“If I know I can’t stay in this marriage, what should I do to leave my husband?”
Leaving a marriage is complicated, scary, painful. And that’s when both of you are in agreement. Leaving your husband when you’re the only one wanting to end the relationship is even more difficult.
Your reasons for wanting, even needing, to leave will determine your course of action. Obviously there’s a difference between leaving because of abuse and safety issues and leaving because of general dissatisfaction with your marriage.
Safety first for you, your children, and your pets. Always. If your question, What should I do to leave my husband?, regards an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. And, if you are in immediate danger, call 911.
Your local women’s shelter is a rich resource of information and assistance for women and children living in abusive situations. They can guide you through a plan of action to get you safely out of the home and into protection. And they can walk you through important steps like:
- Filing a restraining order
- Safely filing for divorce, despite threats from your husband
- Preparing and protecting your children
- Filing for and securing custody of your children
- Planning an exit strategy
- Getting an escort to help you retrieve your belongings
- Making sure you have money
- Securing legal representation for divorce and/or abuse charges
- Looking for work and a safe place to live
- Getting counseling for you and your children
If there are guns in the house, try to remove them. If you cannot safely do so, at least remove the ammunition and anything you can that could be used to cause harm.
Whether you are leaving for safety, sanity, or both, it is imperative that you have a plan. Think through what you are doing and why. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s because “leaving” isn’t as simple as walking out the door and not looking back.
You have a footprint — legal, financial, and custodial. You are, in essence, “building your case” for leaving — and possibly for custody — so details matter. You can’t, for example, just pack up the kids and take them with you, let alone across state lines.
Courts are sworn to the law, no matter how much a story tugs at their heartstrings. So be smart, wise, and prepared. And build your village of knowledgeable, credentialed support early.
One of the best gifts you can give yourself is the accompanying guidance of a therapist and a support group. This is especially true if you are overthinking when to leave your husband but know in your heart you need to leave.
For a lot of women, “What should I do to leave my husband?” is primarily a question of financial preparation and sustenance. They know they will need financial help in order to just survive, but they don’t know where to get it. And they will often stay in an unhappy and/or unhealthy situation just to have some semblance of financial security.
As a Stay-at-Home-Mom, you may have forfeited a career to raise children, so your skill sets are outdated and your earning potential is low.
Your husband — thanks in large part to you holding down the homefront — may have enjoyed a rising career. He may never want for income, thanks to his income. He may control the money, both the day-to-day flow and the retirement savings.
That puts you in a very vulnerable position when thinking about how to leave your husband. Suddenly you have to summon your own empowerment, but he seems to have all the power.
According to a study conducted by CDFA Laurie Itkin and Worthy, despite the fact that 55% of married women managed the bill-paying, over 20% left investment decisions to the husband. And almost half, while going through divorce, admitted to unexpected “surprises” that set them back.
So how can you leave and still know that you will be OK after the divorce is over? Here are 7 important steps to help you prepare to leave your husband:
1. Financial preparation.
Become educated about bill paying, investing and stay involved in the family finances. Single and divorced women have to manage all aspects of their finances, so married women should be just as involved.
Knowing your net worth, both as a couple and as individuals, is essential when it comes time to divide assets. Make a list of all assets — “yours, mine, ours.” Too often women leave financial assets in their husbands’ court, only to suffer later when their settlement is depleted.
If things are already too late in the game for that, seek out legal and financial representation early. And don’t underestimate your worth, needs, or contributions made, without pay, so your husband could build his career.
2. The date.
Have a date in mind and make sure you have affordable housing lined up. Can you stay with a friend or family member for a while? Do you have enough income or savings to rent for the first year while you adjust?
3. Get Support and feedback for guidance and direction.
Connect with those who understand the journey — strategically and healthily. Find a therapist who has experience supporting women through this crisis, or join Annie’s Group — our virtual group coaching program for women, or on your own, take advantage of our Master Class: How to Know If Divorce is Right for You and What You Must Know to Do It and receive a private coaching session and a consult with a financial person, dedicated to your specific story and needs. If you are planning on moving out, and especially if you have children, check with a lawyer that your move won’t adversely impact your claim to things or how you are viewed by the law.
4. PINS, passwords, and important documents.
Be sure to change all PINS and passwords to your accounts and have all your important documents (including copies of mutual documents) in one place.
5. The kids.
Most importantly, have a plan for your children. Assuming you are not in a crisis situation, you and your husband should have conversations about disclosure and co-parenting.
This is a good time to seek the guidance of a family therapist to help both of you through this painful time.
A therapist who specializes in children of divorce can help prepare you to provide your children with an emotionally safe transition. And your child’s school counselor can be one of the best resources and advocates for your child during this time.
6. The pets.
Make a plan for your pets, as well, especially if you are in a stressful situation and have reason to worry about their safety. They feel and respond to negative energy, and the upheaval of their routine can be very upsetting.
Perhaps a friend can keep your pet in a safe, calm environment until you are settled. But this arrangement should be well thought-out, too, as pets are often pawns for retribution. And you don’t want to put a friend in harm’s way if there is any concern about your husband’s actions.
If you are looking for more, read our popular “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking about Divorce“
Finally, document everything, even when it seems trivial or unnecessary. Document dates, times, locations, texts, calls, resources, conversations, arguments, financial actions, threats, everything.
You will always be grateful you have the information in writing and not loosely sworn to memory. And a court will take you far more seriously if you have your case well laid out and documented.
“Putting asunder” what was once a forecast of eternal bliss is traumatic, even when necessary. Even having to ask, “What should I do to leave my husband?” is a sad statement about the status of your life. No matter what decisions you make, change is coming with them. And fear, grief, loss, and worry will be in its wake.
You may not be able to walk out the front door with a confident smile and no worries. But having a plan and being prepared can at least help you leave with the assurance that you are going to be OK.
Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.