Posts

Divorce in New York

The Reality of Divorce in New York

People know New York for its glitz, glamour, and grit. Everything’s loud, over-caffeinated and fast-paced. For some who experience the loneliness of all this, there can be the feeling of being left out, of never being enough, of someone else always lining up to replace you. But despite all of this, or in response, New Yorkers are equally known for being tough and seemingly invulnerable. Even when it comes to romance. Romance, New York style is often over the top or of the quirky variety, the kind of love that sweeps you off your feet. Think Carrie and Mr. Big. Harry and Sally. Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park. It’s the kind of romance they write love songs about. Until it’s not. But divorce in New York? Well, in most of our minds, breakups are equally cinematic. Flash to messy scenes from the Real Housewives of New York, or nuggets of gossip passed privately through whispers, then splashed across Page Six for anyone to see.

Yet, for all those clichés, in reality, divorce in New York State is far more mundane than any image you carry in your mind. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, the divorce rate in New York in 2011 was 2.9 for every 1,000 residents. That’s a lower rate than most states in the country!

Of course, when the divorce is happening to us it doesn’t have to be the literal end of the world to feel like it’s the end of ours. Your divorce might come as a complete shock, or it may seem like a long time coming. Either way, it can all feel surreal, like you’re having an out of body experience. How you wish it were just a movie! Yet, this is your life. You are getting a divorce. And throughout your divorce, the surprises may keep coming, bringing out the worst and the best of you.

You may not be feeling so much like Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City—young and colorful and ready to take on the world—as you are Sarah Jessica Parker in HBO’s Divorce, a little jaded and angry, feeling dull around the edges but looking for reasons to hope.

If that’s you, if you’re done considering divorce or have had divorce forced upon you, then here’s a primer highlighting what to expect when getting a divorce in New York.

Divorce law in New York

In New York, there are two kinds of divorces, a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce.

In an uncontested divorce, the most trouble-free approach, you and your husband agree about the need for a divorce and you believe you will come to terms on how your property gets divided and how your children are cared for. On your own or with the help of lawyers or a mediator, you and your husband come to an agreement on everything and do not need the court to get involved to divide assets or make decisions about spousal or child support or custody.

Typically, an uncontested divorce moves more quickly through the system. It’s less complicated and less expensive. You will likely never set foot inside a courtroom with an uncontested divorce.

In a contested divorce, you and your husband are not in agreement about any or all of these things. (Hello, your marriage?) If there are disagreements, and often there are, you will likely need the help of a legal professional(s) to resolve them. The more intense the disagreements, the more expensive the process can become and the greater risk you run of having to go to court to have a judge decide.

Many couples will begin the process of a contested divorce and then, before trial, reach an agreement. This is a settlement.

Thanks to the Internet, though, it’s become increasingly popular to consider a Pro Se or DIY divorce and thereby eliminate the costs of lawyers. Couples who do this successfully are couples who are almost always in agreement. (Hmmm.) They are doing an uncontested divorce.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you and your husband really in agreement about everything?
  • What are the critical issues?
  • Do you understand the finances?
  • Do you understand spousal support?
  • What about child support?
  • What are your options for custody arrangements?
  • How are you going to handle your debt? Whose debt is whose?

Our experience is that most women do not know these things, nor do their husbands—but the idea of saving money on legal fees (or being bullied into the DIY process) blinds them from finding out what they are each entitled to by law. There’s a phrase, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” and it couldn’t be more aptly used for this scenario.

How can you split things up if you don’t understand what you’re splitting — like the finances (are you aware of their long-term tax implications?) Or what negotiated variable is going to benefit you more in the long run? You need feedback from someone who’s an expert on your situation.

In short, we recommend you NOT consider a DIY or online approach unless you have no children, there is no debt and little or no assets, and the marriage has not been for very long. And if you do pursue a DIY model, we encourage you to consult with an attorney privately at least once (but preferably throughout your completing the paperwork).

Divorce facts in New York

New York also allows you to get either an at-fault divorce (you must prove your husband is responsible for the need to divorce) or a no-fault divorce.

For most people, it’s easier to seek a no-fault divorce. You don’t have to prove anything other than the relationship is irretrievably broken. “To qualify” in New York, the relationship must be broken for at least six months. Also, New York usually requires that you or your spouse have lived in New York State for at least one year before you can file for divorce.

