity did not mean squat. The best advice the guy gave to me was to bite my lip and make her think I cared what happened to her while splitting everything down the middle. If she wanted some material thing, just let her have it. She hired a lawyer for thousands of dollars. I spent $450. The county clerk’s office helped me with paperwork. I corresponded back and forth with the lawyer.

    I was the only one who showed up in court. I fought the impulse to lie to the court and say she could not be bothered to appear (her lawyer asked me to say they were in agreement, and the court had their paperwork anyway.

    After the divorce was finalized, the ex tried to bill me for her lawyer’s services (about $10K)!
    I laughed at her and said she was your lawyer and I never thought of her as a mediator and had never signed anything saying that.

    We sold the house and split the proceeds after paying off debts. (including the joint credit cards and paying them off). I canceled the credit cards the day after paying off the balances. That pissed her off since she was counting on those cards, lol.

    I believe that since I had made her think I cared for her welfare, that she did not get hugely confrontational. I so wanted to punish her for her long-term affair, but I realized it would only punish me financially and emotionally by dragging out the process. So I kept it civil.

    I bought a house elsewhere with my half of the home sale and she frittered her money away on travel and, yes, a yoga cult.

    My next house has tripled in value in a decade and I remarried to someone who is 180 degree different than her.

  • FW was abusive, controlling, and scary. He told me he was out to destroy me, take everything I had, and take my son from me. I couldn’t go it alone.

    I consulted my family’s lawyer, he set me up with the family law attorney (a woman, who was fantastic, and who is now my friend). My mom lent me the retainer ($2500), and the firm let me put my account on a payment plan. I spent $50K altogether and it was worth every penny (most was spent on custody). I was in no emotional shape to be figuring everything out on my own. And FW was the sort of person who wasted my attorney’s time with spurious matters. It was annoying (and expensive), but my attorney was able to sort through it and ignore what was unnecessary. FW got his own attorney, but FW burned through all of OW’s money (because of said spurious matters) and then couldn’t continue to pay so his attorney dropped him. The attorney was probably relieved. FW thought he knew better than all the lawyers, and tended to write his own legal documents, which were, frankly, embarrassing. The lawyer would send them out, but they were so ridiculous we knew they were written by FW. My paralegal said she’d never seen anything like his petition for divorce. It was 11 pages long. For the last few interactions we had, FW went pro se. It did not go well. We never got to trial (thankfully). FW took his own life first.

    My attorney, just this past December, said the firm was going to write off my last $10K and let me start the year fresh. So without that monthly expense, I was able to buy a house! I close in a couple of weeks, and I finally feel like I’m “back on track” with my life (I had to sell my house in the divorce and have been a bit nomadic, moving several times over the last five years – both my son and I can’t wait to be SETTLED).

    • Congrats on the house ISTL! It will keep you busy just trying to make it your own. I know my house is keeping me busy that way. SInce I sold the marital home, I have a couple of renovations that get kicked off later this month. Can’t wait to see how it looks once pulled together.
      Enjoy your new home!!!

  • My divorce started out ugly and got worse by the day, so we both hired lawyers. I was skint at the time (thanks FW!) so the retainer can’t have been much. FW Mommy paid for her little boy to have a fancy “men’s rights” lawyer. Nothing would do but that we take it to court $$$$. While I was sitting outside the courtroom waiting to begin, FW men’s rights guy and my attorney got into a huddle. After a few minutes, my attorney stalked away, arms waving and exclaiming, “To hell with it! Let’s just try the thing!” I don’t know what ridiculousness came down between them, but I remember the court stenographer giggling during the back and forth between me and FW men’s rights guy. The judge gave me everything my attorney asked for and also court and attorney’s fees. So I really don’t know what it cost.

    Fun times!

  • In my case there were NO resources for help. That’s right , no legal aid, no pro Bono no none for help in the modest means program. I’d been abused off the joint account with very limited money of my own . I initially began the divorce on my own but found I needed the assistance of an attorney, actually I needed a decent good attorney but who has four grand in their pocket , I had four hundred given from my Brother. Ended up with a dud attorney . I basically had write up a settlement but should have got years of support maintenance to carry me through till retirement age. This attorney was about useless. Only thing good was his paralegal who should have been the lawyer. I ended up doing a lot of it myself . It is good to be somewhat in charge and to fact check but I was in no mental state to carry this load. Not only abuse , I’d lost my Mother and endured an audit caused by ex. It has been financially very rough but I had no way to revise divorce . Just barely getting by.