New York is often associated with all things progressive and liberal, but it was actually the last state in the country to allow no-fault divorce. That means that until 2010, getting a divorce in New York almost always meant that one spouse had to prove the other spouse did something wrong and is to blame. What’s more cinematic than a jilted lover or “cold-heartedly” calculating your actions to create a case where you are the wronged party? It’s a recipe for disaster, for heightening emotions and irrational behavior—for people to lash out and for proceedings to get ugly and expensive and to heighten the risk of going to court.

This said, you can still get an at-fault divorce in New York. To do so, a spouse must have the “legal grounds,” which usually involves adultery, cruel or inhuman treatment, or abandonment. Most divorce lawyers in New York will advise you not to go the at-fault route no matter the dramatic details you may throw their way. It is generally considered a poor use of resources to have a trial on grounds now since the system no longer requires it.

With this in mind, you will want to make sure you understand why your lawyer is pushing for an at-fault divorce, such as “cruel and inhuman treatment,” and how it will benefit your situation as opposed to pursuing a no-fault divorce. We had a client, for example, whose husband had serious mental health issues and refused to seek treatment. Her lawyer filed an at-fault divorce for “cruel and inhuman treatment” as a strategy to protect the children and to impact the custody arrangement, so the children were not left alone with him until he was fully recovered, healthy and functioning.

New York is an equitable distribution state

In New York, assets (the things you own) get divided through “equitable distribution,” meaning, in general, everything you owned prior to getting married is your separate property and everything acquired after your marriage gets divided as fairly as possible.

The separation of property—how you will divide it up—is negotiated between you and your husband, or more likely, by your lawyers after they have consulted with each of you, or with the help of a mediator. But it has to be done well and fairly enough that the court will sign off on the agreement.

These are just a few of the facts that come into play when discussing divorce in New York. There is more you’ll want to know before you proceed further. But we don’t want to contribute to sensory overload.

What matters most is that you are not going to do it all at once, but you will want to be in a position to learn and come to understand what your options are before you make decisions about your property, the debt, child support, custody, spousal support, legal fees, insurance, and more. You might need an order of protection if abuse is a concern, which complicates matters even further.

This is why, whether you pursue a DIY approach, or go to mediation, or use a collaborative attorney, we urge you to get educated on what your choices are first.

Read Divorce in New York: 10 Things to Know Before Seeing a Lawyer

Divorce court

You must know that about five percent of all divorce cases go to full-blown trial. Less than five percent. So turn the television off. The standard way people divorce is still the traditional one, of your hiring an attorney to represent your interests and your husband hiring an attorney to represent his. Your lawyer meets with you individually, as does your husband’s, and then the lawyers negotiate the settlement through phone calls or meetings.

Divorce negotiations are different from negotiations in most other legal matters in that clients usually attend the meetings—known as “four-ways”, with their lawyers. If one side fails to negotiate or settle, then the risk of going to court does increase, and both parties must attend every court appearance with their lawyers. This traditional approach is still the best way for the less-moneyed or less-powerful spouse (the one who lacks money or knowledge about the finances) to get a fair share.

Diversify your insight into how you will divorce

On the plus side of living in New York is that the city and the state can often be frontrunners of change. Just by virtue of your living within New York’s boundaries, there are far more resources available to you than people living in other parts of the country. Take advantage of those resources, like law schools that offer free legal aid, or referral services offered by the New York Legal Bar Association.

You don’t have to rely on visiting a lawyer and learning things the expensive way as most people have done in the past. There are now people like us, the divorce coach, who can help you learn about divorce (and yourself) before you commit to anything. A certified and experienced divorce coach can also connect you to vetted lawyers and other experts — like a certified divorce financial analyst (who can help you answer the money questions). How you choose to divorce matters for your children and your own recovery.

How long does a divorce take in New York?

Okay, we know, you are maxing out. You want to hear how long this is going to take. If we are talking only about the legal aspect to the divorce and not your recovery and healing, than the time it takes to finalize a divorce depends on two things: how motivated you and your spouse are to organize your papers and documents and to push your attorneys to negotiate the agreement and how busy the court that receives and officializes your settlement agreement is.

For some people, it can take as little as six weeks, for others, six months or more for an uncontested divorce. With a contested divorce, there is no way of forecasting it, but certainly, a deciding factor would be when the money runs out.

What’s certain is that divorce anywhere is a (long) process, and while that wait can be frustrating, it also means you won’t be able to jump into anything without thinking it through first (and that might just be a blessing in disguise).