    • I cannot leave without a positive! I am free! I’ve managed to own a modest home. I’ve not recovered emotionally but I keep moving forward. One day at a time .

      • Absolutely – one day at a time, and you’ll get there! It’s great that you can end with a positive!
        After a long and expensive divorce battle, I was awarded spousal support until retirement age. But a couple of years after that, the ex got sick, stopped working, let everything he had go into bankruptcy, and moved a thousand miles away. He’s now in a care facility, apparently. So even with a court order, you can’t always collect. There’s no way I’ll ever get the $$ he owes me. But even with the hard job of starting over, the peace of being free from him is priceless.

        • Wow that is certainly a possibility , sorry it turned out that way for you! SSD and SSI keep people pushed down as banks refuse loans to them on these. Nor are they not garnishable. I will get a bit more from ex’s SS when he turns of age as a bump up for my own. This will help.

  • Tracy, you are so lovely!! 😊

    With the help of my family, I hired a lawyer. There is no way I could have afforded one otherwise. Where I live, it takes years to get to trial. Negotiation, mediation, and settlement are all strongly encouraged at every step. My divorce took over 4 years and cost me about $150,000 in legal fees. FW dragged out everything – ignored legal correspondence, hid significant assets or repeatedly “forgot” to include them in disclosure, refused to provide financial documentation, withheld support and children’s expenses, and lied about his income. Much like CL’s ex, there were NO CONSEQUENCES.

    My lawyer knew that I needed good legal representation but also helped me save money wherever possible. Along with all the great tips others have offered, these are my tips from my time in the family law trenches:
    – Recognize that none of this will be “fair” or “just”. Fight for the best deal and GTFO. This is a harsh reality of family law and divorcing a FW.
    – Ask your lawyer what steps you can do to save their time/your money. Little things add up. My lawyer’s assistant frequently sent forms for me to complete. I remembered facts, numbers, and dates (this was MY life, after all), and it was quicker and cheaper than paying her to look up these details.
    – I couldn’t afford a forensic accountant, so I poured over the (incomplete) financials FW eventually provided and made a spreadsheet of all dissipated funds. This was a time consuming and truly awful task. It brought to light the extent of FW’s deception, but also helped me immensely with trusting that he REALLY sucked. It was much easier and faster for me to spot transactions and expenses that weren’t typical for our family. YOU are the expert on this information.
    – Trust your gut – if you think there are hidden assets, there probably are. That being said, don’t spend more on fees to chase these assets than you’re likely to get back.
    – Document absolutely everything but save up communication with your lawyer that isn’t urgent, unless they’ve requested otherwise.
    – Keep all documentation, even when you think you’re done with it. You never know when you’ll need it again, and you’re better off keeping it than wishing you had! FWs LOVE going back to court again and again.
    – When it comes down to it, lawyers and judges don’t care about your trauma, the chaos, and whatever bs FW pulls. They may empathize but ultimately their focus is the big picture – custody, property/asset division, and support. To them, the rest is just noise.
    – While the support of friends and family is essential, you know your situation best. Do you want to settle quickly and cut your losses? Fight for more time with your kids, more alimony, more assets? This is your life and you need to make this decision based on what is right for YOU.
    – Listen to your lawyer’s advice on what you can reasonably expect but also be sure to speak up for yourself.
    – Buckle up, and take care of yourself and your kids. This is a long and extremely stressful ride.

    • When it comes down to it, lawyers and judges don’t care about your trauma, the chaos, and whatever bs FW pulls. They may empathize but ultimately their focus is the big picture – custody, property/asset division, and support. To them, the rest is just noise.

      Agree 100%. When we were at the court ordered settlement conference with a retired judge, the adultery proof we had did nothing for this guy but what he was really interested in was the dissipation, the perjury, how and where FW hid money. They absolutely hate when FWs hide assets. I consider myself lucky to have gotten all his dissipation back into my account. I think that my investigation, the forensic accountant’s deep dive and the fact that we had to compel a lot of his financial crap captured the bulk of waste if not the whole thing because FW was practically in tears. Had it been otherwise he would have been smug and smirking.
      It is a long and horrible ride but it does end. I am glad that I made the decision to get what I needed and wanted rather than letting FW walk away with what he wanted (which was pretty much everything).

  • Looking forward to the videos!

    It is totally worth it to be out of the FW’s orbit. I was married 36 years, separated in 2020 and divorced in 2021. I still come here to process the “what the heck happened to me” feelings I get after learning of FW’s double life.
    I used free consultations with attorneys to help me get used to working with attorneys & learning the new vocabulary. There are was also a non-profit that gave workshops on divorce. I was able to gather all the financial documents I needed before I became serious about divorce because in my situation, the FW was never going to end his cake by himself . I did see an attorney at one point to assess the legal problems I could face if he were to be arrested.

    Later, I began working with my church’s DV ministry. They were tuned in to the court system in my area. When one member mentioned that they have volunteers who were willing to go to court with me, I began to feel like “I could do this!”. They also maintained a list of reasonable attorneys who were attuned to abuser’s tactics. I was able to interview some of these by phone & then decided who I would use. Because I did not have underage children, I opted for their flat fee of $3000 which was also the retainer. It was completed for just under that amount even though the FW husband delayed a little & the court was backed up post-Covid. It took 9 months total from serving FW to final decree.
    Yay me! I did it!

  • Hi Tracy!! Good to see you! Your book and blog was the primary Help in giving me courage to help when I desperately needed it and a support group who also understood and related!

  • Chump lady, you are beautiful and your love shines and glows through all your pores. Thank you for your wisdom. Sadly, I see why people stay on and on with abusers. Just the financial piece is overwhelming. Your advice stands true. Seek out multiple lawyers for that one hour free consultation. Make a plan if you have time. There is support at the law clinics in the court house. Start there. Woman’s shelters also have free support. I’d love chump lady to write up where the poorest chumps can get help. This video was a bit interesting when the lawyer talked about “million dollar “homes and “losing friends at the country club”. Well IMO If those are your problems, you don’t have a problem. But the poor trapped chumps, they are a concern. I had to get out fast and I am spending down my life time savings getting OUT. Life or death for me. I will be in tight financial binds the rest of my life. But if I had stayed I could have no life at all.
    Thank you Tracy. I lean on all your words and I’ve learned so much. I would be thrilled if to be free. Broke or not.

  • We had to try negotiation where I lived (maybe not where he lived, but I beat him to filing — my lawyer filed it at 8:30 am; his slept in and didn’t file until 10 am).
    I had a lot of money at stake. We were not allowed into the negotiation session; only the negotiator and our lawyers. He had 4 lawyers in attendance. After 2 hours his team indicated they’d settle for $100,000 flat. My lawyer told me what it would cost to take it to trial ($50,000 to do depositions and a high hourly rate for my lawyer and a very high risk that I’d have to pay his legal fees, give him more money and pay him $30,000 / year.

    For me, it was the best choice to take the negotiated amount and I was every so grateful for changing lawyers when I did.

  • We did not have children so it made it a lot easier. My fuckwit was so scared I would tell the world what he had been up to for 40 years he said he would agree to an uncontested divorce. The first lawyer told me they needed a $5000 retainer because uncontested rarely works out. Great attitude – next! I kept looking and found a great female lawyer in a big firm through an advertisement that said uncontested divorce flat $1000. I quietly collected information I thought I might need in case he flipped on me but thank goodness never needed it. FW tried to change some language in the divorce decree but I refused to allow any changes. I had to pay the $1000 up front and my lawyer did say that if the fuckwit balks and we had to go to trial she would be $500 per hour. Three months later it was all done and we were divorced. My lawyer did everything she said she would do in a timely manner. I was very lucky. Best $1000 I will ever spend in my life!!

  • In my fantasy land, marriage licenses wouldn’t be valid without a legal prenup for finances at least. If you can’t negotiate that up front, your marriage probably won’t work. Yes, a lot of people wouldn’t get married but I don’t see a big problem with that. And marriage vows are completely inconsequential in American society anyway, so I just don’t see the point in making them without both spouses being held accountable. I’m just a few months in so I’m debbie downer.

  • I honestly don’t know how folks pay 100 thousand for legal fees. I would have had to just let the fw have it all and walked away. I know it was a different time, but even accounting for inflation, the costs are exorbitant. Unless it is a really large estate.