Divorce support groups for women in New York

There are over eight million people living in New York City and more than twice that in New York State. You are not the only one “feeling lost in New York,” or like everything’s falling apart even as you try to put it back together. We say this a lot but only because it’s true: You are not alone. If your couple friends have disappeared and disappointed you, you are lucky to live in a city and state where there are many divorced women and men—and the stigma of divorce is not as pronounced as it may be somewhere else.

Your job is to connect with those people who understand what you are going through and get educated on what your choices are and who you want to be as you make these important decisions. You might consider joining an online education-driven support group with other women who share similar experiences and who seek to find their voice and change their circumstances for the better. Women just like you.

Remember, divorce in New York rarely looks the same as it does on TV, where the drama’s amped to increase ratings and to get you coming back. This is a process none of us wants to experience even once, let alone come back to. Your divorce doesn’t have to be so dramatic. You can choose to let go the theatrics because they don’t serve you, your Ex, or your children, and to focus on what you do control: getting educated fully before you commit to any one path or decision, and to move through the process smartly and with the greatest sense of integrity and compassion for everybody — including you. 

For more steps to help you with divorce join us for your free 45-minute consultation.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For emotional support and structured guidance now, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual divorce support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process. Schedule your 15-minute chat to learn if this education is right for you, where you are in your life, and most importantly, where you want to go.

 

This article was authored for SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues and creativity. Melanie helps authors and small businesses improve their writing and solve their editorial needs.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

credit: weheartit.com

How Much Does a Divorce Cost?

“How much does a divorce cost?” is one of the first questions we often hear when a woman makes contact with us, while “how long will a divorce take?” is a close second. We wish there were a menu to refer you to, so you could evaluate your choices and pick and choose items à la carte. However, the correct, though immensely unsatisfying answer to both questions is, “It depends.”

That doesn’t mean you should stop investigating your options. It’s important for you to be educated on your choices so you learn what’s possible for your life. The following insights, shared by NYC divorce attorney Orrit Hershkovitz will help you get started on whether your divorce will cost a few thousand dollars or several hundreds of thousands, and whether it will take several months or several years.

So how much DOES a Divorce Cost?  That depends upon…

1. The process you select

There are various methods to dissolve a marriage. Mediation, in which a neutral professional (usually a lawyer or mental health professional) facilitates a resolution between the parties, is generally the most economical means of ending a marriage. Participants can be represented by counsel (their own lawyers) throughout the process. Another option is collaborative divorce, a process that requires both parties to agree in advance not to go to court, and to retain new counsel if they do. While these two models of divorce sound very appealing to most people (they sound amicable, they sound cheap) not all couples are suited to mediation or collaborative divorce, particularly if one spouse has not been, or will not be, given access to the financial information and documentation necessary to make an informed decision, or fears for his or her safety or the safety of his or her children. One or both individuals may also prefer not to negotiate directly with the other spouse.

To learn more about mediation and the collaborative law approach to divorce, we encourage you to take advantage of your free, 45-minute SAS for Women consultation (– provided you identify with being a woman). We’ll hear what’s going on in your story and give you direct feedback on what might be the better options for your situation.

Another choice for divorcing is the more traditional approach: hiring a lawyer to negotiate on your behalf.

Hiring a lawyer does not necessarily mean you and your spouse are headed to divorce court.

An agreement may be negotiated (as in an uncontested divorce), either directly or through counsel, without ever stepping foot in a courtroom. Litigation (or a contested divorce) though unavoidable in some instances, will often increase a couple’s costs.

In a contested divorce, court fees will be incurred. Such fees will include the cost of filing a divorce action and other paperwork required to obtain a divorce decree, and may include fees for making applications (or “motions”) to the court. In New York, for instance, the current filing fees to obtain a divorce amount to almost $400; the fee to make a motion is $45. Obviously, the longer the litigation continues, the more you can expect to pay for your (and possibly your spouse’s) attorney’s fees. Additional funds may be expended on the service of legal documents (e.g., summonses and subpoenas), transcripts, and the preparation of court orders (e.g., Qualified Domestic Relations Orders necessary to distribute certain retirement assets).

2. The number and complexity of the issues that are contested

Some divorces appear simple from the start. The parties, for instance, may have no children or no substantial assets or debts. Or a divorcing couple may have already discussed and agreed upon a resolution of all issues. Other cases are more complex. Not only may the parties not agree on the issues of parental decision-making and access, but they may also have assets that are not easily divisible (e.g., a work of art, a business), need to be valued (e.g., a house, stock options) or sold. But the nature of the issues themselves is only part of the equation.

Any acrimony between the parties can also delay the resolution of even the simplest issue.

By contrast, the parties’ willingness to compromise and cooperate can facilitate the resolution of even the most complex issue. Thus, as with your choice of process, you and your spouse can control the cost and length of your divorce by choosing whether, when, and how to conciliate in a dispute.

3. The lawyer you hire

The lawyer you select to represent you, and the lawyer your spouse may select to represent him or her, is another significant factor that will affect the length and cost of your divorce. The range of hourly fees charged by lawyers varies widely across the country. Even in large legal markets, hourly rates can range from approximately $250 to $750. Where a lawyer falls on that spectrum usually depends on his or her experience, reputation, and the size of his or her firm. The complexity of the case is more likely to affect a lawyer’s retainer fee, which is an advance payment intended to cover at least the lawyer’s initial work on the case.

Read this SAS post for 7 ways to pay for a divorce attorney.

Equally important as a lawyer’s fees is the fit between you and your lawyer. Your chemistry. You should not only be confident in your lawyer’s abilities, but also comfortable with how he or she is advancing your case. Do you feel protected? Understood? Is your lawyer prompt in responding to your calls and e-mails? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” not only may your choice of lawyer affect the cost and time it takes for you to get divorced, but you may also be dissatisfied with the end result.

If this chemistry issue is starting to sound like a “relationship,” it is. As in any relationship – indeed, as in marriage itself – the compatibility between lawyer and client is critical. Choose wisely.

4. Where you live

How much a divorce will cost tends to correlate with the cost of living in a particular locale. Not only will legal (and especially attorneys’) fees be higher in areas in which it is more expensive to live, but you may also have to pay more child and spousal support. If you live in Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, or other major city, you can expect to pay more than someone living in Hope, Kentucky, for instance.

5. Whether you need experts

If there are substantial assets, you may need an expert to value a business or a pension, or appraise real property or personal property such as art, jewelry, or other collectibles. You may also want to consult with an accountant, financial advisor, or other experts for advice about the potential tax or financial implications of a proposed settlement. If custody is contested, the court may appoint a child custody evaluator to assist the court in making its determination. An attorney for the child or children may also be appointed.

In summary, the decisions that you and your spouse make, and how you conduct yourselves, in the divorce process can, at least to some extent, affect how long your divorce will take and how much it will cost.

Focus on the factors you can control.

Understanding and choosing a process and lawyer wisely as early as possible will help to control your financial and emotional costs. Consider making a free appointment with SAS for Women to learn your next steps, what process might be especially good for you, and for referrals to vetted legal professionals. Or make a list of your questions, your assets and debts, and make an appointment with a divorce attorney who can give you concrete feedback on your unique story.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while navigating the divorce experience and striving to recover and rebuild. SAS offers women six FREE months of private email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future self.

“Step forth. It’s okay if you fall. Life — your life — is calling you.” 

Orrit Hershkovitz, a partner at Barton LLP, represents individuals in all aspects of family and matrimonial law, including divorce, parental custody and access, child and spousal support, property distribution, relocation, enforcement, and the negotiation of pre-nuptial, post-nuptial, and separation agreements. In addition to her work representing private clients, Orrit is also an active supporter of Sanctuary for Families, a non-profit organization that provides comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence. 

 

 

Woman struggling with leaving an abusive marriage

Leaving an Abusive Marriage? There Are Steps You Need to Take First

Abuse doesn’t always look the way we imagine it. No bruises are required for the abuse to be real, and you don’t need “proof” for your pain to be valid. But when it comes to protecting yourself legally and leaving an abusive marriage, it’s an unfortunate fact that both those things hold weight.

We know what physical abuse looks like because it leaves a mark, but verbal and emotional abuse are harder to detect and often go unreported. Emotional abuse might mean insulting you, making threats against you or your loved ones, controlling you, repeatedly accusing you of being unfaithful, or belittling you. Your spouse might go out of the way to destroy your self-esteem or tell you things like, “No one else but me would put up with you.”

Domestic violence does not discriminate. Anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender can be a victim—or perpetrator—of domestic violence. It can happen to people who are married, living together, or who are dating. It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

Domestic violence includes behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish, or force them to behave in ways they do not want. It includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse, and economic deprivation. Many of these forms of domestic violence/abuse can occur at any time within the same intimate relationship.