  • I fit the profile Regina outlined as being more suitable to undertake a DIY divorce. Not married too long (5 years in my case but it felt like 50…). No children, and no joint property. Finances weren’t really intertwined as essentially he didn’t have any money. I did have several short consultations with a lawyer just to be sure I was on the right track (I was). The main issue was that XFW ducked out of sight and I didn’t know where he was. No internet or social media back then. In the end I had to apply for something called Substituted Service, which allowed me to serve the papers on his brother. This was on the grounds that his brother most likely knew where he was hiding out and trying to avoid me. His brother spoke to me once on the phone about this and I’m thankful to this day that he agreed to accept the filed papers. It was “crickets” after that from them all including XFW, so I count myself very lucky to have escaped a prolonged court battle.

  • I decided to make a day of it down at the courthouse to file myself. I went through the same line 8 times before all the paperwork was correct and I could file myself. I do not recommend using those $299 services. I did. I ended up throwing every piece of paper away. When I got there, they had to give me “similar versions” of the court paperwork. In my opinion, do not waste your time online and go directly to the courthouse. This is Detroit-specific advice.

  • Tracy, this was great! Wish I had this info during my divorce. Please stay in the video game — excellent additional content for chumps!

  • I tried to file pro se, but my fuckwit wouldn’t even respond to registered mail, so I had to amp up and hire a lawyer. Ironically, he turned up for the first court appearance without representation.

    The first court appearance was to answer my request to have my pre-nup upheld (Created for $19.99 on Legal Zoom 20 years ago.)…. Mr. Sparkles went off on some mumbo jumbo his OW’s lawyer-cousin fed him about “duress under signature”. And then the Judge asked him 3 point black questions – 1. if you didn’t sign, would you become homeless (answer: no)… 2. if you didn’t sign, would you lost any money if the wedding was then cancelled (answer: no)… 3. how exactly did you feel under duress (answer: I only had a week to read it – it was literally ONE PAGE, but on that one page it stated I would leave the marriage with everything I came into it with (as would he) – no joint assets)… thank you Legal Zoom and a very linear thinking Judge, it was upheld.

    Mr. Sparkles THEN hired a lawyer to try to have the Judge’s ruling over-turned. Failed again. So – all in, I’m a fan of both Legal Zoom and fair Judges… and pre-nups. (My only assets were my 401K and my putting the deposit down on the house I bought – he had no money/low credit score – RED FLAG)… so it wasn’t complicated.

    • Congrats on that outcome! My fw had the same financial red flags, but i was too stupid to do a prenup. I’m a smart person generally, but I am trying to untangle my OWN skein. What was I thinking, how did I end up in this relationship? What is wrong with me?

  • Thank you for sharing this today. You two are both adorable and I appreciate this insight
    I’ve had the papers printed they’re in a notebook. I get overwhelmed and I put them away

  • My ex and I did a “Divorce in a box” and on the cheap. We didn’t fight over property. The house was owned by my parents and he moved in 3 years after I had, so there was nothing to fight over there. It’s not like he ever paid rent anyway.

    We accumulated no debt together, thank God. We split the vehicles amicably. He took what he came with and accumulated during the marriage and I did the same. There was nothing asset-wise to fight over. I do wish I had insisted on his maintaining his life insurance premiums for our girls and I. I would do that over if I could.

    The only thing I really dug in about were the grave plots where our son was buried and I told him I wouldn’t sign the papers unless I got them in the divorce. He wanted his ashes to be buried in the plot with our son and we bought another one beside his. I told him I wasn’t having my carcass interred in sacred ground and next to the ammo can of his lying, cheating ashes for infinity and beyond. He pissed and moaned but eventually his desire for the new twu wuv was so strong, that he finally relented.

    There’s more to that story that I’ll share someday, but not now.

    ANYWAY…other than that, the divorce went smooth. I initially agreed to a fairly loose custody agreement and he, thinking I’d be more cooperative on it that, believing I’d be “reasonable” signed.

    I was fine with the custody until 5 minutes later when he moved in the Schmoopie and wanted her to be the new Mommy. Hell broke loose for pretty much the next 5 years where I had the cops called on me NINE times, I was sued for custody twice, the first time he lost his ass, the second he had successfully manipulated and alienated my 12 year old daughter with the help of a terrible family court standing master, which did not end until the ex’s suicide in March 2022.

    Litigation abuse indeed. So much so that the biggest emotion I have about his suicide is relief for myself, anger for his leaving my girls the way he did and the emotional anguish we’ve had to wade through since.

    I think if you don’t have children together and you don’t have assets that you’re fighting over, or retirement or such, an attorney is probably overkill. Otherwise, probably not…..unless they have one too. I would NEVER recommend going up against someone with an attorney without one yourself.

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