Once you’ve finally accepted what abuse looks like in your own marriage and that you’ll no longer put up with it, leaving is easier said than done.

You spouse is, after all, abusive—his* sense of self is tied up with his control over you. Even if you aren’t being physically threatened, it’s not entirely clear what your spouse is capable of.

Hell, it’s not entirely clear what you’re capable of. Are you strong enough to leave him? Are you strong enough to stand on your own two feet? You no longer know anymore.

You do know, though, that he will do everything in his power to make sure you never find out your strength.

If you plan on leaving an abusive marriage, there are some steps you’ll need to take first.

The following is based on my personal experience leaving an abusive marriage. Because it was so difficult, I want other women to know certain things. Among them is the importance of finding out what your rights are and what your choices are, legally.

You must know what’s legally enforceable, so you can be prepared and protect yourself. Sometimes there is no time to consult with an attorney. Instead, you must act, so you call the police. Other times, you simply think about making that call. What will be the impact of calling the police . . . for you, for your spouse, and for the kids? Find out first so that if it comes to that—and it may come to that—you are prepared and can protect yourself and your children.

Believe in yourself

Abusers are master manipulators, so the first thing you must do to protect yourself from your spouse is believe in yourself.

This can be hard, but as a “Millie,” a SAS for Women colleague (now working as a divorce attorney), shared, beginning to believe in yourself might look like reaching out to those who genuinely love you. For Millie, she realizes now how important it was for her to ultimately tell her most trusted friends and family what was really going on in her marriage:

“My first husband was an addict and I kept ‘our’ dirty secret to myself because I was so embarrassed at my poor choice in a husband. I isolated myself by making my Ex’s bad behavior associated with me. Once I finally left and then told everyone, the support was tremendous. I wasn’t judged as I thought I would be.”

No matter how hard your spouse works at planting seeds of doubt in your mind, you must grow vigilant and stubborn in your belief in yourself.

  1. Connect with safe friends, if possible.
  2. Work with a good therapist and be truthful with them.
  3. Find a certified coach experienced in supporting people like you—people who are striving to change their circumstances.
  4. Consult with an attorney to learn what your rights are and what steps you can take to protect yourself.

But ultimately, you’ll need to find the courage to leave within yourself.

Protect your finances

Abusers often use money to control their partner. If you don’t control your own money—if you don’t even have access to it or if that access can easily be taken away—you don’t have the financial security you need to leave your spouse.

If you don’t already have a bank account of your own, get one. Set your PIN to something your spouse will never guess, and if all else fails, get a credit card.

Ask a lawyer what you can do to put things in place to protect yourself. Talk to a certified divorce financial advisor to hear their suggestions. (Having that discussion doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get divorced, and everything you talk about is confidential.)

Gather proof

Perhaps you don’t want things to get nasty (or nastier) or you are not sure you want to divorce, but just in case you must leave, there are different types of evidence you can gather to make a case for spousal abuse, such as photographs of injuries or broken property, documentation of emails or text messages, and testimonies from witnesses. Videos are sometimes permissible depending on what state you live in. Research your state’s laws on videotaping without permission of the subject.

When gathering evidence, try to simplify it as much as possible, but make sure to note down the time and date the abuse occurred. One way to do this is to write emails to yourself because the emails have a valid date/time stamp. The documentation is also stored in a cloud and thus safe from an abuser finding notes, photos, etc. and destroying them. The emails can be as simple as “At 8:43 p.m. Tom called me a fat bitch and that I was lucky that he didn’t leave me,” or “Tom came home at 11:35 p.m. and smelled very strongly of alcohol and pot.”

Start documenting now. It is hard to go back and track and trace. Women have a high tolerance for pain and an uncanny ability to forget it afterward. Think about it, we’d never give birth a second time if we could really recall the extent of that first experience! So, while the memory of your pain is alive, you must keep an ongoing record of it—as brutal as that sounds.

Note from SAS for Women: If you are in the planning mode, we encourage you to consult with an attorney to hear what you should be documenting as relates specifically to your situation and what your choices are to change things. What happens if you call the police during an incident? What would be expected of you afterward (going to the courthouse and filing the complaint officially)? What would happen to your spouse? You need to understand the process and what the impact of each step you take will be.

Truth be told, it’s when filing at the courthouse that most women cave . . . somehow everything starts to feel real there. You don’t want to “hurt your spouse,” you start thinking to yourself. You withdraw your complaint. As a result, your problem almost never goes away.

File a report

The fact is, reporting and filing instances of abuse to the police gives you a report, and having this report available could do much to prove your case.

If you’re truly in fear for your safety, this should be your first course of action (besides gathering proof). You can also go to your town’s family court, or if you live in New York City, for example, the New York Family Court, and request an order of protection.

It’s best to note down at least three instances when your spouse endangered or caused you to fear for your life and safety, with one being very recent. This is where your ongoing record keeping plays an important role.

With filing, be as authentic as possible, and never lie—you don’t want to do anything that destroys your case. You’ll fill out a form, wait to see a judge, and based on the evidence and testimonies, the judge will either grant or reject the order of protection. You can also bring along your attorney to fight on your behalf. The order of protection will restrict your spouse from communicating with you directly.

Note from SAS for Women: Filing an order of protection will also mean your spouse will have to leave the family home and live somewhere else.

Know that. Make sure you understand how your spouse will learn about the order of protection. Where will you be when he does? What happens after? Do you need to go home and make sure some friends come over, or do you not go home at all? You need to learn about each step, so you can imagine what your spouse will do at each juncture and plan accordingly. Consulting with an attorney is very important.

Hire an attorney

You want an attorney with a track record in divorce or separation from abusive spouses. This attorney must be available at any time and want to protect you. She will become a line of defense against your spouse. An abusive spouse may become enraged that you have taken back control of your body and mind—that you have reclaimed your integrity—and continue to lash out. But you’re doing the right thing. Hold steady. Your lawyer is good if she makes you feel protected and strengthened.

Chances are a divorce agreement may be in your future, and if it is, in that document you will want to separate yourself from your spouse in every way possible—financially, personally, and physically. Review with your lawyer and try to limit as much as (legally) possible your spouse’s rights to your apartment, car, insurance, registration, and will. Anything and everything you can think of. Review all things thoroughly with your lawyer. Ask your lawyer about the legal consequences if your spouse does not comply.

Stow away what’s important to you

There are legal documents that are important for you to gather before you leave, things like social security cards, birth certificates, insurance policies, copies of deeds, proof of income, bank statements, and more. When abuse is physical, there’s not always a “perfect” time to leave. Your escape might feel more like fleeing. What, if anything, are you prepared to leave behind?

Just in case, have a getaway plan

Find a safe place to stay, and get familiar with your husband’s schedule. When will he be out of the house? You’ve thought of the children’s schedule, no doubt, but have you made plans for the family pet? Abusers often use a pet or children as leverage against a spouse to blackmail them.

If you have kids, talk to a lawyer or the police before taking them anywhere.

Don’t rely on your phone to memorize escape routes or the phone numbers of the people or organizations you’ll need to call for help.

You might even want to establish a “code word” to let your family, friends, and anyone else who you can call for help know that you need them without letting your abuser know.

Local shelters are sometimes able to escort victims of spousal abuse from the home when they move out. Or perhaps, if you must leave the family home, you might have a couple of strong friends who can support you that difficult day.

What to do after leaving an abusive marriage

Leaving is a hard step, but after you leave, it’s important to stay on the alert. Change up your routine. If you have a new address, request that the DMV withhold your ID from the public, though they may make it available to institutions like banks. Request that the Family Court withhold your address from divorce documents.

Try to fight the temptation to isolate yourself because that’s when you’re the most vulnerable. Remember, isolation was how your spouse controlled you. The humiliation and shame you might still feel after leaving—it’s what your spouse is banking on. He wants you to believe that no one else “understands” you quite the way he does. And no one ever will.

But you are not alone.

In the US, nearly half of all women and men have experienced psychological aggression (emotional abuse) by an intimate partner in their lifetime. But because the abuse happens behind closed doors, it’s so easy to think of yourself as the outlier. If you don’t have a friend, family member, therapist, coach, lawyer, or someone else in your life you can talk to, you can and must look for professional help. You can also try calling The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233) to discuss your situation and be connected with resources that exist for a very good reason.

You do have strength. We believe in you.

Isabel Sadurni is a motion picture producer with over 15 years’ experience in filmmaking. She collaborates on feature films and series with independent and commercial filmmakers who share the belief that a story told well can change the world. Her work includes award-winning feature-length documentaries and short narratives that have played in top-tier festivals and on HBO, PBS, and The Discovery Channel. Her focus is in working on films that are vehicles for change for people, for communities, and for the planet. 

Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of Divorce. “A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women 

 

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as a “he.”